THE countdown to the installation of artist John McCarron’s Tower Of Silence in Glasgow can now begin following a gala fundraiser in Glasgow which secured vital funds for the memorial to the Great Hunger.
With the target for the construction of the striking artwork which will stand at St Mary’s, Calton now met, Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór (Great Hunger Memorial Committee) can now turn their attentions to the final portion of fundraising, which will improve the site and ensure a fitting opening ceremony.
With work already underway, the committee (above) hosted a dinner dance at Celtic Park in November in the hopes of securing the funds needed to successfully conclude their efforts and were blown away as the Irish community gathered in huge numbers to celebrate their past and work for their future.
Hundreds of guests showed their generosity and support for the work of Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór as auctions and raffles rounded off the fundraising work of recent years and finally saw the committee approach their target of £80,000 to deliver the memorial.
“When we first met to discuss building a memorial in Glasgow to An Gorta Mór, we did so because we felt the lack of a fitting memorial to our ancestors,” Jeanette Findlay of Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór (Great Hunger Memorial Committee) said on the occasion of the dinner dance. “Here, in the city where so many arrived fleeing the horror of near genocidal conditions, there was no commemoration of the Great Hunger. We felt the need to fill this gaping hole in the collective psyche of the descendants, the city and the country.
“The founding committee had no doubt that we would be able to achieve this, and set a clear goal: however long it takes, and however much it costs, we are building it!
“What we couldn’t have foreseen was the extent and speed with which this idea would be taken up. Our multi-generational Irish community, as well as the Irish in Ireland and further afield, tripped over each other to support the project with their good wishes, their talents and skills, their generous donations and, throughout, their prayers.
“It’s thanks to this support that today, only a few years later, we are so close to completion. The wise counsel of a senior Glasgow School of Art academic who assisted with the design competition, the generosity of the parish priest and parishioners of St Mary’s who provided a wonderful and appropriate site, the incredible creativity of all those who submitted designs to the competition, the amazing, relentless work of that original committee and all those who have joined us through the years, taken together, have all brought us to this stage and will carry us forward to the unveiling of John McCarron’s inspiring and moving monument.”
Music on the night was provided by Boolavogue, while a number of unique and exclusive auction items and raffle prizes saw guests dig deep and deliver the vital fights which will see the Tower Of Silence transformed into a reality.
In the weeks after the dance, John McCarron—who was in attendance to see first hand the importance of his work in progress to the Irish community in Glasgow—continued with the finishing touches to the memorial, and spoke about the work so far and the impact he hopes it will have both for the memory of those who suffered the Great Hunger and their descendants in Glasgow today.
“It’s estimated that 100,000 people fled to Glasgow and the west of Scotland, he said. “It’s fitting, therefore, that as we commemorate this tragedy we acknowledge the enormous impact that Irish famine migrants and their descendants have had on Scotland and in shaping the modern city of Glasgow.
It’s against this backdrop that the concept and design for the memorial took shape.
“I felt the memorial should in no sense sugar coat this terrible event. A memorial to a terrible event and the estimated 100,000 people who fled from it to Glasgow is worthy of a powerful statement.
“I feel a great responsibility in building this monument to your ancestors, a weight of expectation to produce a fitting tribute to these people.
“In erecting this memorial, we are honouring the dead, the displaced, the desperate.
“The monument is currently under construction in the studio of Maurice Harron, an internationally renowned and celebrated sculptor, intensely aware of the importance of this piece. I must mention the huge input Maurice has had on creating the monument. I was honoured to have Maurice come on board with this project. His vision and expertise have been invaluable.
“The memorial is constructed entirely of stainless steel. The square column represents Glasgow and Ireland. The figures stand atop the column, gaunt and thin, starving, carrying nothing but themselves and their children. Rural people in an urban landscape.
“This sculpture represents my interpretation and attempt to relay a sense of truth. Truth about starvation, desperation, emigration and integration into the Scottish nation.”
As the installation of the Tower Of Silence now approaches, the Irish community are waiting in anticipation for an announcement from the committee regarding a date for unveiling—while also assuring them of their support for the final costs in displaying the memorial at the site at St Mary’s and finally securing a fitting memorial to the Great Hunger in Glasgow.