Strange Boat - Organ Donation Awareness


Commemorative Garden Plans Announced

Plans for "Circle of Life", the National Garden of Commemoration and Thanksgiving to all organ and tissue donors were announced at Croke Park earlier in 2011, when the GAA highlighted the importance of organ donor awareness, and commended the creation of this very special national commemorative garden.   Full details about this planned garden under "Circle of Life".

This proposed National Garden of Commemoration and Thanksgiving is being developed by Strange Boat Donor Foundation in consultation with Galway City Council, and will be located in Salthill, Galway.  The concept for the garden has received widespread support, including the backing of the Organ Procurement Service and Transplant Coordinators at Beaumont Hospital, the Irish Donor Network and the Irish Kidney Association.

This garden will be a place of sanctuary and reflection, and will extend a welcome to all.  But it will have particular significance for organ recipients and the families, friends and loved ones of life-saving organ donors.  The theme and design of the garden will evoke in the visitor - through its mix of imagery, symbolism and sentiment - a sense of life's higher purpose and the inherent beauty and nobility of mankind.

Denis & Martina Goggin of Strange Boat Donor Foundation with David Hickey  

Thanking the GAA for their support in promoting organ donation, David Hickey, Director of Transplants at Beaumont Hospital and a former Dublin country footballer, said that organ transplantation could not exist without the courage,  generosity and humanity of the donors and their families.  "I hope and know" he said, "that these families, will feel cherished by the fact the world's largest amateur sporting body embraces their courage and generosity.  In these dark times, in a country that has become materialistic, self focused and spiritually impoverished, these people are truly a shining light". 

Funding for the project is being raised by Strange Boat Donor Foundation and will be secured through a series of fundraising events, philanthropic donations and grant aid. The more the garden derives from a spirit of cooperation, community and sense of shared ownership, the more successful this very special place of commemoration will be.

The commitment of the  GAA to promoting organ donor awareness, and its support for this planned commemorative garden is very significant, and will play an important role in the continued promotion of organ donor awareness throughout the country.  

As part of this event in Croke Park at which the importance of organ donation was highlighted, the GAA paid special tribute to the courage and generosity of all donor families and in particular, a young footballer from Co. Leitirm, Philly McGuinness who became an organ donor following a tragic accident while playing a local club match last year.


The President of the GAA, Christy Cooney presenting a specially designed trophy to Philomena McGuinness, in memory of her son, Philly.  Also in the photo, Dr. Con Murphy, doctor to the Cork Team, and Mr. David Hickey, Transplant Surgeon and former Dublin footballer and current selector with the Dublin football team.  The trophy was designed and created by sculptor Blackie Coen, who is also a former Dublin country footballer.                                                   

Emma & James Nolan from Kilcullen, Co. Kildare.  James is a kidney recipient. Michael & John McGuinness, brothers of Philly.

 David Hickey, Phyllis Cunningham, Senior Transplant Coordinator at Beaumont Hospital, Lorraine Costello, Irish Kidney Association and Denis Goggin

Sonia Treacy from Co. Kildare who is currently on dialysis awaiting a kidney transplant, James Nolan also from Co Kildare who is a kidney recipient and Denis Goggin, Strange Boat Donor Foundation

"Circle of Life"  -   Planned Garden of Commemoration & Thanksgiving       



This garden will be a place of beauty, sanctuary and evocation and will, while extending a universal welcome, have particular resonance with recipients and the families, friends and loved ones of organ donors. It will be located in a scenic public park on the seafront in Salthill, overlooking Galway Bay and the stone formations of the renowned Burren in the distance.  

“Circle of Life” garden will play an important role in awareness promotion, and provide a unifying focus through which the aims and aspirations of the organ donation community generally can better be realised. 


The theme of the garden will relate to the meaning and purpose of our lives as manifest in the connectivity and interdependence of humanity and the higher expression of our being through love and compassion.  The spirit of giving that defined the lives of donors is a fulfillment of this purpose, and will forever be their enduring legacy.  The garden will endeavour to give expression to this spirit, and the total experience engendered in its mix of imagery, symbolism and sentiment, will evoke in the visitor a sense of life’s higher purpose and the inherent beauty and nobility of mankind.


