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28 October 2014

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The procession from St Martin's
The procession from St Martin's

The Tree of Life unveiled

By Ciarán Ryan
A memorial that honours the victims of World War II bombing raids on Birmingham, was unveiled in Edgbaston Street, in front of 3,500 people, on Saturday 8th of October 2005.

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A remembrance service for the victims of the Birmingham air-raids was still in progress in St Martin's when people began to gather around the veiled Tree of Life memorial. 

People gathered to remember
People gathered to remember

Once the service ended a procession of Birmingham dignitaries made their way from the church to the sculpture, for the unveiling ceremony.

Professor Carl Chinn MBE, the president of the Birmingham Air Raids Remembrance Association (BARRA), was the first to address the crowd. He said:

"Today, after many years campaigning the members of the Birmingham Air Raids Remembrance Association... has now achieved its objective of a fitting and lasting memorial to the 2,241 citizens of Birmingham who died in the blitz on this city, from August the 8th 1940, when the old market hall was bombed, until 1943.

Carl Chinn addresses the crowd
Carl Chinn addresses the crowd

"Seventy seven air raids, thousands of casualties and Hitler thought he could defeat us, he did not and nor could he have ever have defeated the people of Britain and the people of Birmingham, who were avowed in their intent to stand tall and proud and fight tyranny.

"Those of us who did not live through the war, but who grew up with a knowledge, that with out you who worked and lived and fought that we would not be here. We salute you, we thank you. We pay tribute to your bravery, your resilience and your dignity."

At the ceremony
At the ceremony

Paul Green, of the Halcyon Gallery, the company who donated the memorial, gave a brief speech. Then Lorenzo Quinn, the sculptor who created the memorial, stepped up to the microphone.

"As an artist I feel humbled by the opportunity given to me to represent this sombre act of remembrance. As a person and a father I stand here in  bewilderment and disbelief over past atrocities..." he said.

"The sculpture is called The Tree of Life because it was thanks to these people, that many people here today owe their own lives. It is also a symbol, the outstretched hands representing a search for a better future.

Lorenzo Quinn at the ceremony
Lorenzo Quinn at the ceremony

"The rock the tree stands on represents our conscience, and this should always weigh us to the ground and we should never forget the past, but learn from it and grow upon it as a beautiful tree, to give shade to future generations."

Marjorie Ashby, a leading campaigner for the memorial for the past thirty years, paid tribute to the killed and injured, then Brian Wright, Chairman of Birmingham Air Raids Association, read out the memorial's inscription; reminding us of the 9,000 casualties and 2,241 deaths.

The Tree of Life
The Tree of Life

Lord Mayor Councillor John Hood, with Mrs Ashby and Mr Wright, pulled the blue sheet from the sculpture, to applause from the crowd. The Tree of Life was blessed by Rev Tom Pyke, Chaplain to BARRA and wreaths were presented.

After the half-hour long ceremony came to a close, people surged forward and thronged around the sculpture. They laid their own floral tributes and searched the memorial's roll of honour for a mention of their lost sisters, brothers, parents and grandparents.

last updated: 17/10/05
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Miss Harman
I am a neighbour and also a freind of Margorie Ashbey and i know from talking to Margorie at great lengh how important the unveiling of the memorial was to her and i am really pleased that she got to do this before she passed away.

Lisa Burton
I am the woman holding the flag with the young boy. It was a moving ceremony to those that died and Lorenzo did a fanatastic job in portraying the feelings felt by all. I am saddened that Majorie passed on. But she got her last wish, she got her people remembered.

June Eastlake
I am a founder member of the Birmingham Air Raids Remembrance Association and wish to thank everyone involved in getting this beautiful memorial in place in Edgbaston Street. It was a memorable service in St. Martin's Church and an emotional unveiling of 'The Tree of Life' sculpture by Lorenzo Quinn. The Lord Mayor was ably assisted in the unveiling by Mrs Marjorie Ashby (a lady in her 80's and suffering from cancer) who has campaigned for over 30 years for a memorial to the civilians who were killed in the bombing of Birmingham. Sadly, Marjorie died on 23rd November 2005.

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