For the last 8 years the Celtic Cross Memorial (made from Irish limestone and Welsh stone) at Cathays Cemetery in Cardiff has been a focus point on St Patrick’s Day to remember those who died in the Irish Famine 1845-1849.
Over one million people died and over a million people emigrated from Ireland. Many of the immigrants flocked to Cardiff, the Valleys and Newport.
In April 1847 the Monmouthshire Merlin reported: “A poor Irish woman was this week begging from door to door with the corpse of an infant in her arms. Several cargoes of Irish people have been sent back to Ireland from this port during the week. Hundreds yet remain in a starving condition; and Hill Street, in which the Relieving Officer resides, is daily crowded by whole families, who present the appearance in general, of famished and diseased men, women and children.”
The Memorial is also a tribute to all Irish people and their descendants who have lived and died in Wales.
A St Patrick’s Day message from the Irish President was read out by the Irish Counsel General in Wales. David Burns, a son of Newtown, Cardiff’s former Little Ireland, sang an emotional rendition of Hard Times – a reminder of the hardship faced by Irish immigrants in America in the 19th Century.
The commemoration was also an opportunity to reflect on the famines which are happening around the world today. Last year the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation warned that 11 million people in Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti and Ethiopia were in danger of starvation due to the combination of severe drought and military conflicts.
It was good to meet so many people keen to remember the terrible suffering of the victims of the famine and a chance to celebrate the close friendship between Wales and Ireland.
Hands Across the Sea
The gentle hand of
Across the water
The story of our mission;
Two hands over two sands
Sharing a common kinship
Two hands clutching quietly
And two hands
Keeping two lands in safety,
The two holding the same truth
On the same horizon
Come what may.