Boston Irish Famine Memorial - Boston, MA
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member NorStar
N 42° 21.452 W 071° 03.522
19T E 330457 N 4691526
Quick Description: The Boston Irish Famine Memorial is an assembly of sculptures, embedded round medallion, and a series of bronze historical plaques on granite podiums that convey both Irish families who perished and who who escaped the collapse of crops in Ireland.
Location: Massachusetts, United States
Date Posted: 4/1/2012 5:15:39 PM
Waymark Code: WME48F
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 13

Long Description:
In Boston's Downtown Crossing, where Washington Street and School Street meet at a plaza, is a circular brick feature with greenery that surrounds a memorial to those who suffered Ireland's Great Famine.

The memorial consists of two main statues, eight bronze plaques on podiums arranged in two groups of four, and a central bronze disk on the ground.

The two statues on rough granite bases are each of a family of three; each family obviously under different circumstances. One set is of figures in depair, clothed in tattered clothing, and emaciated, two looking down and one looking up. The other set is of figures in better spirits, in clean and neat clothing, with two of them looking forward - and one looking back to the first family.

On the ground, in the center, is a bronze disk with a ship and map showing a ship between Ireland and the Americas, with the following words surrounding it:

"Boston Irish Famine Memorial"

The plaques, document the famine and the emmigration from Ireland to Boston and are as follows:

"An Gorta Mor

The great famine which ravaged Ireland between 1845-50 was the major catastrophe of the 19th century. It brought horrific suffering and loss to Ireland's 8.5 million people. Over one million died of starvation and disease. Another two million emigrated, seeking sanctuary in Boston and other North American cities. Those remaining in Ireland suffered poverty, eviction, and the decimation of their culture. This memorial remembers the famine, known in Irish as AN GORTA MOR (THE GREAT HUNGER). It depicts the Irish exodus from their homeland, their arrival in Boston and ultimate triumph over adversity in America. It was dedicated on June 28, 1998, as part of the 150th anniversary of THE GREAT HUNGER."

"Dying of Hunger

Starting in 1845, a virulent fungus devasted the potato crop, depriving poor Irish families of their main source of food and subsistence. Ironically, as thousands of Irish starved to death, the British govern-ment then ruling Ireland callously allowed tons of grain to be exported from Ireland to pay absentee land-lords their rents. "The stranger reaps our harvest, the alien owns our soil," wrote Irish poet Lady Jane Wilde."

"The People were Gaunt

Starvation and disease spread across the Irish landscape, claiming one million lives. Half a million people were ruthlessly evicted from their homes. Many died on the side of the road, their mouths stained by grass in a deparate attempt to survive. "The features of the people were gaunt, their eyes wild and hollow, and their gait feeble and tottering. Pass through the fields, and you were met by little groups bearing home on the shoulders a coffin," wrote Irish novelist William Carleton."

"Boston Sends Help

Citizens of Boston, of all faiths, responded to the deperate plight of the starving Irish. On March 27, 1847, the U.S.S. Jamestown, com-manded by Captain Robert Bennet Forbes, sailed from Boston Harbor with 800 tons of food, supplies, and clothing. Fifteen days later it put into Cork Harbor, Ireland. "Deeply are we indebted to the good citizens of Massachusetts," Robert Hare of Cork told the ship's crew. "We will ever cherish their generous solici-tude for Ireland in her hour of trial and suffering.""

"Crossing the Bowl of Dreams

In a frantic attempt to outwit death, nearly two million people fled Ireland. "Many thousands of peas-ants who could still scrape up the means fled to the sea, as if pursued by wild beasts, and betook them-selves to America," wrote Irish patriot John Mitchel. The emigrants boarded vessels so unseaworthy they were called Coffin Ships. So many passengers died at sea that poet John Boyle O'Reilly called the Atlantic Ocean upon which they journeyed "a bowl of tears.""

"Arriving in Boston

In 1847 alone, 37,000 Irish refugees landed in Boston, on the edge of death and despair, impoverished and sick. "Native Bostonians might have been willing to send money and food to aid the starving Irish as long as they remained in Ireland" wrote historian Thomas H. O'Connor, "but they certainly didn't want them coming to America." The newcomers moved in along Boston's waterfront, packed together in damp cellars and overcrowded hovels. "Children in the Irish district," wrote Bostonian Lamuel Shattuck, "seemed literally born to die.""

