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National Covid memorial opened by John Swinney in Glasgow park

Scotland’s national Covid memorial has been officially opened by deputy first minister John Swinney (Katharine Hay/PA)
Scotland’s national Covid memorial has been officially opened by deputy first minister John Swinney (Katharine Hay/PA)

Scotland’s Covid memorial was officially opened by deputy first minister John Swinney in Glasgow.

Tears were shed as emotional memories of difficult times during the pandemic were read out to about 70 people gathered in the city’s Pollok Country Park for the ceremony on Friday.

The memorial is a collection of “I remember” oak tree supports throughout the park at the Riverside Grove location.

Poet and artist Alec Finlay, who was commissioned last year to make them, said the designs where inspired by the support ordinary people showed one another during the pandemic.

Deputy first minister John Swinney gave a speech to bereaved families and friends at the ceremony on Friday (Katharine Hay/PA)

The key motif of “I remember” is carved on each one in several languages.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was due to speak at the ceremony but, due to catching Covid herself, Mr Swinney stepped into her place.

Mr Finlay standing next to one of his oak tree supports in Pollok Country Park, Glasgow (Katharine Hay/PA)

He delivered a speech and laid a wreath in memory of those lost during the pandemic.

Speaking about the memorial opening, he said: “This is a particularly significant moment for families who have lost loved ones during the pandemic.

“The artist exhibit is a beautiful illustration of support and solidarity of the values that got us all through the pandemic and which will help us through the recovery.

“And it’s set in a place of peace and tranquillity in Pollok Park, and it’s a beautiful place for us to remember them.”

Deputy first minister John Swinney talking to bereaved relatives at the opening of the Covid memorial in Pollok Country Park, Glasgow (Katharine Hay/PA)

Singer Margaret Bennett performed a traditional Gaelic lament from Glen Lyon, Grioghal Cridhe to allow for a moment of reflection before Mr Finlay gave a speech about the memorial.

The artist read a passage from I remember, a book of emotional and heartbreaking memories people have of the pandemic, which Mr Finlay collected by reaching out to members of the community.

Poet and artist Alec Finlay was commissioned last year and his vision was to create a series of tree supports formed by physical poses (Katharine Hay/PA)

A walk through the park then followed, led by bereaved relatives Connie McCready, Peter McMahon and Carolyn Murdoch, to allow time for personal reflection.

Ms Murdoch, who is a member of a Covid support group that had some input into the memorial, attended to remember her late father John Connelly.

Carolyn Murdoch’s father died in April 2020 after he contracted Covid in a care home (Katharine Hay/PA)

He died in April 2020 aged 104 after he contracted Covid in a care home.

“It was very difficult not having the support you should have, which makes this (memorial) so relevant,” she said.

“These supports depict how a lot of people felt.”

Tears were shed as emotional memories about difficult times during the pandemic were read out at the ceremony (Katharine Hay/PA)

Ms Murdoch said she and her brother only had 15 minutes each with their father the day before he died.

Mr Connelly died alone in Glasgow Royal Infirmary.

Getting emotional, Ms Murdoch said: “He was a special wee man.

“It’s lovely to be part of this memorial, and to remember your loved one walking through it.”

Ms McCready lost her finance, Jim, in May 2020 after he contracted Covid.

“He was only 51, so very young, and he was fit and healthy,” she said.

“Jim was cremated, so I have him at home.

“I know he’s not here, but just coming and getting away from the outside world is fabulous and for his family and friends, who don’t have a grave to go to, which is the same for a lot of families, here is somewhere they can come and reflect.”

The ceremony was the first phase of the memorial to be opened, with others to take place at a later date.

Speaking about the tree supports, Mr Finlay said: “It is an artwork made not by me, but by the people of Scotland.

“My designs were inspired by the support ordinary people showed one another.”

He thanked all those who shared their memories of the pandemic and made the memorial what it is today.

While the tree supports are at Pollok Country Park, it is hoped that the project will have a ripple effect across Scotland.

The campaign to create a national memorial to those who lost their lives during the pandemic was initiated and led by The Herald.

About 70 people gathered at the opening of the memorial where speeches were given and memories of living through the pandemic were shared (Katharine Hay/PA)