The Wales National Great Famine Memorial

A Memorial to all the victims of the Great Famine in Ireland (1845‑1849) was erected in Cardiff on St. Patrick’s Day, 1999. This is also a Memorial to every person of Irish origin, without distinction on grounds of class, politics, allegiance or religious belief, who has died in Wales. A magnificent Celtic Cross, made in Ireland of Irish limestone and very generously donated by the Cardiff firm of Mossfords, monumental sculptors since 1821, now stands on a base of Welsh stone in the city’s Cathays Cemetery on a prominent site provided by Cardiff City and County Council.

The dedication of the Wales Great Famine Memorial was the high point in a programme of events arranged by the Wales Famine Forum since 1995 to mark the 150th anniversary of ‘The Great Hunger’ which claimed the lives of at least one million people. There was no county in Ireland, no religious denomination, no social or political class which did not have to bury its own during that dreadful calamity.

The Famine also forced about two million people to seek refuge in other parts of the world. Those forced into exile included many thousands who arrived in Wales. By the 1860s there were 73 Irish ghettos in Cardiff alone. Irish people had arrived too in other rapidly developing towns such as Bargoed, Bridgend, Caerphilly, Dowlais, Llanelli, Maesteg, Merthyr Tydfil, Newport, Pontypridd, and Swansea as well as in the Rhondda and the other mining valleys of Glamorganshire and Monmouthshire. Irish settlements also began to form in west and north Wales.

All of those people, men, women and children, together with their tragedies, faith, endurance, heroism and enterprising spirit are as much a part of our history as we are of theirs. In honouring them we honour ourselves and in remembering them we ensure that we in our turn will be remembered by those who will take our place in the Wales and the Ireland of the future.

Ceremony at Cathays Cemetery, Cardiff at 11.00 a.m. on Wednesday 17 March, 1999, St. Patrick’s Day, 1999


A report from the Irish Times

The event was blessed with fine weather. About 400 people were present including children from the following schools:

St. Patrick’s R.C. Primary School, Grangetown.
Gladstone Primary School, Cathays.
St. Joseph’s R.C. Primary School, Cathays.
Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Mynydd Bychan (Welsh language primary school), Cathays.

Music was provided by a party of teenagers from the Corpus Christi R.C. High School, Lisvane, Cardiff.

The Programme was as follows :

1. Address of Welcome: John Sweeney, Chairman, Wales Famine Forum.

2. Reading in Irish: Conor O’Riordan, Consul General of Ireland in Wales, read a shortened version of the famine poem:
Amhrán na bPrátaí Dubha

3. Hymn in Irish: Eithne O’Brien, who attends St. Peter’s R.CF. Church in Roath, sang, unaccompanied:
Ag Críost an Síol

4. Reading in Welsh: Mary Sullivan, Chair of the Newtown Association, Cardiff, read the poem:
Biaffra by Dafydd Rowlands.

5. Hymn in Welsh: Mared Whelan, whose great‑grandfather came to Wales from County Waterford and whose mother is a native speaker of Welsh, sung, unaccompanied, the classic Welsh hymn:
Myn Mair

6. Reading in English: Tom McGarry, President, Irish Society, Cardiff University Students’ Union, read the closing paragraphs of The Dead the story included in Dubliners, the classic collection of short stories by James Joyce.

7. Joint Unveiling of the Great Famine Memorial: Jon Owen Jones MP, Minister of State at the Welsh Office, and Conor O’Riordan, Irish Consul General in Wales, together pulled away the green cloth which had covered the inscriptions in English, Irish, Welsh and Latin which are as follows :

1) On four plaques of Welsh slate :

In English:

In memory of the victims of the Great Famine in Ireland, 1845 – 1849, and of all Irish people and their descendants who have died in Wales.
May they rest in peace.

In Welsh:

Er cof am y rhai a ddioddefodd yn Newyn Mawr Iwerddon, 1845 – 1849, a’r holl Wyddelod a’u disgynyddion a fu farw yng Nghymru.
Heddwch i’w llwch.

