THE Coiste Cuimhneachaín An Gorta Mór (Great Hunger Memorial Committee) has announced the final location for its proposed Great Hunger memorial, with the grounds of St Mary’s Church in the Calton being selected as the site on which it will be built.
After stalling for some months during the planning stage, the committee met recently to officially re-start the campaign and after deciding that no city centre site could feasibly be negotiated with Glasgow City Council it was agreed unanimously that the available site in St Mary’s (above)—placed at the disposal of the committee by parish priest Fr Tom White—should be selected as the site.
Having worked closely with the committee in the early stages, Fr White’s support for the project will no ensure that the Irish community in Scotland will see the victims of Great Hunger and the lasting impact it has had on the city of Glasgow commemorated in a fitting fashion.
With some fundraising work already undertaken by the committee, the challenge of meeting the cost of the ambitious memorial project as it moves closer towards becoming a reality now falls to the wider Irish community, but having received widespread support so far the committee remain confident that the necessary funds will be raised.
Already merchandise and donations have seen the work of the committee gain the necessary financial support—which also allowed a cash prize to be offered to potential designers—to carry out its early work, and now in partnership with the Glasgow School of Art the submissions are being sought from some of the finest artists in the country.
Once designs begin to be received the committee will start to work through them in order to select the one which best represents the story of how the Great Hunger threw the Irish people to the winds and changed the face of the city of Glasgow.
Speaking to The Irish Voice, the committee relaunched their efforts, and told of how this next phase of the project marks the crucial period in which the future memorial will be formed. In addition to commemorating the suffering and death it caused, the memorial will also serve as an educational tool, telling the story of how the Great Hunger unfolded and its effects not only in Glasgow, but also across the world.
“With today’s announcement, we can leave the frustrations of the last two years behind and move forward with renewed energy and with enormous gratitude to the parish of St Mary’s, Calton, who have made the grounds of their beautiful and historic church available to us,” the committee said. “Our forefathers and mothers arrived here and were assisted by their own community—including the parishioners and priests of St Mary’s—and other good people of the time, and the completion of our memorial will be achieved in the same way.
“It will be built and it will be erected, first and foremost, by the multi-generational Irish community in Glasgow, but the assistance of anyone, from whatever background, who wants to help us will be very welcome.
“We thank everyone who has contributed so far—both here and in Ireland—and we look forward to a host of fundraising and educational events which will culminate in achieving our goal; a permanent and dedicated memorial to An Gorta Mór in Glasgow, which will be sign to all the generations to come that ‘Glasgow Remembers.’”
Full and fitting recognition
One of the most fundamental aspects of the memorial is its full recognition of the scale of the suffering in Ireland, and while hard work continues on another memorial in the city—led by Glasgow City Council—which commemorates the effects of the potato blight in the Highlands of Scotland at the same time as the devastating hunger and death seen in Ireland, many in the Irish community feel that like in 140 cities across the world, the Irish in Glasgow deserve a memorial which gives undivided attention to the fate of those affected by one of the greatest humanitarian tragedies the world has ever seen.
“It seemed to us that Glasgow City Council added on the Highland element because they knew, or believed, that there were forces in Glasgow even today who would not accept a memorial which involved the Irish alone,” the committee explained. “The scale and extent of what happened to our people—one million dead and one million forced to emigrate out of a population of eight million made the notion of a ‘Highland and Irish famine memorial’ completely unacceptable to us, and offensive in its very concept.”
But while the roots of this memorial lie in a desire to satisfy the wishes of the Irish community in Glasgow, the committee now wish to move on from this point and leave these differences behind them, focusing instead on building a monument which truly reflects the story of the Great Hunger.
With the announcement of the site, the Irish community in Glasgow are now assured that not only will the site commemorate those tragic events in a prominent way, but it will also form a link with the Irish immigrants of the past.
St Mary’s is one of the oldest churches in the city —even serving as the Pro-Cathedral of the Archdiocese of Glasgow—and is inextricably linked with the city’s Irish. In the early days of immigration, the Irish settled in huge numbers in the area around the church and many remain there today.
In addition, it was also in St Mary’s Parish Hall —formerly sited beside the church—in which one of the largest efforts to tackle hunger amongst the Irish people in Glasgow was undertaken, with the formation of Celtic Football Club.
With the selection of this site, the dream of so many Irish in Glasgow of having a lasting commemoration to their antecedents is now much closer to finally becoming a reality.
For a full account of the journey made so far by the Great Hunger Memorial Committee in finding a site on which to erect their memorial, visit our comment section.