THE dream of the Irish community in Glasgow of having a fitting memorial to the dead and displaced from Ireland’s tragic years of hunger received an enormous boost this month as a quarter of the fundraising target was reached in a single day.
More than £20,000 was raised in a bucket collection at Celtic Park on the day of the club’s home match against Aberdeen, with scores of volunteers (above) patrolling the area around the stadium to gather the funds which were so generously offered by ordinary members of the Irish community.
An important principle of the of the work of the Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór (Irish Famine Commemoration Committee) is that the memorial will be one created for the multi-generational Irish community by the community, and the Glasgow Irish rallied around the committee to continue the work of ensuring the target is met.
“We are delighted by the support that was shown during our bucket collection at Celtic Park and would like to thank all those who generously donated and to the volunteers who braved the elements to help us reach as many people as possible,” Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór told The Irish Voice. “The fantastic sum of £20,100 which was raised will go a log way to helping us reach our target and deliver John McCarron’s striking and eagerly awaited memorial.
“We now continue our fundraising efforts to make good on our promise to ensure Glasgow finally has a fitting tribute to the victims of the Great Hunger and their descendants who have had, and continue to have, such a powerful impact on the city they made their home.”
St Patrick’s Day celebrations offered a further avenue for fundraising with a Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór stall at the Glasgow St Patrick’s Day festival event in Merchant Square and a concert in St Mary’s Church also raising funds for the memorial.
Many more fundraising events are planned over the coming months and Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór have called on those who would like to offer their support by organising their own fundraising efforts to get in touch and do their bit for the campaign.
“Over the coming months we will be carrying on with this vital stage of creating the monument and are confident that with support of the multi-generational Irish community of Glasgow and their friends from across Ireland, Britain and the rest of the world we will soon have the necessary funds,” Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór explained. “On St Patrick’s Day weekend the Cór Gael Choir from Cork performed at St Mary’s Church, Calton—where our memorial will be sited—and we were delighted to have the opportunity take up a collection in support of our work at this concert.
“We are grateful for the continued generosity of the community and look forward to the day when they can visit the memorial and reflect on and remember our past. We Are Building It!”
The memorial—designed by Mr McCarron of Donegal and titled ‘Tower of Silence’—will depict a trio of gaunt figures atop a three metre high plinth, which will bear engravings of the poem The Stricken Land and ensure a permanent visual reminder to the suffering of the Irish people who fled to Glasgow in desperation.
Mr McCarron’s design was chosen after much consultation with the multi-generational Irish community in Glasgow, and the fact it will be situated at St Mary’s Church is a particular cause for excitement for the sculptor.
“The fact that my sculpture, ‘Tower of Silence’ will now stand outside Glasgow’s St Mary’s Church, Carlton, on the corner of Abercrombie Street, means so much to me,” he told Donegal Now. “Don’t forget, this was the Church of Brother Walfrid who founded Glasgow Celtic Football Club, to feed the starving Irish people in Glasgow.
“But, more importantly, what I realised as I got more and more involved with the project and visited Glasgow and spoke and listened to the people who took part in the public consultation, was that the Irish community in Glasgow and throughout Scotland, has a deep emotional investment in the Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór project.
“I am full of admiration for their drive, energy and ambition to get a fitting memorial erected… to the Famine Irish.
“I am also thrilled, delighted and honoured Coiste Cuimhneachain An Gorta Mór chose my design, my vision for how the memorial should look. I am really looking forward to getting to work on the project now and hopefully we will see it in situ in 2019,”
Among those who offered their financial support for the campaign was English footballer Stan Collymore, who donated £100 on the day of the bucket collection at Celtic Park, and who offered his contribution ‘in the spirit of Amistad,’ the 19th century slave ship which was the site of an uprising.
“I would like to donate £100 to the An Gorta Mor memorial fund, so please add that to whatever is raised at Paradise,” Collymore said. “In the spirit of Amistad from an Englishman.”