An adventurous 165 km cross country trail that follows the Royal Canal as it weaves through country lanes, villages, towns and city – can be done in sections over time or all at once – as you choose. Follow the story of Strokestown’s Famine Emigrants as our interactive bronze shoe sculptures creates a thought provoking experience, on this commemorative cross country walk. The trail is topped and tailed by two iconic museums – “The National Famine Museum” at Strokestown Park and “The Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship” / “ EPIC – Irish Emigration Museum” at the Dublin end.
SHOE STORIES - Daniel’s Story – Black ‘47
My name is Daniel Tighe / Tye, I am 12 years old, in May 1847 the worst year of the Great Irish Famine, I walked this path from Strokestown to Dublin heading for a Ship and in hope of a new life in North America. Follow in the footsteps of my story through the 30 pairs of Bronze Shoes along the National Famine Way.
Suddenly we are on the North Strand Road and walk down to the city quays where the ships await us. Even though we are all so tired and our clothes our dirty, we walk with our heads up high, even little Martin who keeps a strong hold of my hand, as we pass the Royal Canal Docks where cargo is being winched off and onto ships that are all about us. Before us is the wide blue green River Liffey.
The streets and dockside are crowded, and the people of Dublin stare, curious to see such a huge crowd but some call and shout at us.
‘Go back to your own place for you are not wanted here!’
Mr Robinson leads us passed them. Mams’ eyes are full of tears at their cruel words but she just keeps walking.
All along the riverside and quays are fine buildings and warehouses and ships offices. Bridges stretch from one side of the River Liffey to the other. The grandest building that I have ever seen The Royal Custom House looks out on the river with its tall columns and arches and magnificent blue green dome.
‘That is where all the business and trade of the city must be done and taxes and duties paid.’ Mr Quinn explains.
There are ships laden with barrels of porter and food for the city, for I have never seen such a sight as I look up and down the river. There are carriages and carts everywhere with horses pulling heavy loads in all directions.
Tall ships with their sails and masts and steam packets all lie moored all along the quays.
‘We stop here’ shouts Mr Robinson ‘for this is where you will board these steam packet ships that will transport you across to Liverpool.
Finally our long hard journey from Strokestown to Dublin along the Royal Canal Way is ended.
‘What about the ships to take us to Canada? Uncle William asks
‘They await you in a few days at Liverpool docks,’ Bailiff Robinson explains.
Mam grows pale as another man appears with a long list.
‘Daniel, that’s the agent Mr Ross Mahon who put us off our land’ she whispers.
We all line up as the name of every family is called and he carefully marks the exact number of passengers in every group.
‘William Kelly, Mary Tighe, with children Daniel, John, Catherine Margaret and Martin Tighe.’
Eventually we are told to board the middle steam ship, everyone crowding on board the deck like we were livestock, the belly of the Ship full of Irish grain.
There is little space up on the open wooden deck. We are surprised to see Bailiff Robinson, also boarding the ship.
Suddenly the ship begins to move, pulling away from the quays and out onto the river, the city of Dublin spread all about us. Mam grabs my hand and begins to cry.
‘I will never see this land or my people again nor the place that your poor father lies.’
‘Mary we must all learn to look to the future,’ says my uncle kindly putting his arms around her ‘and the new life that lies ahead for us.’
Steam fills the air, as our packet ship leaves the river and city behind us, and makes its way out towards the sea. Many are silent and in tears, as land and green fields are left far behind us, for we know that we will never see our home place and Ireland again.
There is sadness and fear but also great excitement for me, for our journey to a new life in Canada has just begun…
Famine Walkers Arrival in Dublin Custom House Quay from Strokestown
Professor Mark McGowan (St Michael’s College, University of Toronto) on the Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship reflecting on the journey of Strokestown’s missing 1,490 emigrants to Dublin along the National Famine Way and their fate in the New World:
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