Parishioners hope to pay tribute to Irish heritage

This model of a sculpture depicts an Irish family leaving home for the United States amid famine in Ireland. Efforts are underway to dedicate a full-size memorial in Davenport.

By Barb Arland-Fye

Quad-City residents of Irish descent are raising funds for an Irish Memorial which they hope to dedicate this fall in downtown Davenport.

The St. Patrick Society Quad-Cities USA has approved the design for a permanent outdoor memorial at the intersection of Second and Harrison streets, next to the Figge Art Center and within view of the Mississippi River. The memorial site is also the end point for the nation’s only interstate St. Patrick’s Day parade.

California-based sculptor Louis Quaintance — a Quad-City native — has been commissioned to create the $72,000 sculpture that will depict a young Irish family on the move to the United States. A scale model of the sculpture conveys the anguish many Irish people must have felt during the Great Famine that compelled them to leave their homeland in the mid-19th century in search of a better life in America.

The father appears stoic, carrying a bag over his back, his eyes focused on what lies ahead. The mother has a look of trepidation. She has one hand cupped to her face, the other holds on tightly to the small hand of her young daughter. A tear is etched on the little girl’s cheek. Their clothes are patched.


John Scally of the St. Patrick Society is leading fundraising efforts for the memorial. A member of St. Pius X Parish in Rock Island, Ill., he’s delighted with the sculptor’s vision for the memorial. Quaintance previously sculpted the West Coast World War II Memorial, the USS San Diego Memorial and the Japanese American Monuments. He also sculpted the life-sized bronze sculpture of two boys watching a ferry on the riverfront near the Iowa American Water Co. plant in Davenport. It is based on a lithograph “Watching the Ferry” by the late Davenport artist John Bloom.

With the Irish Memorial model, “the artist has done a wonderful job of depicting a family arriving in the United States. Everyone came with a hope and a dream to a foreign land,” said Vic Quinn, a member of the St. Patrick Society and a parishioner at St. Anthony Parish in Davenport.

“I think it’s important to pay tribute to our ancestors. They came to this country, they came to this area and they worked very hard … it’s important that we remember them and honor them.”

In fact, people who trace their ancestry to other countries should and do honor their ancestors who settled here and built a life, Quinn added.

Scally said people wanting to donate to the Irish Memorial may call him at (309) 788-2341.  Those donating at least $300 will be acknowledged at the memorial site in some way, he added.

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