A memorial commemorating Irish immigrants who were buried on Deer Island in the 1840s is being unveiled at 10 a.m. on Saturday, May 25, 2019 on the island.
Guests include Boston Archdiocese Sean Cardinal O’Malley and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh. Master of Ceremonies is Eugene O’Flaherty. City of Boston’s Chief Archivist John McColgan is giving the historical remarks, and Máirín Keady is singing the American and Irish anthems. The Boston Curragh Rowing Club is placing a ceremonial wreath in the water in memory of those who died.
Deer Island is currently the wastewater facility run by the MWRA, but in the 1840s it was converted to a quarantine station as thousands of impoverished and ill Irish immigrants flooded into Boston Harbor, fleeing the Irish Famine, a series of potato crop failures that decimated Ireland. In 1847 alone, some 47,000 Irish came to Boston.
The idea for an Irish Memorial was first raised in the 1990s when the bones of interred Irish were inadvertently uncovered during construction. The MWRA worked with local Irish-American organizations and Boston historians to find a fitting memorial to the Famine generation, as well as American Indians who were buried here during the King Phillips War in 1676.
A public ceremony was held in June 1997 to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the opening of the quarantine station, and a temporary Celtic Cross, created by Irish carpenters Larry Reynolds and Jimmy Roach, was placed at the site.
The late Rita and Bill O’Connell of Duxbury advocated for a permanent Irish Memorial through the 2000s until their death in 2012.