THEY walked in silence and perhaps this was a time when no words were required, but instead they were united in their grief after losing loved ones during the pandemic.

Bereaved relatives Connie McCready, Peter McMahon and Carolyn Murdoch led the inaugural memorial walk moments after the first phase of Scotland’s Covid memorial officially opened.

And joining them for part of the walk, was Deputy First Minister John Swinney who had taken time out to speak to those affected by loss and who are still grieving.

Read more: Watch: Scotland's Covid Memorial officially opened by John Swinney

Mr Swinney officially opened the National Covid Memorial at Glasgow's Pollok Country Park on Friday, May 27. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had been due to attend but is now recovering from Covid herself.

 

Families affected by Covid at the opening of the Covid Memorial Garden in Pollok Park. Deputy First Minister John Swinney also laid a wreath and joined families on a walk through the garden. Photo Gordon Terris Herald & Times.

Families affected by Covid at the opening of the Covid Memorial Garden in Pollok Park. Deputy First Minister John Swinney also laid a wreath and joined families on a walk through the garden. Photo Gordon Terris Herald & Times.

 

The campaign to create a memorial was initiated and led by The Herald. A public fund was launched for the close to £250,000 project and artist Alec Finlay was appointed to design the memorial which is a series of wooden tree supports based on physical poses.

Dozens of people filed behind for the short stroll from the Riverside Grove, passing Pollok House, and leading on to the Ash Road. It was a walk of discovery as supports came into vision on the trail to a second focal point, the Birch Grove.

 

Opening of The Herald I Remember national Covid memorial at Pollok country park. People pictured at Birch grove in Pollok Country Park. Birch grove is one of the areas in the park where artist Alec Finlay has installed supports as part of the I Remember

Opening of The Herald I Remember national Covid memorial at Pollok country park. People pictured at Birch grove in Pollok Country Park. Birch grove is one of the areas in the park where artist Alec Finlay has installed supports as part of the I Remember

 

And just as the walkers began to reach the grove where three supports have been installed, sunshine broke through. Already for some mourning the loss of a loved one, they have found their special place in the park.

Connie McCready became involved with the memorial project just weeks after it launched. She had lost her fiancé Jim Russell to Covid in May 2020. The couple, from Glasgow, had known one another for six years and were planning to marry in 2020. By way of a tribute a close family friend wanted to make a donation to The Herald’s memorial. This led to Ms McCready being closely involved with The Herald Covid memorial campaign and has been a supporter and ambassador for the project.

 

Deputy First Minister John Swinney laid a wreath and joined families on a walk through the garden. Photo Gordon Terris Herald & Times.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney laid a wreath and joined families on a walk through the garden. Photo Gordon Terris Herald & Times.

 

Through her own grief, Ms McCready reached out to other bereaved relatives and set up a facebook support group Covid 19 Families Scotland. It is a group which has sadly grown in numbers with more than 200 members as more families were affected by loss. She has helped others who have been bereaved by creating a safe and welcoming online community for them.

“It has been very beautiful here today. For so long we have wanted somewhere to remember our loved ones and now we have this amazing memorial,” said Ms McCready. “There was something very peaceful and open about the Birch Grove, but it is all wonderful.

“"I know Jim’s not here, but just coming and getting away from the outside world is fabulous and for his family and friends, who don't have a grave to go to, which is the same for a lot of families, here is somewhere they can come and reflect."

 

Carolyn Murdoch and Connie McCready of Covid 19 Families Scotland. Photo Gordon Terris Herald & Times.

 

Ms Murdoch attended the ceremony for the opening of I remember: Scotland's Covid memorial to remember her late father John Connelly and has been involved in the campaign for more than a year.

Her father 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.

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."

For Peter McMahon the walk was an opportunity to bring his family together and even his youngest grandchildren Brodie, six, and Bella, two, joined him.

Their waterfall laughter was a lighter moment during what was an emotional memorial walk.

Mr McMahon, whose wife Debbie died from Covid in October 2020 at the age of 53, said: "This is a place to feel a connection and hopefully those who come here will feel supported."

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 the ceremony would bring some comfort and solace.

 

Opening of The Herald I Remember national Covid memorial at Pollok country park. People pictured at Birch grove in Pollok Country Park. Birch grove is one of the areas in the park where artist Alec Finlay has installed supports as part of the I Remember

Opening of The Herald I Remember national Covid memorial at Pollok country park. People pictured at Birch grove in Pollok Country Park. Birch grove is one of the areas in the park where artist Alec Finlay has installed supports as part of the I Remember

 

During the two year campaign we received support from individuals, businesses and politicians, many of whom were able to join The Herald for the official opening.

Former Glasgow Lord Provost, Councillor Philip Braat has supported the campaign from the outset and as he too strolled to the Birch Grove, he said: "It is important to have this memorial here in Pollok Country Park as a quiet place of reflection.

"This is the first steps in bereaved families being able to come here to support one another and if anything the memorial trail will build in strength and offer that support."

Campaign supporter and donor John Watson OBE, whose foundation donated £10,000, said the memorial was a special place and great vision which has been carried through by artist Alec Finlay.

We also received generous donations from the Scottish Government, The Hunter Foundation, The City Charitable Trust, 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.

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

To find out more go to www.iremember.scot