THERE are high hopes that a planned memorial in Leadville, Colorado dedicated to the lives of over 1,000 miners from the Beara peninsula could be officially opened by US President Joe Biden in September 2023.
Tadhg O’Sullivan, chair of the Allihies Copper Mine Museum, explained how when the Allihies mines closed, many Beara men travelled to work on the copper mines in Butte. Montana. Initially, they went to Leadville to work in the area’s silver mines. ‘It would have been a tough experience for them coming from West Cork, as Leadville is more than 10,000ft over sea level, and that takes some getting used to. The average age of many of those who died was only 23,’ he said.
Many of the Beara miners are buried in unmarked graves in the Evergreen Cemetery in Leadville. The average daily rate of pay at the time for miners was $4 a day, whilst a burial plot cost $12. The initiative to memorialise the men was instigated by Irish American historian Prof Jim Walsh from the University of Colorado, who estimated that in 1800s, two out of every five people living in Leadville, came from Beara.
The memorial will be located inside the main entrance to the cemetery and will comprise a spiral walkway leading to a bronze sculpture by Wicklow-based Terry Brennan. The sculpture depicts a miner on bended knee clasping a harp and a pickaxe. The harp rests on a piece of rock which will be hewn from the Rocky Mountains. Terry outlined how renowned Irish sculptor John Coll assisted him in perfecting some of the details of the sculpture. Coll recently created a statue of Terence MacSwiney for the Kilmurry Museum. Brennan’s statue will be shipped to the US later this year and cast in bronze.
A delegation from the Allihies Mine Museum travelled to Leadville earlier this year to visit the site of the planned memorial.
Tadhg O’Sullivan said they plan to return in 2023 for the unveiling. ‘Our two communities of Leadville and Allihies are very much entwined and it is fantastic news to hear that there is a real chance President Biden will be at the official dedication, we have already had some great political support for this whole project from the Irish Ambassador to the USA and from Minister Simon Coveney, and are working towards having Allihies twinned with Leadville.’