Please note: This article is published as an archive copy from Philadelphia City Paper. My City Paper is not affiliated with Philadelphia City Paper. Philadelphia City Paper was an alternative weekly newspaper in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The last edition was published on October 8, 2015.

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October 31-November 6, 2002


Due Cause

The worst natural disaster of the 19th century occurred on the other side of the Atlantic, but it had a profound and permanent effect on American history. The Irish potato famine -- or "An Gorta Mor," the great hunger, as it's more appropriately known in Gaelic -- claimed the lives of about 1 million people, and caused at least that many to flee Ireland, many for North American port cities like Philadelphia. On Sunday, local Irish-American activists will unveil a memorial to those poor souls at Front and Chestnut, just yards away from where thousands of ragged "famine Irish" first set foot in the United States. The massive sculpture -- 12 feet high, 12 feet wide and 30 feet long -- by Glenna Goodacre uses the design of a ship as a symbolic bridge of sorts between the likenesses of people dying in the fields in Ireland and others beginning a new life here. Boston and New York may be more closely identified with Irish America, but Philadelphia has been shaped just as much by Irish immigrants and their descendents, and it's about time there was more than some plaques and statues tucked away in corners of the city to recognize that fact.

Mass of Remembrance, Sat., Nov. 2, 10 a.m. at Old St. Augustine’s Church. Fourth and Race sts., followed by procession to Front and Chestnut sts. for unveiling (11:30 a.m.). For more information see

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