Remembering An Gorta Mor … as hunger persists

This memorial is a short walk from where I live in Cambridge, Mass.

Twenty-five years ago this summer Irish President Mary Robinson dedicated what press reports described as the first memorial in America to An Gorta Mor, the Great Hunger of the mid-19th century. The recognition came at the 150th anniversary of “Black ’47”, the worst year of the Irish famine. A few months earlier Robinson dedicated Ireland’s National Famine Memorial in County Mayo.

“I wish we could say as a people that in a world of plenty there would be no famine,” Robinson told 1,000 onlookers at Cambridge Common, next to the Harvard campus, across the Charles River from Boston.[1]”1st U.S. Memorial to Irish Famine”, Daily News, New York, N.Y., as reported by Reuters. Two views of the sculpture are seen above and below.

A list of more than 140 famine memorials worldwide shows a simple plaque-on-stone memorial was dedicated in 1995 in Bergen County, New Jersey. Still, 1997 marked a boom in more artistic representations of the deaths of 1 million Irish and emigration of 1 million others. The Irish Famine Memorial in downtown Boston was unveiled 11 months after the one in Cambridge.  At least three more have been added in greater Boston since then.

There are also an estimated 828 million people who experience hunger every day; far too many in a world of plenty.

This post was corrected to reflect the New Jersey memorial.

Mary Robinson paraphrased these words in her 1997 unveiling speech.

References

References
1 ”1st U.S. Memorial to Irish Famine”, Daily News, New York, N.Y., as reported by Reuters.

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