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.
As we neared Mosstown Harbour with its huge mill and Mosstown House we heard barking and growling and yapping and soon saw a large pack of hungry dogs, come running along the far side of the path.
Catherine and Martin are terrified and began to scream, Uncle William pulling Catherine up high into his arms as I took hold of a terrified Martin.
The dogs turned when they heard so many children and babies crying and upset.
‘Stay quiet ‘warned Uncle William as the bailiff came down to see what was happening.
‘In times like this the dogs should be culled.’ Bailiff Robinson declared angrily. ‘They are a danger, for with their owners dead and so little left to hunt, the creatures are starving.’
The crazed dogs joined others that were fighting and growling pulling over something, buried in ground the nearby field ground. Ten year old John grabbed at my hand for we were both scared of them too.
My stomach heaved when I saw they had dug up a small pale body from the earth and were dragging it along the ground, snapping and biting at each other fighting over a leg and arm bone.
Bailiff Robinson and his men stood guard along the path as we walked on faster, relieved to escape the dogs.
I filled my mind with thoughts of the new world, where nothing like this could happen.
Mosstown Harbour, Kenagh
Mosstown Harbour lies close to the site of Mosstown House and Mosstown Mill, the latter now in ruins. The Kingstone family leased the house and surrounding lands, and ran the mill, which was a very successful enterprise in the early 19th century. Alexander C. Kingstone was secretary of the local Kilcommock District Relief Committee, which was set up in May 1846. It immediately raised £87 from local subscriptions, which was matched by a contribution of the same amount from the Relief Commissioners in Dublin Castle. In early June, there was a meeting in Kenagh to organise the buying of seed potatoes for the poor of the district.
Some very stark glimpses of the Famine in the area are to be found in letters written by William Gosselin (1772-1847) of Abbeyderg, near Kenagh, to his granddaughter Sidney Bond (1832-1924). William’s wife was Margaret Kingstone from Mosstown. In 1846, William wrote to Sidney:
Many poor men and women are becoming gaunt and ghastly in their appearance. Stealing cattle, sheep, corn and bread is now quite common in the neighbourhood. A sheep has been taken from Mosstown and one of their milch cows at Tashinny [nearby, where his brother was vicar] being ill and not likely to recover, they had her slaughtered and were making soup for the poor from her beef, when some persons came early last night and carried off all the beef and soup which remained. The police are destroying all the poor people’s dogs about here. They are starving and killing sheep all round.
In another letter, also written in 1846, ‘Grandpapa’ Gosselin described how dogs were roaming around and getting into his house through the servants’ hall ‘where the builders are working’. The Kingstones ran a soup kitchen at Mosstown and they shot their last deer to make soup.
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