HERITAGE campaigners are to erect their own memorial to the victims of the Irish famine after branding an official one “offensive” for including references to Scots who died.

A tribute to the million people who died in Ireland and the million more who fled during the crisis of the 1840s and 50s is to be built in St Mary’s Church in Glasgow’s Calton, the chapel where Celtic Football Club was founded. 

It comes as Glasgow City Council continues to press on with their own memorial at the city’s Glasgow Green, which also recognises how the potato blight famine affected the Highlands.

Scotland's most eminent historian Professor Tom Devine has previously called for the council memorial to be built in memory of all Irish settlers in the city, insisting: "This can't be tribal. Protestant Irish died too, even if not as many."

The council' Memorials’ Working Group, which has been coordinating the development of the famine memorial, has heard representations from Ulster Scots groups, the Orange Order, the Irish Heritage Foundation and others.

It was reported that the Rangers Supporters Assembly suggested it would also be making a donation towards the cost of a project that had “the chance to represent the entire Irish community in Glasgow”.

Known as the ‘Great Hunger’ in Ireland - An Gorta Mór, in Gaelic - the famine changed the course of Irish history and led to a huge diaspora forming around the world.

Its effects were far less keenly felt in Scotland, where the relief effort was greater, but it still led to large numbers of people leaving the land and seeking a new life abroad.

More than 140 memorials to the Irish famine have been erected in different cities, yet the twin efforts in Glasgow will be the first time the event has been permanently commemorated in Scotland’s largest city, where many Irish people fled to.

Jeanette Findlay, spokeswoman for the Great Hunger Memorial Committee, who are behind the St Mary’s plan, said that no other memorial included references to other victims of the tragedy than the Irish.

She told the Irish Voice website: “It seemed to us that Glasgow City Council added on the Highland element because they knew, or believed, that there were forces in Glasgow even today who would not accept a memorial which involved the Irish alone.

“The scale and extent of what happened to our people—one million dead and one million forced to emigrate out of a population of eight million made the notion of a ‘Highland and Irish famine memorial’ completely unacceptable to us and offensive in its very concept.”

Discussions on a permanent memorial began a number of years ago, and it has now been decided that the Glasgow Green sculpture will be based around representations of ruined croft buildings and boat.

A competition will be held to come up with a design for the St Mary’s sculpture, with organisers hopeful of having the input of the Glasgow School of Art.

Ms Findlay said: “With today’s announcement, we can leave the frustrations of the last two years behind and move forward with renewed energy and with enormous gratitude to the Parish of St Mary’s, Calton, who have made the grounds of their beautiful and historic Church available to us.

“Our forefathers and mothers arrived here and were assisted by their own community—including the parishioners and priests of St Mary’s—and other good people of the time; the completion of our memorial will be achieved in the same way.

“We thank everyone who has contributed so far—both here and in Ireland—and we look forward to ... a permanent and dedicated memorial to An Gorta Mór in Glasgow which will be sign to all the generations to come that ‘Glasgow Remembers.’”

A spokeswoman for Glasgow City Council said: “Work on our memorial is progressing and it will be unveiled by the end of this year with details being released over the next few weeks.”