Great Irish Hunger memorials in America



At Quinnipiac University’s library in Hamden, there is a Great Hunger room dedicated to literature, art and original documents from the time of the Famine. Located in the Lender Family Special Collection Room of the Arnold Bernhard Library, the collection explores the historical significance as well as the emotional relevance of the experiences of those who suffered. (See feature article in this issue.)


Sponsored by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, St. Patrick’s Division 1, the Michigan State Board, the Ladies AOH of Michigan and the West New York Irish Famine Memorial Committee, An Gorta Mór Memorial is a massive structure on the St. Joseph’s Shrine grounds in Brooklyn, Michigan. Two columns of eight rectangular stones support a giant stone taken from Penrose Quay, Cork Harbor, a departure point for many Famine victims. The names of the counties are written in both English and Irish on the stones which comprise the platform beneath the columns.


At the corner of Front and Chestnut Streets in Philadelphia, the mammoth statue dedicated to victims who found their way to the City of Brotherly Love stands at 12 feet high and 30 feet long in a 1.75 acre park. Featuring 35 life-sized figures, the statue was designed by Glenna Goodacre. It depicts starvation, harrowing journeys and the will to survive.


In the heat of America’s southwest desert city, the Phoenix Irish Cultural Center dedicated its An Gorta Mór Memorial on September 25, 1999. With a portion of a stone wall and an inscribed plaque, the words on the memorial tell of the starvation and anguish of Ireland in the mid 19th century. Located on a two-acre plot of land just south of Phoenix’s Irish Cultural Center, the memorial is joined by other structures including a replica of an Irish cottage.


On the West Coast, a 14-foot-tall Celtic High Cross stands in Mount Cavalry Catholic Cemetery in Portland, Oregon. The cross is modeled after the ancient cross of the scriptures in Clonmacnoise, County Offaly. Brendan McGloin, an Irish sculptor, was recruited for the memorial, for which carved panels on the cross which depict biblical and secular scenes based on the cross at Clonmacnoise. The cross, carved in Donegal, was shipped to Portland and dedicated by President Mary McAleese in December of 2008.

Rhode Island

Along the Riverwalk of this gritty New England city, the Providence Famine Memorial was designed and created by artist Robert Shure. Its centerpiece is a large bronze statue of a man standing tall and behind him a woman holding a sickly man in her arms. The true masterpiece of this memorial is the narrative wall that Shure created alongside this statue. The wall combines images and text which tell the story of the Hunger. Concerts of Irish music and heritage events are often held at the site of the memorial, which was dedicated in November of 2007.