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Press Release on a new memorial in Leadville, Colorado

Ambassador Dan Mulhall continues his visit to the western US states on Monday, 13th May in Leadville Colorado deep in the Rocky Mountains, where he will visit the site of a new memorial which will recall the thousands of Irish who died in the city’s silver mines in the late 19th century. Construction of the new memorial will begin later this year. This initiative is being led by Irish Network Colorado, and funded under the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme.

Oscar Wilde, who performed in the booming Leadville in 1882 wrote in ‘Impressions of America’ “from Salt Lake City one travels over the Great Plains in Colorado and up the Rocky Mountains on the top of which is Leadville, the richest city in the world’. Leadville, located in the heart of the Rocky Mountains is the highest elevation city in the US at 10,152 feet (3,094m). From the late 1870s to 1900, the city rivalled Denver in terms of size and wealth on the back of a silver mining boom. Thousands of Irish were attracted to the city where fortunes could be made (and lost) quickly in the Leadville silver mines.

But working conditions in the Leadville mines were notoriously dangerous, and combined with the harsh Rocky Mountain climate and elevation, lead to the early deaths of many thousands of Irish during the city’s short silver boom. The average age of the deceased was 23. With few local roots in a new community, most Irish were buried in unmarked graves, and their history was forgotten until recently.

The new memorial will recall the names of the Leadville Irish (many of the Irish are believed to have come from mining communities in the Beara Peninsula in Cork), and highlight their role in the history of Irish America and the history of Colorado and the American west.

Speaking ahead of his visit to Leadville Ambassador Mulhall said:
“The Leadville Irish were among the earliest Irish in Colorado and the western US. Through hard work in extreme working and weather conditions, many prospered, but so many also died in a remote location, far from family and loved ones, and lay forgotten until recently. I am delighted that the new memorial will name and remember those Irish who lie in Leadville and give them the dignity they deserve, and highlight to future generations the history of Irish in Colorado and the western US.
I am grateful to Professor Jim Walshe whose research shed light on the forgotten history of the Leadville Irish, and the Irish Network Colorado who are planning the construction of the memorial with funds from the Irish Government’s Emigrant Support Programme”.

In Leadville, Ambassador Mulhall will meet at the site of the new memorial with Professor Jim Walshe and with local historians Luke Finken and Kathleen Fitzsimmons. He will be accompanied on the visit by Leadville Mayor Greg Labbe and with members of Irish Network Colorado. The Ambassador will also visit the city’s Tabor Opera House where Oscar Wilde performed and Bram Stoker worked, before addressing students at the city’s high school. Later that day the Ambassador will meet Dianne Primavera, Lieutenant Governor of Colorado and will attend an evening reception in Denver hosted by the Irish community. On Tuesday the Ambassador will speak to World Denver, at Denver University’s Korbel Institute and deliver a keynote speech at the World Trade Day in Denver.

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