In Irish:

I gcuimhne orthu siúd a d’fhulaing le linn Ghorta Moacute;r na hÉireann, 1845 – 1849, agus ar na hÉireannaigh go léir is a sliocht a fuair bás sa Bhreatain Bheag.
Ar Dheis Dé go raibh a n–anamacha is anamacha na marbh.

In Latin:

In memoriam victimarum Famis Magnae in Hibernia A.D. MDCCCXLV – MDCCCXLIX atque Hiberniensium omnium cum prole sua in Cambria sunt mortui.
Requiescant in Pace.

2) Side by side on the flat base at the front of the Celtic Cross:

In English:

During the years 1845 – 1849 the potato crop in Ireland failed, a million people perished and almost twice as many fled their homeland. Thousands of refugees arrived in Wales. This memorial, erected by their descendants with the support of generous friends, is for them.

In Welsh:

Yn y blynyddoedd 1845 – 49 pallodd y cnwd tatws yn Iwerddon, trengodd miliwn o bobl a ffôdd bron i ddwyfaint mwy oddi cartref. Daeth miloedd o ffoaduriaid i Gymru. Trostynt hwy y cododd eu disgynyddion y gofeb hon gyda chymorth cyfeillion hael.

8. Blessing and Dedication. This was an ecumenical service conducted in the following manner:

a)Opening Prayers: The Most Reverend Edwin Regan, the R.C. Bishop of Wrexham in north Wales prayed for those who had died during the Great Famine in Ireland and for those survivors who had settled in Wales and for all the Irish who have lived and died here.

b) A Reading from the Book of Isaiah (58:9‑12):
The Reverend Denzil John, Minister, Tabernacl Caerdydd (the Welsh Baptists’ Church since 1825), The Hayes, Cardiff, and an Honorary Member of the Wales Famine Forum, read as follows:

If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil; if you offer food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.
The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong; and you shall be like a watered garden, like a spring of water, whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins will be rebuilt; you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; you shall be called Repairer of broken walls, Restorer of streets to live in.

b) A Reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans, Chapter 8 , Verses 31‑39 :
Canon Jack Buttimore, retired Vicar of St. David’s Church in Wales, Ely, Cardiff, a Corkman who was once an employee of the Beamish and Crawford Brewery in that city and is now an honorary Member of the Wales Famine Forum, read as follows:

What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us?
He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?
It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? Is it Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised from the dead, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us?
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written,

“For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

c) A Reading from the Gospel according to Matthew, Chapter 25, Verses 31 to 46:
The Reverend Anthony Crockett, representing the (Church in Wales) Archbishop of Wales, read as follows:

When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.
He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

Then the King will say to those on his right:
“Come, you that are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.
For I was hungry and you fed me;
I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you invited me in;
I needed clothes and you clothed me; Then the righteous will answer him:

“Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison, and go to visit you?”

The King will reply:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did it for me!”

Then he will say to those on his left:
“Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick sick and in prison and you did not look after me me.”

They also will answer:
“Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

He will reply:
“I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the glorious to eternal life.

d) Homily:
The Right Reverend Daniel Mullins, Bishop of Menevia, a native of Limerick and a speaker of both Irish and Welsh, spoke in three languages.

e) Interdenominational Blessing and Dedication of the Memorial. The clergy listed above were joined by Fr. S.F.Marriott, I.C., the Parish Priest of St. Joseph’s, Cathays, whose area includes the Cathays Cemetery in which the Memorial now stands.

f) The Sign of Peace: The Clergy extended the handshake of peace to each other and called on everyone present to greet his or her neighbour in the same expression of Christian peace and goodwill.

9. Joint placing of a wreath at the base of the Memorial: Councillor Marion Drake, the Lord Mayor of Cardiff and Captain Norman Lloyd‑Edwards, the Lord Lieutenant for South Glamorgan (the Queen’s official representative in Cardiff and surrounding areas) carried a large wreath (which included a huge mass of shamrock) and placed it against the Memorial. The card on the wreath had the simple dedication (in English, Welsh, Irish and Latin):
“In memory of Ireland’s Famine dead”.