The overall garden design (60 metres in diameter) will be that of a central stone sculpture area, surrounded by rich sensual vegetation set out in the overall form of a flower.  It will encompass a series of concentric, interconnected walkways along which the visitor will be invited to travel.  The structures, images, symbolism and sentiments used throughout the garden will draw inspiration from Irish civilisation, history, poetry, philosophy and the classical arts, all interwoven together in a rich tapestry to convey a sense of journeying, an allegorical reflection of life’s greater journey.  To enhance this experience, the different layers of the garden will appeal to different dimensions of our being:  the outer - to the physical and intellectual;  the middle - to feelings and emotions;  the inner core having a spiritually transcendental and mystical communication.   

(Early rough design)

Using the medium of vegetation and weathered limestone, the garden will comprise a series of interesting and evocative features including –

1    The symbolic representation of donors from the 32 counties of Ireland by the use of stones from iconic sites of Irish civilisation and history built into a low retaining wall surrounding the garden.  A stone remembering non national organ donors and a separate stone to Irish people who became donors beyond our shores will also be included in this wall. There will be a raised paved area overlooking the garden which will include sculpted stone seats where visitors may sit and reflect.

2    A series of 5 sensuously rich vegetative petal formations between any of which access can be gained to the inner sculpture section.  An inspirational philosophy will be carved at each point of access on a tablet of stone representing the five continents.

3    A series of stone seats in the middle walkway will carry inscriptions of poetry reflecting emotive sentiments that are both comforting and inspiring.

4    A series of 5 tall standing stones on which will be carved different images of hands, symbolising outreach and connectivity, together with inscriptions depicting the stages of life’s journey.  This will form the interface between the physical exterior and the spiritual centre of the garden.  The name of the project “Circle of Life” derives from this arrangement.

5    A spiral pathway to the centre will commence with a water feature to evoke a sense of peace and meditation.

6    The centre piece, an abstract stone symbolising light and spirituality will be carved from a bright stone, hopefully sourced from the quarry at the ancient monastic settlement of Clonmacnoise from which its famous high crosses were  originally carved.  This stone titled “stone of oneness”, will be part of a sculpture assemblage that will include two embracing figures representing the duality of life and its divine expression in unity.  It is planned that these figures will be carved respectively from the snow white marble of Dunlewey in Donegal and the black basalt of the Giants Causeway in Antrim.

7    The title stone will be positioned on the outer walkway between the two primary entrances

8    A touchstone will be located on the access pathway to the garden.

9    The garden itself will be visually assimilated into the broader park context by the use of contoured, enfolding landscaped mounds which will simultaneously magnify its scale and create a sense of sanctuary and enclosure.


The project will involve 2 phases i.e:
(a)    Civil engineering and ground works
(b)    Construction and planting

Subject to consultation etc. we have provisionally planned to commence physical construction in Autumn 2012, the project to be completed by year's end.


All financing for the garden will be channeled through Strange Boat Donor Foundation and will be sourced independently through sponsorship, grant aid and fundraising.


This project is being instigated and promoted by Strange Boat Donor Foundation which was set up by Denis & Martina Goggin in memory of their son Éamonn who became an organ donor following a fatal road crash in 2006.  The aim of the foundation is to give comfort and support to those affected by issues relating to organ donation, and also, through its diverse projects, to help promote this very worthwhile cause.  (See our "Welcome" page for more details).

Strange Boat Donor Foundation is an approved charity (CHY 19469) and has seven trustees/directors, representing the world o business, media and the arts and  all chosen for their individual contribution to the development of the project.


Since it was proposed, the idea for a commemorative garden has received enthusiastic and widespread support from individuals and groups, and from the civic authorities in Galway whose goodwill is essential to its advancement. The project is also receiving the full backing and cooperation of the Organ Procurement Service and Transplant Coordinators at Beaumont Hospital, the Irish Donor Network and the Irish Kidney Association, the three official groups representing the world of organ donation in Ireland.

This support, together with the intrinsic merits of the project itself and its wonderful location and setting, contribute to the potential of creating a beautiful and enduring piece of living art that can benefit the lives of many, many people, and will be a source of continuing pride to all Irish people wherever they live To realise this potential will require the skills, energies and efforts of a wide group of people.  We believe, however, that the more it derives from a spirit of cooperation, community and sense of shared ownership, the more successful it ultimately will be.

In the Donor Families pages, Patsy Curtis, whose daughter was an organ donor following a motor accident in South Africa, speaks of the great comfort and peace she has got from knowing that her daughter, Paula, is among those remembered in a memorial garden established in the suburbs of Johannesburg.
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