Ireland’s official Famine Heritage Trail is an adventurous 165 km cross country pilgrim walk layered with history, art and culture. It weaves through country lanes, villages, towns and Dublin city mostly along the banks of the Royal Canal. It can be done in sections or all at once – as you choose. Follow the story of Strokestown’s Famine Emigrants whose journey is marked by bronze shoe sculptures along the route. The trail is topped and tailed by iconic museums – “The National Famine Museum” at Strokestown Park in Co Roscommon and “The Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship” and “ EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum” at the Dublin end.
Download our App now to hear little twelve year old Daniel Tighe tell his story from Black ‘47 and also learn all the interesting local history around you in this area. Better still why not become an Official Walker with our Passport Guide, Ship Ticket and Certificate of completion. Learn more at www.nationalfamine way.ie
THE STORY OF THE SHOES
The children’s bound shoes that are cast in bronze along the National Famine Way were discovered by a local farmer, in the roof of a ruined nineteenth-century cottage. He donated them to the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park. We know nothing of the child they belonged to, but local folklore holds, that such offerings were made to invoke good luck. These evocative shoes symbolise the hopeful journey that our 1,490 emigrants embarked on, especially taking in the fact that two thirds of them were children. The binding evokes the difficulties they encountered and the eternal bind, to the place they were leaving.
TIGHE / TYE FAMILY STORY
At the height of the Great Famine in 1847, Mary Tighe was left a widow with five children to feed. In a desperate attempt to save her family, she availed of the ‘Assisted Emigration Scheme’ offered by Major Denis Mahon in Strokestown. She succeeded in her mission to save her family, but paid a high price. Mary Tighe, her brother, and three of her children, lost their lives on board the Ship Naomi that sailed from Liverpool to Quebec.
Daniel, aged twelve and his nine-year-old sister, Catherine were the only family members who survived the transatlantic voyage on the Naomi. Daniel himself recounted the horror of watching the bodies of his mother and brothers being thrown overboard and buried at sea.
Taken into the care of the Coulomb family in Lotbinière, Quebec, these two small children found themselves on a 168 acre farm, a world away from a half acre in Lisonuffy and a world away from everything they had ever known or loved.
In 2013, the Strokestown Community invited Daniel’s great grandson, Richard Tye (changed from Tighe), back home. And so, 166 years after little Daniel left, his descendants again set foot on Irish soil, a community celebrated, long-separated cousins embraced, and the family was again bound together.
The National Famine Way intertwines History through the Arts: not only in sculpture but also in literature and music. Daniel’s Tighe’s story reimagines each of the spaces and locations he passed through in May 1847. It is a digital storybook written by renowned and beloved Irish author Marita Conlon-McKenna.
The Anthem for the National Famine Way is by well known folk singer Declan O Rourke a beautiful song Go Domhanin i do chumhnie from his Album Chronicles of the Great Irish Famine.
Cuir tús le do shiúilóid ag an Bhalla Cuimhneacháin Ghloine ag Musaem an Ghorta Mhóir i bPáirc Bhéal na mBuillí i Ros Comáin agus siúil go Cluain Dá Rath agus as sin cois canála go Baile Átha Cliath, turas 165 cilimeadar. Tá ceann scríbe d’aistir ag dealbha an Ghorta Mhóir taobh leis an Jeannie Johnston, ar ancaire ag Cé Theach an Chustaim, san áit dheireanach ar leag an 1,490 duine as Ros Comáin cos ar thalamh na hÉireann i mí na Bealtaine 1847.
Thug a dtiarna talaimh an Maor Denis Mahon rogha an dá dhíogha dóibh, ‘imirce chuidithe’, ocras sa bhaile lena ngort de phrátaí lofa nó dul isteach i dteach scanrúil na mbocht.
Réamhrá don Chosán
Faoi shúil ghéar bháile an eastáit, John Robinson, cuireadh na fir, mná agus páistí seo ag siúil cois na Canála Ríoga go duganna Bhaile Átha Cliath áit a raibh galtáin ag fanacht chun iad a bhreith go Learpholl. As sin chuaigh siad ar bord loinge, ‘longa galaracha an bháis’, ina measc an Virginius agus an Naomi a d’iompair iad ar thuras scafár go Quebec i gCeanada. Fuair beagnach leath na n-imirceach ar bord an dá long seo bás ar an turas, ach d’éirigh rud beag níos fearr leo sin ar an Erin’s Queen agus ar an John Munn.
Aimsíodh ainmneacha an ‘1,490 Caillte’ i gCartlann an Ghorta Mhóir i bPáirc Theach Bhéal na mBuillí. Tá a gcuid ainmneacha agus a mbailte fearainn greanta ar an Bhalla Cuimhneacáin Ghloine ag Páirc Bhéal na mBuillí – teistiméireacht dá scéal.
SHOE STORIES – Daniel’s Story – Black ‘47
My name is Daniel Tighe. 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 which is marked by over 30 pairs of Bronze Shoes along the National Famine Way – now a 165 km accredited trail.
At last we are in Dublin, Broome Bridge, in Cabra, then on to Westmoreland Bridge, where the ships and barges gather at the lock, near the huge North City Flour Mills and the railway bridge.
Along the way, we have a clear view of Glasnevin Graveyard and can see burials in what looks like a Pauper’s grave section – ‘from the Workhouse no doubt,’ I hear someone mutter.
Our hearts sink as we near the huge North Dublin Union Workhouse. A few poor souls in rags in a terrible state are gathered there pleading and begging for admittance for them and their small children.
