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 near Longwood we cross over another large aqueduct with three arches spanning the wide blue River Boyne. It begins to rain again; a right downpour and we all try to find shelter under bushes and hedgerows as we settle down for the night. Mr Robinson tells us to be ready to leave early in the morning, for he will have no laggards. Every bit of me is soaked and I have two big blisters on my foot. Mam burst one of them, which really hurt.
There is a near full moon and I watch as some ragged looking men appear in the dark and creep over to canal wall. It is very strange because they seem to be boring holes in the stone which would surely make the water leak.
John and I are curious and watch them. Uncle William gets up and talks quietly to one of them
‘What are they doing?’ we ask
‘Things are so desperate that at night in secret the men come and bore holes in the side walls of the canal and burrow them out and damage them so that they will all get hired for more work repairing the damaged parts of the canal tomorrow.’ he explains ‘For leaks and holes must always be repaired.’
‘What if they are caught?’
‘They would certainly face prison or transportation or worse. I suspect that they are brave Ribbon Men, fighting not only for their own families but for poor tenants and those in need.’
In the morning as we pack up, a few men appear and the foreman sets them to repairing a section of the canal.
The Ribbon Men nod at us as we pass.
‘Move on boys’ Bailiff Robinson shouts at us as I put my sore foot back into my shoe.
Professor Christine Kinealy on Ribbonmen, secret societies and the impact of the Famine on Irish Protestants
Professor Christine Kinealy (Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University) on Ribbonmen, secret societies and the impact of the Famine on Irish Protestants at Boyne Aquaduct, Longwood, County Westmeath:
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