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On May 29, 2004, we hosted a day of remembrance attended by over 30 descendants of Empress of Ireland passengers and many others who are passionate about the story of the ship and those who were aboard on its final voyage.

The descendants travelled from Western Canada, the United States, and even England and Ireland. They shared vivid and moving stories passed down through their families.

The day ended with a dinner aboard the Famille Dufour, which was scheduled to sail out to the site of the wreck but had to stay in port because of bad weather. Nearly 200 people attended the dinner.



Inaugural speech


Ladies and gentlemen, descendents of Empress of Ireland passengers, welcome.

My name is Serge Guay, I am director of the Musée de la mer.

It is a great pleasure for me to be here this afternoon.

Today we commemorate the 90th anniversary of the sinking of the Empress of Ireland. Ninety years ago, the ocean liner sank a few miles from here, offshore of Ste-Luce. The mission of the Musée de la mer is to perpetuate the memory of this great ocean liner, and especially to honour the memory of its passengers. Therefore the museum sought to celebrate this historic anniversary in a special way—by paying tribute to you, the ancestors of those who travelled aboard this ship, which was destined for a tragic end.

The Empress of Ireland played an important role in the history of North America. The ship transported people of diverse nationalities and social classes across the Atlantic. Those who immigrated to this new continent brought with them a spirit and willingness to build a better life for themselves and for you, their descendants. Those who immigrated to North America on the Empress enriched their adopted land with their culture and traditions.

The ship’s tragic end is also an important chapter in the history of our country. The First World War temporarily supplanted the shipwreck from the memory of the population. However, the ghost of the Empress resurfaced in 1964, when divers rediscovered the wreck. During the years that followed the rediscovery, many recovered treasures from the wreck. While most of the divers have left their Empress artefacts forgotten in corners of their basements, a small group, some of whom are with us today, decided to share these objects with the public. It was in this was that the Musée de la Mer was founded in 1980.

In April 1999, the government of Québec accorded the status of underwater archaeological asset to the wreck of the Empress of Ireland, which is now protected from further pillaging. Since that day, the goal of the museum has been to tell the story of that episode in Canada's navigation history. In this way, the museum keeps alive the memory of the Empress—of those whose lives it changed and whose lives it took.

Ninety years ago, the tragedy brought together the citizens of Rimouski and the passengers of the Empress. In the spirit of brotherhood, the region's population helped those who escaped the shipwreck. Today, it is in that same spirit of brotherhood that Rimouski pays tribute to those whose ancestors travelled up the St. Lawrence. You are a part of the history of our country and our region. We are well aware of the valuable heritage bequeathed by your ancestors. We are proud to pay them tribute by perpetuating their memory. Rimouski will never forget your ancestors. Pointe-au-Père will never forget you.

One person who I must not forget to mention is Marion Kelch. Without the help and dedication of Marion, we would certainly not have had the honour of welcoming as many Empress descendants today.

In closing, I would like to thank you all for your presence here on this day that commemorates the sinking of the Empress of Ireland.

Thank you again, and good day to you all.

 

Serge Guay , Director

 

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