Congressman Richard Neal.
By Ray O’Hanlon
Springfield is stepping up on behalf of the men and women of 1916.
The western Massachusetts city will this weekend host visitors from near and far at the dedication for a new 1916 Garden of Remembrance, to be located in the city’s Forest Park.
The ceremony will be hosted by Congressman Richard Neal and Mayor Domenic Sarno.
“They have done a great job. It’s very impressive,” said Congressman Neal of the work by the city and backers of the Garden of Remembrance.
Neal said that Springfield was the first community in the state to embrace the idea for the garden, a concept first proposed by Irish Senator Mark Daly.
And he said the setting was especially appropriate given Springfield’s historical role as a new home for Irish immigrants going back to Famine times, many of them from the Dingle Peninsula and Blasket Islands in County Kerry.
“And Patrick Pearse visited Springfield a year before the Rising,” Neal noted.
“So this Garden of Remembrance is entirely appropriate in this setting of Forest Park. It will be in the main part of the park, easy to reach, but also a very peaceful setting,” he said.
Among the features in the garden will be a memorial depicting the 1916 Proclamation.
And a tree will be planted for each of the seven signatories of the iconic document proclaiming an Irish Republic that was first read by Patrick Pearse outside the General Post Office in Dublin on April 24, 1916.
The weekend of events in Springfield will include a Mass on Saturday evening and a lunch following the dedication ceremony which is set for 11 a.m. on Sunday morning.
“A key phrase, and a key theme, will be the line from the Proclamation referring to ‘our exiled children in America,’” said Rep. Neal.
“Everyone who worked so hard to bring this to fruition deserves to be warmly congratulated,” he said.