Famine Commemorations Around the World

January 2000

The drive to commemorate the Great Famine and the global legacy of Irish immigration is swelling to massive proportions. Along with the new Irish Immigration postage stamp launched both in Ireland and the U.S. this year, and the increasing number of Irish Famine Curriculum Bills appearing before state legislatures, monuments commemorating the Famine and the Irish Diaspora are springing up throughout the world.

Joining those monuments already existing in New York, Boston, New Brunswick, Canada, and Ireland, a new memorial was dedicated in Phoenix, Arizona in September. Designed to resemble an ancient Celtic stone passageway, it symbolizes the passage from the old world to the new, from despair to hope, from oppression to freedom. It is located in Hance Park on the same site as the future Irish Cultural Center.

White Plains, NY resident Bridie McDonald celebrated her 90th birthday recently and asked her friend to send donations to The Great Hunger Memorial in lieu of presents. She is pictured here with her daughters Eleanor (left) and Patricia, and a selection of the $3,000 contributions raised in celebration of her special birthday.

The An Gorta Mór Commemoration and Education Committee is currently conducting a campaign to erect a National An Gorta Mór Memorial in Chicago. It will be designed by artist Matt Lamb, who is also designing a national memorial in Skibbereen, County Cork, Ireland.

In Sydney, Australia, a monument to the Great Irish Famine was recently unveiled to an audience of 2,500. It is the largest piece of Australian public art dedicated to the legacy of Irish immigration and recounts the story of the thousands of teenage orphan girls who were sent to Australia from Irish workhouses during the famine. In a poignant reminder of the legacy of these girls and all Irish emigrants, several of the girls’ descendants participated in the unveiling ceremony, leading the opening procession and laying wreaths at the monument’s stone wall.

A unique feature of all of these commemorations is the increasingly popular idea of the “living memorial.” Not content with pieces of art commemorating past suffering, Irish organizations are mobilizing to relieve hunger throughout the world.

In White Plains, New York, work is underway to build The Great Hunger Memorial, which, along with artwork commemorating the famine, will also assist local not-for-profit organizations, like Meals on Wheels, to alleviate hunger in the community.

For more informaiton about the National An Gorta Mor Monument in Chciago, contact the group’s education committee at http://www.irishfamine.com or write 6438 N. Milwaukee Ave. Suite #199, Chicago, IL 60646-3728. For details on the Great Hunger Memorial in White Plains, New York call (914) 722-9071.

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