Local councillor's memorial plan

Added on Thursday 20 Sep 2012

Local councillor's memorial plan

Glasgow City Council appears set to create a memorial to the 19th century potato famines in Ireland and the Scottish Highlands, thanks to an initiative by Partick West councillor Feargal Dalton.

If finally approved it will be the city's first public commemoration of a catastrophe which led to the needless death of countless thousands through starvation - and which prompted the huge influx of refugees whose descendants form a substantial portion of the city's modern population.

Some estimates contend that at least three quarters of a million people died in Ireland because of the potato blight which destroyed ordinary people's main source of food - more than ten per cent of Ireland's then population.

Less people died in the Highlands, statistically, because some effort was made to provide relief - but many had to toil six days a week on useless road building projects to qualify for the most basic subsistence.

The famine also struck while the Highland Clearances were already devastating communities, forcing thousands to flee to the Lowlands or to America and Canada - as recalled in the stained glass windows of The Lismore pub in Partick.

The mass immigration shaped the future of communities such as Partick, to which so many desperate Irish and Highland families fled in search of work.

While the British Government of the day took no effective action to deal with the human disaster, Glaswegians were to the fore in providing elementary relief. Councillor Dalton stressed that part of his proposal is to acknowledge that this spirit of Glaswegian generosity remains as the city continues to support people currently affected by famine from across the world.

The purpose of a memorial, he said, would also be to pay tribute to victims of the famine, act as an educational focus for future generations and tell an important part of the Glasgow story.

He said: "A memorial will bring us into line with other great cities such as New York, where they make sure to acknowledge and celebrate their diversity. We do too in Glasgow and any memorial will simply be a physical recognition of that fact.

"A memorial will highlight that in world of continuing poverty and famine, Glasgow is very firmly on the side of justice and is a beacon of hope to those in the world who continue to suffer."

The nature of the memorial and where it may be sited have also still to be decided upon, but a working group will report on its recommendations by the end of next summer.