No Man's Land


As long as the memory of one endured, not a passenger went by without adding a stone to the heap. To this monument there is a proverbial saying alluding to this old practice.

Curri mi cloch er do charne. I will add a stone to your cairn, meaning when you are no more I will do all possible to honor your memory.

This natural drumlin has been assaulted by numerous activities throughout history. The natural forest cover may have been destroyed by both Native Americans and by 17th century settlers. In the 18th century, farming operations may have altered the topography. Later, the building of fortifications for the Revolutionary War in 1776 and the War of 1812 probably involved cleaning and excavation of the site. In the 1830's, soil from Dorchester Heights may have been used as fill to reclaim land from tidal flats. In 1849, major excavation on the eastern portion of the drumlin occurred with the construction of the South Boston Reservoir. The crest of the hill was lowered by more than six feet during the 1850's to create Dorchester Heights and Thomas Park. In 1899, the South Boston Reservoir was destroyed, with the exception of the western part of the embankment, and on its site South Boston High School was constructed. The present monument was erected between 1900 and 1902. In more recent times, the power of the hill has continued to be assaulted. There has been conflict over court ordered busing, gays marching in the Saint Patrick's Day Parade, and white supremacists holding rallies on the High School steps.

The energies at Dorchester Heights need to be restored. The joint landscaping of South Boston High School and Monument Grounds was never completed. The existing terrace that is still visible, the unsightly slope (No Man's Land) between the monument and the High School, breaks the energy.

An ancient Celtic tradition was to build cairns, piles of stones, and stone circles as memorial markers of special occasions. Another Irish tradition is the telling of stories. As long as one person remembered the story of a person, place, or thing, the person, place or thing continued.

On August 10, 1996, two hundred people participated in the telling of their stories and in the building of a stone spiral on the slope of No Man's Land. Some of these stones were harvested from Carson Beach. Following the building of the circle, I continued to leave a pile of stones at the bottom of the hill inviting people to leave one in the circle. Each day, when I walked my dogs, the stones had been thrown down the hill by a group of teenagers. They asked me if I was going to call the police on them. My reply was no, that I was just going to pick up the stones. They responded that they would continue to throw them. There was great comfort that we were all being true to our natures.