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  • Monuments

    Monday, July 27th, 2009

    A number of monuments to emigration exist in Ireland; one or two of these are well-known, while many of the rest of them have more of a local appeal.

    Let me know if you know of any others to add to this list, either in Ireland or around the world.

    Larne, Co. Antrim – “Emigrants to America?

    This memorial depicts a family emigrating in 1717, and their appearance is in marked contrast to the more common depictions of famine-era emigrants. They are well-dressed and relatively prosperous-looking; the woman is carrying a Bible and the boy is carrying his shoes. Their positioning, in which they look forward into the distance, suggests a sense of possibility and even pride.  The figures appear to be a literate, reasonably well-off family looking forward to the future.

    The inscription on the monument reads:

    This memorial, unveiled on 16th May 1992 by Professor Bobby Moss PhD of South Carolina, is dedicated to the memory of those first Ulster emigrants who sailed from Larne in May 1717 upon the “Friends Goodwill” bound for Boston. They were to be the first of many.”

    “There is no other race in the United States that can produce a roll of honour so long and so shining with distinction. And who shall deny our claim to have done more, much more than any others to make the United States”.

    Two related monuments:

    These are closely linked memorials that tell different stories.

    • “Coffin Ship” places the emphasis on death and suffering tied in with the departure -skeletons form the structure of the ship, and the figures are lying down. It is significant that this monument is in Ireland, where the Famine’s toll of suffering and death was acute.
    • “Arrival” emphasises the successful completion of the journey- the figures are upright, and some of them are leaving the boat. Additionally, these are fully-fleshed out buildings and the figures on the boat have individual features. The sculpture’s location in New York and its more positive tone reflects the fact that for those who made the journey, there was the possibility of a new life. It also reflects the different meaning of the famine for the two countries: While for Ireland, the Famine was synonymous with despair, emigration and death; in the New World, however, discourse about Famine emigration, while acknowledging many of its tragic aspects, also reflects the fact that the large-scale migration was a starting point for much of Irish-American history.

    Famine Monuments, Ireland and Canada – Rowan Gillespie

    Famine Monument, Dublin

    Ireland Park, Toronto

    The Toronto memorial is unusual in that it focuses on the mindset of the immediate arrivals.

    Falcarragh, Co. Donegal – The Bridge of Tears and monument stone

    The translation of text on the stone: “Friends and relations of the person who was emigrating would come this far. Here they separated. This is the Bridge of Tears.?

    Derry –”The Emigrants” Eamon O’Doherty’s sculpture at Waterloo Place

    This monument depicts a couple departing with their children and two grandparents saying farewell. Two of the figures in the departing family look backward at the grandparents, while two look forward, toward the port.

    The sculptor is showing the relationship between the emigrants’ past and future and the people left behind. The depiction of two figures looking back and two looking forward highlights both the pain of departure and the possibilities inherent in migration.  The boy has a musical instrument, and the young girl is carrying a book;  both of these signify the culture they will bring with them to their new land.

    The clothing and the figures are highly stylised, so it seems  that the sculptor is trying to represent the idea of emigration itself rather than commemorate a particular set of emigrants.

    Sligo Famine Memorial

    See it on Flickr.

    This sculpture shows the vulnerability of the Famine emigrants – yet the figures are also demonstrating tenderness and concern for each other. In contrast to the family at Larne, they are focused inward – emigration is not for them a matter of looking forward to a bright future.  The young girl is pointing out toward the harbour, and ultimately to her future in America.

    Annie Moore

    Annie Moore with her brothers, Cobh – Images on Flickr

    Annie Moore at Ellis Island, New York  – Images on Flickr

    Annie Moore was the first immigrant to pass through Ellis Island in New York, which was opened on January 1, 1892. She and her brothers were joining her parents, who had emigrated in 1888.

    Kiltimagh – “I’ll send you the fare” – Sally McKenna, 2006

    The plaque on the ground reads,

    “This sculpture is dedicated by Bill Durkan to the memory of the young men and women who emigrated from Kiltimagh, Bohola and the surrounding areas during the 1950s.”

    Many young men and women emigrated alone in the 1950s. This is an extremely poignant depiction of emigration: the figure is almost ghost-like in its positioning on the footpath of a town street, as he trudges along, accompanied by no one. The small suitcase seems to highlight his vulnerability, heightening the notion that he may be ill-prepared for such a life-changing journey.  The lack of pedestal gives  a greater sense of immediacy or intimacy to the figure.

    This is a monument to the ordinary, unheralded emigrant, yet it is also very specific in its reference to a particular place and time. It is unusual in memorialising such a recent migration; many of those it is meant to memorialise are still alive.

    Cork Listening Posts

    Cork City Council

    The Listening Posts are an innovative use of oral history. The repeating voices of the posts are like ghostly presences inhabiting the quays.

    This monument is different from the others in its visual minimalism, as it would be impossible to tell from the appearance of the sculpture what it is meant to memorialise.

    Other monuments and memorials:

    • Irish Memorial, Philadelphia – Flickr
    • Famine monument, Cambridge, Massachusetts – Flickr
    • New Basin Canal Irish Memorial, New Orleans, Louisiana – Flickr
    • Famine memorial – Sydney, Australia – Flickr
    • New Basin Canal Irish Memorial – Flickr
    • Irish Veteran Memorial Project – website
    • Shot at Dawn Memorial – Flickr

    International – monuments crated by other nations to commemorate various migrations

    • Emigration Stone – Cromarty, Scotland – Flickr
    • Emigration monument, Hanko, Finland – Flickr
    • Monleone, Cicagna, Italy – Flickr
    • Emigrant’s Monument, Feltre – Flickr
    • Garden of Exile – Berlin Flickr, web, Flickr, Youtube
    • Monument of mass emigration, The Three Changjiang River Gorges, China – Flickr
    • Chinese coolie, Singapore – Flickr
    • Lampedusa, Italy – monument to migrants who died at sea trying to reach Europe – web article, Flickr
    • Migrant children, Fremantle, Australia – Flickr, more Flickr

    UNESCO – Migration and World Heritage Sites