Arbour Hill Memorial

Artist Name(s) Michael Biggs
Artwork title Arbour Hill Memorial
Context/Background The Memorial is situated in the military cemetery at Arbour Hill, the last resting place of 14 of the executed leaders of the insurrection of Easter 1916. Among those buried at the cemetery are Patrick Pearse, James Connolly and Major John Mc Bride.  From 1928, the Department of Defence suggested that the OPW erect a suitable memorial in Arbour Hill Cemetery to commemorate the leaders of the Easter Rising buried there. Finally, in 1937, TJ Byrne, then principle Architect at the OPW, capitulated. The matter was deferred until 1948, when the Department of Defence eventually handed responsibility for the plot to the OPW. At this time Arbour Hill Cemetery was a place of pilgrimage, although it was not officially open to the public. In 1949 extensive re-landscaping took place and the present design was submitted by the Department of Defence, the government, the Arts Council and by the OPW. It was approved in January 1954, the memorial park opened in 1955, and Michael Biggs' memorial wall was completed in 1964. 

The Arbour Hill Memorial comprises of three paved terraces framed by curved wall of Wicklow Ardbraccan limestone. Sculptor Michael Biggs made the work, hand carving the entire text of the 1916 Proclamation of Independence into the wall. 

OPW Ref ART 04974.


Michael Biggs (1928 – 1993) was born in Stockport, Cheshire, UK. He lived in Dublin from 1930, with the exception of 1948-51 when he learned the rudiments of stone-carving and letter-cutting with Joseph Cribb, successor to Eric Gill, at Ditchling, Sussex. Prior to that, in 1947, he attended the National College of Art in Dublin. His work includes many public and private inscriptions in stone, wood and bronze throughout Ireland. These include the Moyne commemorative table, TCD (1953); Proclamation of Republic and grave inscriptions at Arbour Hill (1959-63), inscription in portico, GPO (1961), Garda Memorial, Phoenix Park (1966), and the mural inscription at Parnell Square, Dublin (1976). 

His book illustrations and embellishments include The Midnight Court (1953); A Gaelic Alphabet(1953);  Evangelium secundu Matthaeum (1955, Dolmen); The Word of Life(1959); The City (1960); Collectio Rituum (1960), M.H. Gill); and Way of the Cross (1960, Sceptre). He did the lettering for Central Bank tender notes from 1970. His liturgical designs and carvings are to be found in convents and churches throughout Ireland. His stonework and lettering are the subject of the National College of Art and Design B. Des. (Hons) thesis by Daphne Whelan, entitled Michael Biggs - Man of Letters and Stones (1996).

Commission Type OPW,Government Department
Commissioner Name Office of Public Works (OPW)
Project commission dates January 1, 1954 - January 1, 1964
Artform Visual Arts
Funded By The Arts Council,Dept. Defence,Other
Project commission start date 01/01/1954
Project commission end date 01/01/1964
Location Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin 7, Ireland.
County Dublin
Town Dublin
Street Address Arbour Hill Cemetery, Dublin 7, Ireland.
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