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 Mullingar we soon saw big gangs of men with their spades and shovels and picks laying miles of heavy train tracks for the railway from Dublin to Mullingar. The clang of their shovels rang out as they worked.
‘That is the future they are building’ said Uncle William watching them ‘Forget barges and horse and coaches it will be Mister Dargan’s Railway and the like that will change this country.’
All along the banks of the canal there were encampments of mud huts and rough shelters where the railway workers and those who had come to the town in desperate need of food and work lived.
Mother told us to keep well away from the men and their filthy camp because of the sickness.
After we passed the lock, there was a small gate called Paradise Gate the led up to the back of the town’s cathedral.
Mr Robinson told us that we would rest here for the night for the women were exhausted and told him they would not walk another step of the Canal Way without food and sleep as they all sat down on the ground.
Mullingar Harbour - Railway
The canal harbour complex at Mullingar is extensive with two harbours, divided by Scanlan’s Bridge, a dry dock for barges built in 1806, a boat slipway and associated corn store. In 1848, in the midst of the Great Famine, the canal’s importance as a transport route was challenged by the arrival of the first trains to Mullingar. Passenger traffic on the canal ceased immediately but freight trade continued until the mid 20th century. Prior to 1848 the terminus of the Midland Great Western Railway from Dublin was at the Hill of Down near the Meath/Westmeath border. The construction of the railway line to Mullingar between 1846 and 1848 was a god-send for the inhabitants of the Killucan and Kinnegad area, as it provided work for up to 2000 labourers. This manifested itself in a relative lack of demand for famine relief in the eastern part of Mullingar Union during those years, despite the failure of the potato crops there. It is not surprising that reports of the arrival of the first train into Mullingar on 2nd October 1848, also note the general indifference displayed by the townspeople, despite presence of two local landlords GA Boyd Rochfort and Sir Percy Nugent MP on the train, as it marked the end of these vital works. In June 1849 work commenced on the railway line from Mullingar to Athlone. These works, which continued until 1851, had the immediate effect of enabling 1000 able-bodied paupers to leave the workhouse. This coincided with a relatively better potato harvest in that year so that by August 1849 there were no able-bodied paupers left in the workhouse and the auxiliary workhouses had been closed.
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