Thursday, March 23, 2017

Remembered in stone and bronze

During this St Patricks Day week, Mary and I visited a park dedicated to the 38,000 Irish immigrants who came to Toronto during the famine of 1847. 

Ireland park, which opened in 2007, is a hard to find wisp of property not far from Harbourfront, which looks directly across to Toronto Island Airport. 

A kind of stone oceangoing ship creates a solemn backdrop for a handful of haunting bronze sculptures ( created by renowned artist Rowan Gillespie) personifying the hardship endured by families leaving Ireland during the famine, many of them arriving in Canada only to die later of typhoid. The cluster of sculptures representing ‘arrival’ in Canada mirror a similar collection of ‘departure’ sculptures by the same artist at the Famine Memorial in Dublin at the Custom House Quays. 

The rugged contour of the looming boat-like structure (built from of limestone shipped from Dublin) was purposely designed to be reminiscent of the towering 'sandstone' Cliffs of Moher on the west coast of Ireland, the last sight seen by emigrants leaving home. 

Some names are engraved in the stone and hidden in the gaps in the ships walls. A kind of presence of nameless thousands who died on the 'coffin ships’ is felt in the layers upon layers of stones heaped together to create this powerful and very sobering stone sculpture. 

In my research I was unable to find anything else about the ship or the sculptor. It seemed fitting that he or she also remains nameless.

DEATH or CANADA from Daniel Thomson on Vimeo.

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