SCOTLAND’S Covid memorial has officially opened in Glasgow's Pollok Country Park following an emotional ceremony.

While the First Minister is herself recovering from Covid, it fell to Deputy First Minister John Swinney to open the memorial at an event to mark the completion of the first phase of the project, the Riverside Grove.

HeraldScotland:

Read more: Thank you Scotland - you did it! Covid memorial hits funds target

Mr Swinney 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."

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

We raised almost £250,000 to create I remember: Scotland’s Covid Memorial and commissioned artist Alec Finlay to create and design what is one of the most significant public memorials in Scotland for decades.

We received many high-profile donations including more than £40,000 from the Scottish Government.

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While not able to be there in person, the First Minister said: “As normality continues to return to our lives after an immensely difficult two years, it’s more important than ever to pause and remember those who lost their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to offer our support and sympathy to those who are grieving.

“I hope that the COVID memorial at Pollok Country Park will provide a space where people can come to remember loved ones, and reflect on the many ways we supported one another as a nation through difficult times.”

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The First Minister paid tribute to everyone involved, adding: “A lot of hard work and effort has gone into making this memorial a reality, and I want to pass on my congratulations and thanks to all those involved in delivering a fitting tribute to those who lost their lives during the pandemic, and a place which will provide comfort to those who are mourning.”

HeraldScotland:

Read more: Listen here: I remember: Scotland's Covid Memorial moving audio

The memorial, created and designed by artist Alec Finlay, consists of a series of wooden tree supports throughout Pollok Country Park and today Mr Swinney laid a wreath in memory of those lost during the pandemic at one of the I remember supports at the Riverside Grove location.

Singer Margaret Bennett performed a traditional Gaelic lament from Glen Lyon, Grioghal Cridhe to allow for a moment of reflection.

Donald Martin, Editor of The Herald, said: “All of us have been impacted by Covid and this National Memorial for Scotland will hopefully provide some comfort and quiet places to reflect and to remember.”

HeraldScotland:

The Herald has worked with partners Glasgow City Council, who offered to host the memorial in Pollok Country Park, and our commissioning partner Scotland’s parks and outdoor charity, greenspace Scotland.

Newly installed Glasgow Lord Provost Jacqueline McLaren said she hoped today’s ceremony would bring some comfort and solace.

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The Lord Provost added: “Glasgow City Council recognises the importance of this memorial and the need - for those who have lost loved ones, endured illness or been otherwise personally affected by the pandemic - to have a dedicated, special place to visit.”

Bereaved families and friends gathered as the first phase of the memorial was officially opened and later joined the first memorial walk to a second location, the Birch Grove. The walk, led by bereaved relatives Connie McCready, Peter McMahon and Carolyn Murdoch, was poignantly held in silence to allow time for personal reflection.

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Ms Murdoch, who is a member of a Covid 19 Families Scotland support group that had input into the memorial, attended to remember her late father John Connelly.
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."
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."

Covid memorial artist 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."

The key motif of I remember is carved on the supports in several languages and links to a project which saw Mr Finlay reach out to people to record a communal memory of the pandemic.

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He received hundreds of I remember passages, including heart-breaking and emotional ones, while some reflected lighter moments in the pandemic. They have become an integral part of the memorial, with moving audio recorded by actor Robert Carlyle, which is accessible at locations in the park through a QR code.

Mr Finlay also collated them to create the I remember book which is a shared memory of the pandemic.

The National Library of Scotland have generously offered to be the custodians of the I remember passages and they will all be archived as a record of the pandemic. Some of the I remembers were buried earlier this year in a kist at the Riverside Grove in an emotional ceremony.

During our two-year fundraising campaign, we were humbled by the support from people across Scotland. We received hundreds of donations from people who had gone above and beyond to help us our reach our target.

We also received generous donations from The Hunter Foundation, The City Charitable Trust, The Watson Foundation, The Freemason’s of Glasgow and an initial donation by the Harry Clarke Group of companies, based in Hillington, which kickstarted the public fund. The £5000 donation was made in memory of Jim Russell, 51, from Glasgow, who died from Covid in May 2020. His fiance Connie McCready has been a supporter of the project since the campaign launched.

It is the hope that what has begun at Pollok Country Park could have a ripple affect across Scotland with satellite supports installed up and down the country.

To find out more go to https://www.iremember.scot/