Of all the Famine Memorials I’ve seen in Ireland, the one in Custom House Quay in Dublin’s Docklands is the most moving. Life-size sculptures of gaunt, listless peasants stand almost as if in slow motion … wandering down the quay.
If ever there was a depiction of “walking in two worlds” it here.
One world reflects the current pulse of Dublin. Business people, tourists, and cyclists move along this path on the north side of the River Liffey at a quick pace. Their intent is focused. Even those sitting on benches are texting, or chatting on the phone, or reading. Few take notice the bronze faces and bodies – frozen in place.
The Other world is the world of the famine walkers. The world of 1845 when Great Hunger began. The walkers move quietly through the chaos of busy Dublin, slowly and deliberately. They plead for help, for food, for shelter from those who have plenty, but are are turned away or ignored…. treat like bothersome pests.
They begged the world to notice them then. They beg the world to notice them now.
When the world looked away, they lost their homes, their children died, their families crumbled. They starved.
Now they are a memory that moves through the veil of time onto Custom House Quay so that we who have much, might be moved.
One of the first Famine voyages carrying the starving Irish to new lives in America left from the this place. The ship was named Perseverance. It sailed on St. Patrick’s Day in 1846 and landed in New York two months later.
The bronze figures were designed and crafted by Dublin sculptor Rowan Gillespie, and they were presented to to the City of Dublin in 1997.
Our guests on Thin Places tours in 2014 will visit this Memorial and a few others in Dublin.