An emotional minute's silence was today held to remember those whose lives were lost to Covid or people affected by the pandemic.

Bereaved families gathered at the National Covid Memorial in Glasgow's Pollok Country Park. It was among several events being held around the country as part of Marie Curie's national day of reflection.

A lone piper led families through the park before they paused at the Riverside Grove site of the memorial.

With heads bowed, a comforting arm around a loved, and tears wiped away those gathered fell silent as they remembered friends and family.

The pain and emotion were clear to see as for many the day of remembrance remains just as difficult despite the passing years.

I remember - Scotland's Covid Memorial was a campaign initiated and led by The Herald. A public fund was launched in 2020 and Glasgow City Council offered to host the memorial in Pollok Country Park.

Created by artist Alec Finlay, it was officially opened in 2022. Today families gathered to fall silent to remember and reflect.

The minute's silence was broken with a piper playing Amazing Grace before wreaths were laid.

The Herald: Families at the Covid memorial. Photo Mark Gibson.Families at the Covid memorial. Photo Mark Gibson. (Image: Newsquest)

Laying the first wreath was Bailie Thomas Kerr, representing Glasgow's Lord Provost Jacqueline McLaren, who said he trusted today brings some comfort.

He 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 impacted by the pandemic - to have a dedicated, special place to visit. The experience of losing family and friends; or losing your health has been the lived experience and hard reality, for many represented here today.

"Thank you to The Herald and everyone who campaigned to make this memorial happen."

He said the unique place of commemoration: Scotland’s I remember Covid memorial, at the heart of beautiful Pollok Country Park can be your special place.
"In as far as any memorial can, I hope it helps ease the pain and grief of those suffering."

Memorial artist Finlay read moving I remember passages which had been collated during the pandemic. The I remembers are a single sentence prompt that allowed people to think about how the impact the pandemic had on them and he received hundreds in response.

Among those attending was Connie McCready, whose fiance Jim Russell died from Covid in May 2020. Ms McCready supported the memorial campaign from its infancy.

"Today feels more emotional than it ever has and for the families, it was just perfect," she said. "I think about Jim every single day and it is important that we can come here and be together to remember loved ones."

Some of those attending are part of the Covid 19 Families Scotland group founded by Ms McCready.

The Herald: Families fall silent at the Covid memorial. Photo Mark Gibson.Families fall silent at the Covid memorial. Photo Mark Gibson. (Image: Newsquest)

Fellow member Julie Balfour read a poem called Hope which had been written by a bereaved relative Brenda Docherty.

As Ms Balfour's voice broke as she read the poignant line 'Hope is the hug that a loved one can no longer give you', she was comforted by those around her.

Widower Campbell Duke, whose wife Anne died in a care home in November 2021 at the age of 63, spoke of how relatives were denied the comfort of a loved one.

He and his family are fighting for Anne's Law for better visiting rights should there be another pandemic.

"Anne didn't die directly of Covid as she had been in the care home due to Alzheimer's, but she contracted Covid," he said. "We'll never be sure whether she had Long Covid, what we are fairly sure about is that her death was probably hastened by Covid regulations that were applied which meant many were denied the loving care of their relatives at their time of greatest need."

Memorial artist Finlay said today was important to recognise Covid is not over. 

"To create a false ending is not true or helpful. I suppose the reason we gather here together is to remember what has been and an awareness of what goes on."

The Herald: Covid memorial artist Alec Finlay.Covid memorial artist Alec Finlay. (Image: Newsquest)

The campaign to create a memorial to those affected by the pandemic was initiated and led by The Herald with a public fund launched to contribute towards the close to £250,000 project.

An initial £5,000 donation from the Harry Clarke Group of companies, based in Hillington, in memory of Mr Russell sparked the public fund. The Herald campaign also received generous donations from the Scottish Government, The Hunter Foundation, City Charitable Trust, and the Freemasons of Glasgow.

Read more: I remember.... Covid memorial acknowledges it's not over

John Watson OBE, whose philanthropic organisation The Watson Foundation financially supported the creation of the Memorial, called it a “landmark achievement which reminds us of the ordeal which bereaved families endured.”

Mr Watson said: “I have unlimited respect for their resilience and fortitude. I hope the garden continues to provide some degree of comfort for those whose lives have been touched by the pandemic and who have somehow found a way to go on without their loved ones.”

While Andy Mushet, Freemason's Provincial Grandmaster of Glasgow, who attended the event, said: "As an organistaion we are very proud to be associated with this memorial and endorse our continuing support for a place that is offering comfort and healing. We are proud that we were instrumental in helping with this legacy of remembrance."

The Herald: Julie Balfour reads an emotional poem at the memorial.Julie Balfour reads an emotional poem at the memorial. (Image: Newsquest)

In late 2020 greenspace scotland, a charity and social enterprise that promotes green networks and spaces, came on board as our partner.

The memorial is a series of tree supports form a walk throughout the park and are linked to audio of I remember passages that were recorded by actor Robert Carlyle and which are accessible from QR codes on supports.

In May 2022, we opened the first phase of the memorial. It was attended by the then Deputy First Minister John Swinney, who reflected in his remarks that the concept of the memorial “will help us through the recovery".

As part of the final phase of the memorial a book was launched today as a photographic journey of the project. A satellite support is also due to be installed in Glasgow’s Maxwell Park this week that will signpost people to the memorial in nearby Pollok Park.