79-year-old Carolyn Scanlan’s eyes swell up as she looks at the Celtic Cross off West End Boulevard.
“The cross was done in Ireland and it’s inscribed in Gallic on one side and in English on the other so that you know what it’s about,” says Scalan, the President of the Irish Cultural Society.
The Celtic Cross has been on the neutral ground off West End Boulevard close to 25 years, but the reason it’s there date back to 1830’s when Irish immigrants were used to build the New Basin Canal from Lake Pontchartrain to the city.
“They brought them over here because they were dispensable. They were cheap. The slaves were expensive property and they couldn’t afford to have the slaves die. It was okay if the Irish men did,” says Scalan.
It took six years to dig the six mile long canal, and some estimate 10,000 to 20,000 Irish immigrants lost their lives while working on it.
“They were buried around the edges of the canal. They just buried them sometimes where they fell. Then nothing more was thought about them, and all of a sudden they decided that they needed to put a street here and when they started doing that they started finding remnants of bodies and things.”
The canal was filled more than a century after it was dug and in 1990 the symbol of Ireland was erected to remember those who died there, those who contributed to the growth of the city, those who were lost, but are now no longer forgotten.