Sunday, August 2, 2020

Photo of the Day: Irish Famine Monument, Cambridge MA

Some monuments—notably, those honoring Confederate heroes—are built in a relatively short period of time. Others—including this one, which I photographed on a trip to Boston and its surrounding area in 2008—are erected far later.

The Irish Potato Famine of the 1840s resulted in an estimated 1 million deaths and another million who emigrated to escape starvation, disease and grinding poverty. But those statistics don’t even begin to convey the trauma suffered by those who endured it. It affected the destinies of two countries—Ireland, which could never forget that a blight affected their potatoes but their British overlords produced the starvation; and the United States, where the Irish became the prototypical immigrant group.

For more than a century, the memory of that catastrophe was an open wound, best left to be forgotten by those who lived through it and their descendants. But in time, as the Irish carved out their niche in the United States, they not only began to probe the causes and effects of the famine, but also sought to commemorate it in tangible form, as in statuary.

Canbridge's Irish Famine Monument, located on Cambridge Common and cast by Maurice Carron, shows a family torn apart by the Great Hunger. It was dedicated in 1997, on the 150th anniversary of the deadliest year of the famine, by Irish President Mary Robinson.

Carved on the memorial’s base is the central lesson learned about this massive tragedy: “"Never again should a people starve in a world of plenty."

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