Scotland

Irish and Highland famine memorial unveiled in Glasgow

Famine memorial in Glasgow
Image caption The new memorial is beside the People's Palace at Glasgow Green

A memorial to those who suffered in the Irish and Highland famines in the 19th century has been unveiled in Glasgow.

The garden, beside the People's Palace, features plants and stones native to Ireland and the north of Scotland.

Famine ravaged large parts of Europe in the mid-1840s and millions died or were displaced over a number of years.

Ireland suffered particularly badly and it is thought that more than a million people were forced to emigrate, with 100,000 of them arriving in Glasgow.

'Desperate episode'

The memorial at Glasgow Green was dedicated in a simple ceremony involving Glasgow City Council depute leader David McDonald, Irish minister Joe McHugh and historian Prof Sir Tom Devine.

The memorial also recalls the thousands of people who also arrived in the city from the Highlands and Islands due to the famine, which saw blight devastate potato crops.

Some of those who came from the Highlands settled in Glasgow, or continued their journey to North America.

Image caption The memorial recalls the loss of life and also the people forced to leave their homes

Mr McDonald said: "Today, we acknowledge the part the Irish and the Gael played in shaping modern Glasgow.

"This memorial to a defining and desperate episode in Glasgow's history is a tribute and acknowledgement to those who experienced famine - along with those who followed and helped to build and shape this city and its unique character.

"It also offers an opportunity to reflect on how far we've come collectively as a city.

"The treatment of those who arrived on ships from Derry and Donegal and by foot or by cart from the Highlands was not always hospitable.

"However, 170 years on, we are privileged to be able to say Glasgow remains home to one of the world's great Irish diaspora - and a city proud to be home to more Scots Gaelic speakers than anywhere else in the country."

'Enormous impact'

Mr McHugh is the serving Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Minister of State for Gaeilge, Gaeltacht and the Islands and a former minister of state for the diaspora and overseas development.

He said: "A large number of those who were forced to leave Ireland came to Glasgow and to the west of Scotland.

"It is fitting, therefore, that as we commemorate the historic tragedy of the famine, we recall and acknowledge the enormous impact that Irish famine migrants had on Scotland and the positive contribution they and their descendants have made over many decades in shaping the modern city of Glasgow.

"That recognition is important and I welcome the initiative taken by Glasgow City Council in developing this memorial."

Image caption Paving carved with the names of places people left because of the famine forms part of the memorial

Prof Devine congratulated the city council for creating the memorial.

He said: "Fittingly, this is an overtly inclusive memorial which recognises the sufferings of both Catholic and Protestant Irish victims of the catastrophe as well as that of Highland Gaels.

"The memorial also provides an opportunity to mark the significant contribution which the descendants of the Irish and Highland refugees of that time have made to the economy, culture and politics of Glasgow over the last 160 years or so.

"That is a potent reminder for today of how immigration, even of the displaced and distressed, can ultimately have a positive impact on the host society."

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