United on Famine Memorial

Councillors across all political persuasions agreed to work on erecting a monument to the 3000 people who lost their lives in Lurgan during the Famine.

Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 12:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 26th March 2019, 12:46 pm
Cllr Liam Mackle

A Notice of Motion, brought by Sinn Fein Cllr Liam Mackle, called for the council to build a monument to those impacted by the Great Famine of 1845-1849.

It is believed more than 3,000 people in the Lurgan and surrounding area died from hunger and disease during those four years.

Cllr Mackle called for a memorial and interpretive information panel to commemorate those who died.

Council backed the motion with an added amendment to set up a working group with local historians on where to erect the monument.

Cllr Mackle said: “Lurgan has had many traumatic periods in its history.

“We owe a lot to local historians like Gerard Mc Atasney, Jim Conway and Brian Cassells who have kept the story of the famine in Lurgan and the grave impact alive for our generation. However it is unfortunately a period in history that most people in Lurgan associate with other places like the west and south west counties of Ireland.

“The reality is that the famine had a devastating impact on Lurgan and its people, particularly from late 1845 through 1846 and 1847. It is estimated that almost 3000 people died between 1846 and 1849 in the Lurgan area. Given the town’s population at the time there would not have been a family that was not effected.

“Hunger and disease did not discriminate and the whole town and people of every religion and none were impacted. Had it not been for the efforts of the Brownlow family and the various relief committees then the death toll could have been even higher.

“Yet apart from a broken plaque in the grounds of Lurgan Hospital and a mural at the entrance to the Mourneview estate on the Tandragee Road you would be hard pressed to find any reference to this period and could be forgiven for thinking the town was not touched by the famine. It is time that this deficit was addressed. In early 1846 as many as 95 people per week were dieing in the Lurgan Workhouse at the top of Union Street, where the hospital now stands. There are many of the dead buried in unmarked graves in the grounds of the hospital and in Shankill Graveyard. Whole families perished together.

“This happened to our people in our town. We owe it to them to remember.”

During debate at Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon Council, all political parties supported the motion, however some wanted it amended to set up a special working party to deal with the history and location of the monument.

DUP Cllr Stephen Moutray also suggested that other areas such as Armagh and Portadown be considered for similar memorials to famine victims.