10. Closing Remarks: Tyrone O’Sullivan, Chairman, Tower Colliery, Hirwaun. His grandfather came from County Cork and he himself had to go down to the coalface where a rock fall had killed his father.

Later he was a shop steward in the National Union of Mineworkers when the National Coal Board announced the closure of the Tower Colliery, about 30 miles north of Cardiff. Like Lech Walensa in the Gdansk shipyard about ten years earlier, Tyrone O’Sullivan rallied the miners and persuaded them to form a cooperative and buy the doomed pit. They followed his advice and the colliery is still there.

His words at the Great Famine Memorial were gentle, humorous, and endearing (the immediate impression one forms on meeting this ‘local hero’ is of an amazingly unassuming gentleness, kindliness and calm).

His main point was that if we do not love and respect ourselves, our history, our traditions and our small country how can we love and be in peace with our neighbours.

11.There was then a period of one minute’s silence in memory of all those who had died as a result of the famine.

12.The ceremony ended with the hymn, Hail Glorious St. Patrick, after Seán Mac Réamoinn, a veteran broadcaster and writer who had come from Dublin with his wife in order to take part, had brought the proceedings to a fitting in English, Irish and Welsh.

The Master of Ceremonies throughout was Chris Daly, who normally carries out this function at the principal Mass each Sunday in the city’s R.C. St. David’s Cathedral.

At the end of the ceremony the Wales Famine Forum Chairman John Sweeney invited everyone to join him at a ‘wake’ in Dempsey’s Bar in the city centre where the Landlord, Donegalman Mike Farrell and his wife Margaret, had set up a special ‘soup kitchen’ serving a very nourishing Irish stew.

Fortunately only about 70 or 80 of the 400 people in Cathays Cemetery accepted John Sweeney’s invitation or there would have been ‘wild scenes’!

That evening several hundred people, including some who had been unable to be present at the unveiling of the Famine Memorial, were guests of Conor O’Riordan, Ireland’s Consul General in Wales, at a reception in the City Hall.

Finally, a few members of the Wales Famine Forum managed to attend an Irish ‘Céilí’ arranged by the Cardiff University Students’ Union, the proceeds of which were shared between the Omagh Disaster Fund and the Wales Famine Forum’s Great Famine Memorial Fund, set up to raise the 3995 needed to meet the construction costs.

Chairman: John Sweeney:00 44 29 / 20482193
Secretary: Barry Tobin:00 44 29 / 20916146
Treasurer: Joe Moore:00 44 29 / 2055355
Press / PRO : John O’Sullivan: 00 44 29 / 20615147 A Registered Charity, Number: 1057587

All translations, : Wales Famine Forum.


update to above text

Crynodeb yn y Gymraeg

Achoimre sa Ghaeilge

St. Patrick’s Day 2000

Dydd Gŵyl Padrig Sant 2000

St. Patrick’s Day 2001

Dydd Gŵyl Padrig Sant 2001

St. Patrick’s Day 2002

Dydd Gŵyl Padrig Sant 2002

St. Patrick’s Day 2003

Dydd Gŵyl Padrig Sant 2003

St. Patrick’s Day 2004

Dydd Gŵyl Padrig Sant 2004

St. Patrick’s Day 2005

Dydd Gŵyl Padrig Sant 2005

St. Patrick’s Day 2006

Dydd Gŵyl Padrig Sant 2006

St. Patrick’s Day 2007

Dydd Gŵyl Padrig Sant 2007

St. Patrick’s Day 2008

Dydd Gŵyl Padrig Sant 2008

St. Patrick’s Day 2009

Dydd Gŵyl Padrig Sant 2009


The Great Famine Remembered in Cardiff, Wales

From The Catholic People, Cardiff’s RC monthly
An account by the late John O’Sullivan, journalist and historian.

A selection of related articles which may bring tears, smiles and some legitimate pride.

Ríomhphost / Email / Ebost


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