THE FAMINE MEMORIAL BY EDWARD DELANEY
Directly behind the Wolfe Tone Memorial in St Stephens Green is Edward Delaney’s Famine Memorial. Both sculptures are by the same artist. It represents the suffering of the Irish People throughout the Irish Famine.
The Great Famine, also known as the Great Hunger, the Famine and the Irish Potato Famine, was a period of starvation and disease in Ireland lasting from 1845 to 1852 that constituted a historical social crisis and subsequently had a major impact on Irish society and history as a whole.
The most severely affected areas were in the western and southern parts of Ireland—where the Irish language was dominant—and hence the period was contemporaneously known in Irish as an Drochshaol, which literally translates to “the bad life” and loosely translates to “the hard times”. The worst year of the famine was 1847, which became known as “Black ’47”.
During the Great Hunger, roughly 1 million people died and more than 1 million more fled the country, causing the country’s population to fall by 20–25% (in some towns, populations fell as much as 67%) between 1841 and 1871. Between 1845 and 1855, at least 2.1 million people left Ireland, primarily on packet ships but also on steamboats and barques—one of the greatest exoduses from a single island in history.
Edward Delaney (1930 – 22 September 2009) was an Irish sculptor born in Claremorris in County Mayo in 1930. His best known works include the 1967 statue of Wolfe Tone and famine memorial at the northeastern corner of St Stephen’s Green in Dublin and the statue of Thomas Davis in College Green, opposite Trinity College Dublin. These are both examples of lost-wax bronze castings, his main technique during the 1960s and early 1970s.
Though they do exhibit some of his trademark expressionism, the statues of Wolfe Tone and Thomas Davis are less abstract than was most of his work at the time; the famine memorial is more typical in this regard. However, arts writer Judith Hill points out that these statues make no attempt at an exact likeness of the figures they portray, instead, they communicate the public stature of their subjects and, indeed, the public role of memorial statues through their proportions and scale.In this way, it is argued, they mark the transition from memorial and public art.
What all Edward Delaney’s work shares is robustness, in an Irish Times review of his 2004 retrospective, arts writer Aidan Dunne described his bronzes as robust, but having an awkwardness, a tenderness about them.
From 1980 onwards, Edward Delaney concentrated on large scale environmental pieces and stainless steel works in Carraroe, County Galway. The Royal Hibernian Academy held a retrospectives of his work in 1992 and again in 2004.