"The American Dream

Despite hostility from some Boston-ians and signs of NO IRISH NEED APPLY, the Famine Irish evenually transformed themselves from im-poverished refugees to hard-working successful Americans. The leadership of Boston Irish like John Boyle O'Reilly, Patrick Collins and Richard Cardinal Cushing culminated in a descendent of the famine genera-tion, John F. Kennedy, becoming the nation's first Irish Catholic President in 1960. Today 44 million Americans claim Irish ancestry, leading the nation in Medal of Honor winners, and excelling in literature, sports, business, medicine and entertainment."

"Lest We Forget

The commemoration of the GREAT HUNGER allows people everywhere to reflect upon a terrible episode that forever changed Ireland. The conditions that produced the Irish famine - crop failure, absentee landlordism, colonialism andweak political leadership - still exist around the world today. Famines continue to decimate sufering popu-lations. The lessons of the Irish famine need to be constantly learned and applied until history finally ceases to repeat itself."

Some of the podiums have text as follows:

"Irish Famine Memorial

To commemorate the tragedy of An Gorta Mor and the triumph of those immigrants who came to Boston

June 28, 1998

Thomas J. Flatley

Thomas M. Menino
Mayor of Boston

A. Paul Cellucci
Governor of Massachusetts

Seamus Brennan T.D.
Minister of State
Government of Ireland

H. E. Sean O'Huiginn
Ambassador of Ireland
to the United States

Thomas O'Brien
Boston Redevelopment Authority"


Roburt Shure

Casendino & Company
The Cecil Group, Inc.
Landscape Architecture

John Fish
Suffolk Construction Inc.

John O'Brien
Construction Coordinator"

"Steering Committee
William F. Connolly, Jr.
Michael J. Cummings
M. Mildred Farrell
Edward W. Forry
Philip C. Haughey
Rev. Bartley MacPhaidin
Paul C. O'Brien
Thomas H. O'Connor
Orla O'Hanrahan
Robert O'Neill
Patrick J. Purcell
Michael P. Quinlin
Jarleth M. Quinn
Mary M. Woods"

The Boston Globe
The Edward Ingersoll Browne Fund
Jim and Barbara Cleary
Mr. and Mrs. William F. Connell & Family
Joe & Rose Corcoran
Tom & Charlotte Flatley & Family
Fleet Bank
Mr. and Mrs. John A. Kaneb
Carolyn & Peter Lynch
Bud & Eileen Roche
The SheratonFoundation
The Yawkey Family

The American Ireland Fund
The Ancient Order of Hibernians
Boston College
the Charitable Irish society, Est. 1737
The Eire Society
Gaelic Athletic Society
The Irish American Partnership
The Irish Culrutral Centre
National University of Eireland, Galway
Shonehill College"

The web page for the memorial on does not work beyond the initial page. There is another page from the Boston Art Commission stated that the memorial was meant to show the class structure of Irish society whereby the more fortunate were able to flee Ireland, leaving the poor to suffer and starve and that the "sculpture encourages us to reflect on similarly unjust conditions that persist today."

Other source:

Boston Art Commission:
(visit link)
TITLE: Boston Irish Famine Memorial

ARTIST(S): Shure, Robert, 1948- , sculptor; Fish, John, contractor; Paul King Foundry, founder; Suffolk Construction, contractor; Cecil Group, landscape architect; Casendino & Company, landscape architect.

DATE: 6/28/1998

MEDIUM: Bronze and granite.


Direct Link to the Individual Listing in the Smithsonian Art Inventory: [Web Link]

Located at the intersection of School Street and Washington Street within view of Boston's Old City Hall and Old South Church.

Additional text has been entered for the each of the eight plaques.

Visit Instructions:
Please give the date of your visit, your impressions of the sculpture, and at least ONE ORIGINAL PHOTOGRAPH. Add any additional information you may have, particularly any personal observations about the condition of the sculpture.
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