Vandals damage Irish monument on Charlottetown waterfront

A monument on the Charlottetown waterfront honouring P.E.I.'s Irish settlers needs substantial repairs. There are calls for some form of security to protect against further damage.

Monument designer preparing report on how much it will cost to fix damaged stones.

Trevor Gillingwater selected all 32 stones from the county the represent, including County Monaghan. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

A monument on the Charlottetown waterfront honouring P.E.I.'s Irish settlers needs substantial repairs after vandals appear to have driven over the stonework. 

"It's a bad damage that has been done and it has to be repaired somehow," said Michael Hennessey, secretary of the Celtic Heritage Association which helped to raise $230,000 to build the Irish Settlers Memorial.

"I'd like to see it repaired and put back in the condition that it was in originally." 

This is the second time that the memorial has needed substantial repairs. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Stones from each county

The monument overlooks the Charlottetown Harbour, just off the boardwalk, behind the Culinary Institute of Canada.

The centrepiece of the memorial is a 3.7-metre-tall cross modeled on the Cross of Moone in Ireland. There is a stone bench, as well as 32 flagstones arranged in a circle, from each of the counties where the 10,000 P.E.I. settlers came from in the 18th and 19th century.

Masonry conservator Trevor Gillingwater examines the damage on the monument that he designed. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

There is a unique block of stone from each county, collected by Gillingwater in Ireland, with the names of each county written on the stone in Irish script.

Damage likely done by vehicle

The City of Charlottetown's Public Works Department has asked Trevor Gillingwater, who designed the monument, to prepare a report on the damage, and what it will cost for repairs.

He calls it "sad" what has happened to the Irish Settlers Memorial.

"I think most of the damage that we're seeing is vehicle damage," he said.

The stone from the County Monaghan has been cracked in several places. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"The force that it would take for that and the displacement, there's a misalignment in one area that certainly isn't done by foot traffic," he observed, though he's not sure what kind of vehicle it may have been.

Gillingwater is a senior conservator of masonry trained in Venice and in England. He has worked on a number of major projects, including Parliament Hill in Ottawa, and McGill University in Montreal. He's also currently involved with the repairs underway at Province House in Charlottetown.

When he is finished assessing the damage, he will submit his report to the city, which will then decide how to proceed.

Stones need to be replaced

Gillingwater estimates that between six and eight blocks will need to be replaced — an expensive endeavour.

The Irish Settlers Memorial honours more than ten thousand early immigrants on Prince Edward Island. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"They have to come from Ireland, right, and the stories of getting the 32 in the first place is a great adventure story," said Gillingwater.

"Going back to make those contacts, going to these quarries, some of them there are no quarries, we have to literally knock on doors."

Ties between Ireland and P.E.I.

​Hennessey is particularly upset that one of the stones that has been damaged the most is from County Monaghan, which has special ties with P.E.I.

"The Monaghan stone is the one that's shattered pretty badly and it's the one that we'd like to see repaired because this is where our visitors come from every year. They come from County Monaghan," explained Hennessey.

Michael Hennessey of the Celtic Heritage Association hopes the monument can be repaired in the spring. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

Calls for a security camera

This is the second time that the Irish Settlers Memorial has been hit by vandals since it was unveiled in 2001.

In 2011, there was a crack in the Celtic cross that needed to be repaired, as well as chips to the county stones.

"Maybe we should have some kind of camera or something put here to check on things," said Hennessey. "That would be some help."

Each of the stones around the circle represents one of the 32 counties where the settlers originated, and were imported from Ireland. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

​Gillingwater agreed.

"It's a little out of the way. Yes, a camera would be great."