Hospital Island: St. Andrews-By-The-Sea

Hospital Island, New Brunswick

Hospital Island, New Brunswick. Courtesy of Peter

Just a couple kilometres offshore the quaint sea coastal village of St. Andrews-By-The-Sea, New Brunswick, lays Little Hardwood Island, used extensively during the mid-1800s as a quarantine station. The tiny island, comprising less than three acres sits in picturesque Passamaquoddy Bay next to its larger sister Hardwood Island. A small hospital with simple medical facilities opened in 1832 to manage a cholera outbreak. In 1847, the site, renamed Hospital Island, became overwhelmed when medical staff attempted to handle the mass influx of Irish Famine immigrants. The Irish, hoping to find a new life in the New Worlde, died easily from typhus onboard ship with little resistance attributed to malnutrition and various stages of starvation. Many died en route. Those who died while in quarantine were interred on the tiny landmass, the exact number of deaths unknown. Some estimated the death toll as high as 400. Similar to conditions at other quarantine stations along the St. Lawrence River, some of those who came to aid the sick became infected themselves and died. Dr. Samuel Frye died at Hospital Island.

Hospital Island, New Brunswick

Hospital Island From Kilmarnock Head, Courtesy of Peter

If the pitiful situation at Hospital Island wasn’t enough to raise sympathy for the plight of the Irish people, newspaper reporters wrote that in 1869, the Saxby Gale was so vicious a storm, it washed away soil from the Irish cemetery, uncovering coffins, and exposing skeletons. Bones that washed ashore on the mainland were desecrated, with awful stories circulating of children using human skulls to kick around. It would take a decade before what could be collected of the deceased Irish remains were re-interred in a more sheltered area of the island.

Like Partridge Island in Saint John, Hospital Island is not open to the public. Privately owned, the island’s proprietor, Peter comments that, “the only remnants of the original buildings are depressions in the ground from the old foundations close to the new cottage.” In his wanderings he has found artifacts such as old spikes and parts of old stoves. Today, the island offers a safe nesting area for various birds including black backed gulls, herring gulls, and eider ducks.

A Celtic cross memorial to the Irish who died at Hospital Island stands at Indian Point along the shoreline in St. Andrews. Erected in May, 1995, the monument features various symbols depicting the Irish story including a shamrock, fiddle, and sailboat (representing their tragic voyage.) Its inscription reads:

Irish Memorial at St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick

Irish Memorial at St. Andrews-by-the-Sea, New Brunswick

“In memory of
Those men, women and children
Who died of hunger and disease
While fleeing the potato famine
In Ireland and lie buried
On Hospital Island
Lovingly remembered by
Their descendants who persevered
And helped build this great nation”

“Erected May 28, 1995
By the
Charlotte County Chapter
Of the
Irish Canadian Cultural Association
Of New Brunswick”

The memorial can be missed easily if you drive or walk by; when asked, local townsfolk are mostly unaware of its existence.



11 comments for “Hospital Island: St. Andrews-By-The-Sea

  1. Alexander Frost
    February 26, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Hey listen, I loved this and me and my friend got a lot of information from this, but we cant use pictures in our project, so we need to ask you, if you could get back to me as soon as possible, I would love that thanks

  2. February 26, 2016 at 12:38 pm

    can i use ur pic barbbruh

    • February 26, 2016 at 12:40 pm

      i needs it for a school project

  3. Jo-Anne London
    November 9, 2014 at 10:20 pm

    Is there a list of names that goes with this Memorial?

    • November 13, 2014 at 9:18 pm

      Hi Jo-Anne, that’s a great question. Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer. When the Irish were processed through quarantine stations during the great Famine, immigration personnel were overwhelmed; recording personal information probably didn’t happen with any regularity.

  4. Katie christman
    October 6, 2013 at 6:29 am

    Dear Barbara,
    I wanted to thank you for posting the information and photo regarding Hospital Island. My family on my Dad’s side came over on the Star in 1848 and were sequestered there…they had been promised jobs for 100 men but the railway which was to employ them weren’t told they were bringing their families! They came from Coolaboy in Wicklow County, Ireland.
    The good news is my family was able to hang on, their son became a doctor and their daughter married a Heuganot and settled in Indiana (my Great Great Grandmother).
    Katie in California

    • Peter McCarthy
      November 2, 2014 at 5:08 pm

      Hello Katie in California,

      I was very interested to read about your ancestors’ time on Hospital Island. As owner of Hospital Island I visit several times each year. I have many beautiful photographs which I would gladly share with you. It’s a beautiful island with an amazing history.

      Best regards,

      • November 4, 2014 at 3:23 am

        Hello Peter, thank you for your post. I, too, would be very interested in getting copies of your “many beautiful photographs” of Hospital Island. Please feel free to contact me at my e-mail address: barbara at barbaradickson dot ca (spelled out to thwart spammers.) I look forward to hearing from you. Barbara

      • Laurie Mersereau
        November 15, 2015 at 8:24 pm

        I’m trying to figure out where this island is. According to the New Brunswick Atlas, Hardwood Island is on the border between Maine and NB, near Spednic lake. The Passamaquoddy Bay is near St George. This is a great addition to my list of NB Islands though. Thanks

        • November 16, 2015 at 10:19 pm

          Hi Laurie, thanks for your post. Hospital Island is now owned privately so it’s not accessible to the public. If you have located Harwood Island, look a little to the west and you’ll discover Hospital Island. The two islands are tucked out in Passamaquoddy Bay hidden from view behind Minister’s Island off the coast of St. Andrews by the Sea (which by the way you can walk to at low tide.) Hospital Island is really just a spit of land, mostly treeless. It’s a beautiful place; I can see why they chose it as a quarantine station so long ago, although they risked a good gale blowing everything away.

      • Katie Christman
        March 2, 2016 at 2:35 pm

        Dear Peter,
        I only just today went back and saw your note, thank you so much for getting back to me! I would love to see pictures of the island.

        Only yesterday I was able to obtain transcripts and copies of documents which confirm my ancestors as arriving on the “Star” in 1848.

        I also have pictures of John and Anastasia Balance who were on the Star and were my Great Great Great Grandparents.

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