Boston Irish Famine Memorial
In 1845, a quickly spreading mold began to destroy potato plants in Ireland, unleashing what we now know as the Great Famine. Many of the poor in Ireland depended on potatoes as their primary food source, and about one-eighth of the population died from hunger or disease over the following years. Those more fortunate fled the country, with over 1.5 million Irish arriving in the United States. Boston was a favored place for the Irish start their new lives.
This memorial was unveiled in June 1998 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the Great Famine. The memorial includes eight narrative plaques about the Famine and two groups of figures, one deeply affected by the Famine, and the other looking healthy and well fed. Through these two opposed groups, sculptor Robert Shure has highlighted the significance of Ireland’s class structure during the Famine. Poor farmers and rural laborers were far more likely to die from hunger and disease than the urban population of white-collar workers. Considered outside of its historical context, the sculpture encourages us to reflect on similarly unjust conditions that persist today.