Irish Famine Memorial
The idea for a Irish Famine memorial in Boston was first presented by Mayor Raymond L. Flynn in 1991, with support from greater Boston's Irish community. The original site was near Faneuil Hall Marketplace. In 1993, when Flynn was appointed as US Ambassador to the Vatican the project lost momentum and languished for three years.
In 1996 Thomas J. Flatley, a local real estate developer and an immigrant himself, met with Mayor Thomas M. Menino and agreed to revive the Famine project. Flatley formed a committee, comprised of leaders from Boston's business community, as well as scholars, writers, clergy, and presidents of Irish-American organizations. Since spring of 1996, the committee worked diligently, selecting a sculptor, landscape design team and a contractor to build the Famine Memorial park, undertaking a fundraising effort, and reaching out to Boston's large, diverse community of students, immigrant groups, local abutters, and people of all backgrounds and faiths.
The $1 million park has been sited at the corner of Washington and School Streets, near Downtown Crossing, just a few blocks from where the Irish refugees first crowded into tenements along Boston's waterfront. This location is across from the Old South Meeting House, and along the city's Freedom Trail, which is visited by two million tourists each year.
The Boston Irish Famine Memorial was unveiled on Sunday, June 28, 1998. Over 7,000 people attended the dedication, one of the largest crowds to view a work of public art in recent Boston history. The ceremony featured readings of the eight plaques by a representative group of Irish and Irish-Americans, as well as representatives from the Jewish, Asian and African communities, signifying the universality of the immigrant experience. Ireland's Minister of State Seamus Brennan was a special guest, and was joined by Massachusetts Governor Paul Cellucci, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, and Thomas J. Flatley, chairman of the Memorial committee. Other special guests included Rev. Bartley MacPhaidin, president of Stonehill College. Bernard Cardinal Law visited the site several hours after the dedication and blessed the memorial with Holy Water from Ireland.
The memorial features two life-size sculptures, one depicting a family leaving Ireland's shores, impoverished and desperate, and another depicting a family arriving in Boston, filled with hope and determination.