Skip to main content

He Named Her Amber - The Protagonist's View

According to our best reconstruction, "Amber" was born in 1811 as Mary O'Shea, eldest child of Irish tenant farmers near Kilkenny, Ireland.

According to our best reconstruction, "Amber" was born in 1811 as Mary O'Shea, eldest child of Irish tenant farmers near Kilkenny, Ireland. She was catholic, literate - likely educated in a "hedgeschool" of the time - and she arrived in Toronto in 1828, seeking domestic employment. It was not uncommon for Irish families to send one young family member to Canada to make a better living for themselves, and to send home what money they could. If successful, these first, young, strong family members were sometimes followed by others, initiating a chain of migration. As Amber's family became poorer and poorer, they relied increasingly on her Canadian income, which for some years sustained them. But ultimately what she provided was not enough or failed to arrive in the years of the Irish Famine, and the family starved. Unusually for a young woman of that time, Mary did not marry and leave service; her presence in The Grange is attested through Henry Whyte's notes until she was 46 years old. After Henry Whyte left The Grange, we lose all traces of her.

The Henry White Map (below)

Henry Whyte drew the map below between 1829 and 1857. It was donated to The Grange by his heirs in 2007 and initiated the archaeological investigation that led to the dicovery of the artefacts concealed by Mary O'Shea.


Iris Häussler wishes to acknowledge the support of the following funders