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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.

We march until we reach Enfield, where the roads, the railway and the canal meet, we see more men hard at work with their shovels laying the track for the railway line

The Bianconi coaches with their passengers and mail stop at the town’s General Post Office building. The biggest Post Office outside of Dublin. I have never received a letter. But some have. The Connors plan to go to Niagara where the Brennans went a while back. They say there is work on a new Canal near there.

Uncle William says we may join them.

‘We’ll see when we get there. I’ve also heard one can get land easy there.’

I can’t read or write but I must learn Mother says. ‘There is nobody left in Lisonuffy for me to write back to’ I point out to her.

Across from the Post Office there is livery yard where the horses can be changed and rested, while travellers take their ease at the Royal Oak Inn.

‘Everything will change once the new railway station opens here’ says Uncle William ‘For there will be no more coaches or barges once the trains come!’

A large hungry crowd has gathered for there is a soup kitchen. Bailiff Robinson tells us to stop and then he and one of his men go off to the dispensary to find out about it.

He returns smiling for they have offered us tickets for the soup kitchen. We join the long line of people waiting there.

Finally our turn comes and a man takes our tickets. There are two huge pots of soup cooking over a special type of fire.

A woman takes her ladle and fills up a tin mug of soup for me and another gives me a small loaf of rye bread and tells me to go sit at the long table, to eat.

The soup is hot and salty with a little meat, barley, turnips, and peas. Although John and I are starving Mam tells us we must eat it slowly.

Martin doesn’t like it and Mam dips the bread in the soup to make him take it.

Suddenly a bell rings, and we give back our mugs and leave

Mam wishes that we could stay in Enfield to build up our strength but Mr Robinson orders us to make ready to leave immediately.

Enfield's Famine pot

Enfield’s growth as a town in the 18th and 19th centuries was due to its location on the main transport routes. The stage-coach road from Dublin to Mullingar which was opened in 1735, passed through the town and resulted in the construction of a large livery stable and courtyard and mail-coach inn in the town. Charles Bianconi operated a coach service through the town between the 1830s and 1860s and Enfield General Post Office, which was opened in 1822, was an important sorting office prior to the extension of the railway to Mullingar. The Royal Canal, which was opened in 1817 passed through the town and continued to carry freight until the mid-20th century. Both road and canal transport relied on horse-power and at the time of the Famine there were five blacksmiths operating in the town as well as harness makers and ostlers. On the 28th June 1847 in the midst of the Famine, the Midland Great Western Railway opened the line between Broadstone Station in Dublin and Enfield. Construction of the railway provided vital employment in the area and it was reported that in May 1847, 2987 men and boys and 165 horses were employed on the works. Despite this availability of local employment the population of the town decreased from 375 to 342 between 1841 and 1851. The Schools Collection which gathered oral histories in the 1930s has numerous Famine accounts for County Meath, frequently noting the desperation of the starving poor as they attempted to survive on diseased potatoes, berries and haws, nettles, birds and grasses and there are reports of armed men guarding fields of turnips. A side effect of this drastic change of diet was the potentially fatal disease of dysentery. The Schools Collection also mentions local relief works including drainage work to lower Ryndville Hill where the labourers were given four pence a day and rations of yellow meal stirabout.

In the heart of Enfield can be found an Irish Famine Soup Pot that serves as a memorial to the Great Hunger and all who perished, suffered, and fled from the town in the 1840s. The Famine Soup Pot memorial was dedicated in May 2017.

To learn more, see Cathal Póirtéir speak about Famine Pots in English and Gaelic:


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