Scotland's Covid Memorial opening: a time to join together

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The first phase of Scotland's Covid Memorial will open later this month
The first phase of Scotland's Covid Memorial will open later this month

A POIGNANT ceremony is to be held to mark the official opening of the first phase of Scotland’s Covid Memorial just weeks after reaching the fundraising target.

The special event in Glasgow’s Pollok Country Park is a significant moment in the journey to create the National Covid Memorial which has received support and backing at local and national government level, from businesses, organisations and individuals across the country.

Following a campaign launched and led by The Herald to deliver a memorial as a fitting tribute to all those who lost their lives during the pandemic and anyone affected by it, there is now a special place for people to remember loved ones and to find comfort and healing.

Read more: Scotland's Covid Memorial: How public support and fundraising challenges helped to reach campaign target

We know that hundreds of thousands of people across Scotland have been affected by the past two years with thousands suffering the pain of losing a loved one.

It’s why we believe the opening of the first phase of the memorial should be open to all and is a chance to come together to reflect.

We are extending an event invite to anyone who wishes to witness this important moment on Friday, May 27 to join us.

HeraldScotland: The first support was installed in March at Pollok Country Park
HeraldScotland: The first support was installed in March at Pollok Country Park

The first support was installed in March at Pollok Country Park

I remember: Scotland’s Covid Memorial was designed by our artist Alec Finlay and is a series of tree supports throughout Pollok Country Park which naturally form a memorial walk.

The opening ceremony will be held at the first completed part of the memorial, at the Riverside Grove, and will be followed by the first ever memorial walk to the Birch Grove location.

And poignantly the first ever memorial walk will be led by three people who have been massively supportive of the campaign.

Connie McCready, Peter McMahon, and Carolyn Murdoch were all bereaved through the pandemic and they will be leading the walk which will be held in silence. Ms McCready lost her fiancé Jim Russell, while Mr McMahon’s wife Debbie died and Mrs Murdoch’s father RAF veteran John Connelly also died from Covid at the age of 104-years-old.

Read more: Thank you Scotland - you did it! Covid memorial hits funds target

It will be a moment for people to walk together but be alone with their own thoughts and reflections. On the return from Birch Grove to Riverside might be a time for people to share memories.

Covid memorial artist Mr Finlay, who has been left with the affects of Long Covid himself, said: “We’re going to walk from the Riverside Memorial to the Birch Grove, which is up the Ash Road. It’s a 10-minute walk. I can’t manage that far and will stay with the people who are also unable to at Riverside.

“The idea is that the walk is a silent commemoration. Then people can walk back to the Riverside for a chat and have a picnic.”

We raised close to £250,000 to create the memorial and received more than £40,000 from the Scottish Government and several donations from Scotland’s leading entrepreneurs Sir Tom Hunter, Lord Willie Haughey and John Watson OBE.

HeraldScotland: Alec Finlay has designed and created Scotland's Covid Memorial
HeraldScotland: Alec Finlay has designed and created Scotland's Covid Memorial

Alec Finlay has designed and created Scotland's Covid Memorial

It was the support from those affected or who had lost loved ones that helped to drive the campaign forward.

From readers of The Herald and members of the public who took on challenges, to businesses getting behind us, along with donations from some of Scotland’s leading entrepreneurs that we were able to achieve the fundraising target. We have also had tremendous support from our partners Glasgow City Council and Scotland’s outdoor charity greenspace scotland.

We also received a generous donation of £42,000 from the Scottish Government, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon supporting the memorial campaign.

Ms Sturgeon congratulated everyone involved in reaching this significant milestone.

She said: “A lot of hard work and effort has gone into reaching this fundraising milestone and making the memorial a reality. My congratulations and thanks to all of those involved.”

Work is already under way in the park and reaching the funding target will allow us to complete the project. It was the vision of our artist to create a peaceful and tranquil memorial walk through the park through a series of tree supports and special places known as groves.

The key motif of I remember is carved on the supports in several languages and links to a project which saw Mr Finlay reach out to people to record a communal memory of the pandemic.

He received hundreds of I remember passages, including heart-breaking and emotional ones, while some reflected lighter moments in the pandemic. They have become an integral part of the memorial, with moving audio recorded by actor Robert Carlyle, which is accessible at locations in the park.

The official opening of I remember: Scotland’s Covid Memorial will be held at 11am on Friday, May 27 at the Riverside Grove, Pollok Country Park, Glasgow.

For directions go to https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/pollokcountrypark

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