Graham Norton pays tribute to hometown as he unveils Covid memorial in Bandon

Plaque, made by older people and students, is a ‘lovely’ way to commemorate pandemic, broadcaster says

Graham Norton unveiling the memorial in his hometown. Photograph: Barry Roche

Broadcaster Graham Norton paid tribute to the people of his hometown in Bandon as he opened one of the country’s first memorials remembering those who died during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Making Meaning of Covid memorial, which is a tiled plaque, was the brainchild of the Creative Bandon group. It was made by older people from the HSE Bandon Day Care Centre and transition year pupils from St Brogan’s and Bandon Grammar, with help from ceramics artist Anne McManamon.

Unveiling the plaque outside the Allin Institute, Norton said: “It [the pandemic] was terrifying – I was in London at the beginning of it and you thought there were going to be piles of bodies on the streets because you didn’t know how or when it was going to end – that was the scary thing.”

Norton spoke of how Covid made the world so much smaller for older people, like his mother Rhoda, and many did not want to remember it.


“I only just discovered that there are no memorials to 80 million people who died in the Spanish Flu but it makes total sense because people didn’t want to dwell on it – it’s understandable that we want to move on and never think about the Covid pandemic again,” Norton said.

“I mean, when you see those two metre-apart signs on the supermarket floor, it still sends a shudder through you as you remember. But of course we must remember – so it is good that this is being commemorated and it’s been done in a lovely creative way, not a depressing way.”

Marguerite McDaid of Creative Bandon said the group was committed to building inclusivity through arts and, given how both older adults and transition year students were affected by the pandemic, creating the monument was a way of bringing them together.

“We wanted to find a way of bringing them together through the arts and it is so wonderful to have Graham as a Bandonian and artist here today to perform the unveiling – he epitomises how the comfort of culture and entertainment at that time got us through the pandemic,” Ms McDaid said.

Barry Roche

Barry Roche

Barry Roche is Southern Correspondent of The Irish Times