#OTD in 2017 – President Michael D. Higgins unveiled a memorial commemorating the Great Hunger in Subiaco Park in Perth, Australia.

The memorial sculpture was designed by Charlie Smith and Joan Walsh-Smith, originally from Waterford. In Sydney, the President visited the Australian Monument to the Great Hunger, in the company of the Hon. Gladys Berejiklian, Premier of New South Wales.

The sculpture depicts a grieving mother “bent low by the crushing loss of her children” and President Higgins praised the Irish Australians, Charlie and Joan Smith, who designed what he called a, “most beautiful and moving depiction of the sense of desolation.”

There was a shortage of women in the British colony, Australia. In the 1840s, during the Great Hunger, thousands of Irish women were shipped to Australia to marry convicts to become “Great Hunger Brides”.

Micheal D Higgins continued his exhaustive 24-day tour of Western Australia, and unveiled a new Great Hunger Memorial which paid tribute to these women.

“It is a sobering to think of the desperate situation that these girls faced, where the option of travelling to the other side of the world… to a future that they could scarcely comprehend was preferable to what was around them,” he said. The statue, which shows a woman bent over and keening.

President Higgins added that it was heartening that the communities remembered the women’s contribution to Irish society following their ‘traumatic departure’ from Ireland. “Remembering their lives, and their legacy is important,” he told the crowd.

Speech by President Higgins at the unveiling of an Irish Great Hunger Memorial, Subiaco, Perth, Australia: https://youtu.be/q0xYSkHQiwA

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