A WORKING group tasked with developing Scotland’s first Famine Memorial has engaged with groups across Glasgow for suggestions regarding the historic monument.
During the Great Famine of the 1840s, more than a million people fled starvation conditions in Ireland. Around 100,000 made their way to Glasgow.
In 2012, Glasgow city council announced plans to build a permanent memorial to those who settled in the city during ‘An Gorta Mór’.
Now, almost 18 months later, concrete proposals are emerging as to the form of Glasgow’s Famine Memorial. The monument will be on outdoor site close to the city centre, and will feature a maze and a permanent museum memorial.
As well as the Great Famine, the memorial will be dedicated to tens of thousands who came to Glasgow from Scotland’s Highlands and islands during the 1840s Potato Blight that ravaged much of northern Europe.
Glasgow city council’s Memorials’ Working Group, which has been coordinating the development of the famine memorial, has heard representations from Ulster Scots groups, the Orange Order, the Irish Heritage Foundation and others.
The Rangers Supporters Assembly has said it would also be making a donation towards the cost of a project that had “the chance to represent the entire Irish community in Glasgow”.
“The memorial will recognise events of the 1840s in Scotland and Ireland,” said Scottish National Party councillor Feargal Dalton, who originally proposed the idea of a famine memorial.
“The memorial is to acknowledge that the famine happened and that it had a massive impact on Glasgow that we still live with today.”
There are memorials to the Great Famine across Ireland, as well as in Liverpool, New York, Boston and numerous other locations around the world including at Carfin in North Lanarkshire, but this will be the first permanent monument in Glasgow.
“The famine had a huge cultural and economic impact on Glasgow. New York is probably the only city where the events of the 1840s had such a huge effect on a city,” added councilor Dalton, who was born and raised in Ireland.
“While some in Scotland may believe that the potato blight only affected Catholics, there are clearly many who fully appreciate that it affected the poor regardless of their faith.”
Minutes of the city council’s Memorials’ Working Group said that the monument “would incorporate the positive message of migration now to Glasgow and the aspiration that this would continue to be an open, inclusive and welcoming society”.
The most likely location will be Glasgow Green, and the People’s Palace, close to the city centre.
“For me personally it needed to be on city property and outdoors, not tucked away in a corner like a small minority of people wanted,” said Dalton.
Student proposals for the memorial are being considered for an exhibition to coincide with the Commonwealth Games. Around 20 schools around Glasgow have submitted suggestions for the monument.
Matt Kerr, chairman of the Memorials Working Group, said: “We will be looking for feedback on the designs from the public and that will be factored into the final decision of the working group.”