So much for rumours the Dublin has escaped the blight, disease and death – it doesn’t seem so to me.
We can hear their cries and get the heavy sour stench of it, even from a distance. I am so glad that mother made us take this journey instead of ending our days in such a place.
The adults then start to talk yet again about Daniel O Connell, and I hear them repeat his final request to his Doctor Fr Miley for the umpteenth time, his parting words: ‘My body to Ireland, my heart to Rome, and my soul to heaven.’
The sadness that had gripped everybody since his passing in Genoa on May 15th fascinated me. I had seen many grown men with teary eyes.
‘He’ll be for burial yonder in Glasnevin Graveyard, when they finally get him home from Genoa. God rest his Soul,’ said Uncle William, blessing himself.
‘We’ll be long gone by that happens,’ sighs Margaret Coleman, ‘what hope has our poor Country now?’
William Campbell, John Coleman, James Sheridan and the men then begin to reminisce about O’ Connell’s monster meeting just outside Roscommon town in 1843. ‘And him 68 years old!’, says James Madden. ‘He was unbelievable,’ said Martin Cox. ‘And him telling the crowd that he had told Peel, that unbearable Prime Minister, that the Irish would never start a conflict but neither would it cower from one!’, chimes in James Flood Snr.
‘If there is any man here who would not fight if attacked, let him speak’ — we all chant O Connell’s words from the Roscommon monster meeting together.
‘With the papers reporting ‘long continued cheering and waving of hats, that was us! Ay, a sad time and a sore loss indeed,’ says Uncle William.
The group falls into silence and walks on.
History: Daniel O’Connell’s Legacy at Glasnevin
You are now in the Dublin City area. From trendy neighbourhood cafés and a buzzing city centre, to coastal days out and world class tours, you can explore hidden corners of the city centre and discover stories you never knew existed. Get to know the beating heart of Dublin in The Liberties and pop across to Stoneybatter to see a new Dublin emerging or visit Dublin’s Tenement Museum. Watch as historic memorials and museums meet towering glass buildings and urban breweries in the Docklands. Learn more at www.visitdublin.com
5th to 6th Lock GLASNEVIN VIEW
There is a very short distance between the 5th and 6th Locks where you will see the Shandon Park Mill, originally a corn mill. It had many uses over the decades before being converted into apartments in 1994.
From the Bronze Shoes close to this location, the O’Connell Tower in Glasnevin Cemetery dominates the landscape. O’Connell’s death on May 15th, 1847, would have been the talk of our 1,490, as they walked and likely reminisced about his Monster Meeting outside Roscommon in 1843, which some of them may have attended.
O’Connell died of softening of the brain (cerebral softening) in 1847 in Genoa, Italy, while on a pilgrimage to Rome at the age of 71; his prosecution and term in prison had seriously weakened him, despite the fact that he had been detained in relatively comfortable circumstances in the prison governor’s quarters at Dublin’s Richmond Bridewell prison. The appallingly cold weather O’Connell had to endure on his journey was probably the final blow. “My body to Ireland, my heart to Rome, my soul to God,” Daniel O’Connell had said on his deathbed in Genoa in 1847. According to his dying wish, his heart was buried in Rome (at Sant’Agata dei Goti, then the chapel of the Irish College), and the remainder of his body in Glasnevin Cemetery in Dublin, beneath the round tower. His sons are buried in his crypt.
From the next bridge, Westmoreland Bridge, Cross Guns, at the 6th Lock, it is an 800 m detour to Glasnevin Graveyard where many notable figures have graves and memorials. There is an excellent Museum, Restaurant, Genealogy Centre and one can also take Guided Walks of the Cemetery and Tours of the famous O Connell Tower, an iconic landmark. It is a fitting monument to Daniel O’Connell and Ireland’s tallest round tower. Learn more at https://www.glasnevinmuseum.ie
The O’Connell Tower and Glasnevin Museum in Glasnevin Cemetery can be visited following a short walk from the Bronze Shoes as indicated in the map below:
Originally the tower was to form part of a cluster of buildings representing early Irish Christian architecture, and was designed by the noted antiquarian George Petrie. The purpose of the development, which included a chapel and a Celtic cross, was changed to honour Daniel O Connell. The tower was completed in 1869 and stands at a height of just over 168 feet (51 meters), but the rest of the development was abandoned because the tower dwarfed and distorted the scale of the other building.
Prior to the establishment of Glasnevin Cemetery, Irish Catholics had no cemeteries of their own in which to bury their dead. During the repressive Penal Laws in the eighteenth century, it had become normal practice for Catholics to conduct a limited version of their own funeral services in Protestant churchyards or graveyards. This situation continued until an incident at a funeral held at St. Kevin’s Churchyard in 1823 provoked public outcry, when a Protestant sexton reprimanded a Catholic priest for proceeding to perform a limited version of a funeral mass. The outcry prompted Daniel O’Connell, champion of Catholic rights, to launch a campaign and prepare a legal opinion that there was actually no law passed forbidding praying for a dead Catholic in a graveyard. O’Connell pushed for the opening of a burial ground in which both Irish Catholics and Protestants could give their dead dignified burial.
Glasnevin Cemetery was consecrated and opened to the public for the first time on 21 February 1832. The first burial, that of eleven-year-old Michael Carey from Francis Street in Dublin, took place on the following day in a section of the cemetery known as Curran’s Square. The cemetery was initially known as Prospect Cemetery, a name chosen from the townland of Prospect, which surrounded the cemetery lands. Besides the famous interred at Glasnevin, nearly 800,000 people have been buried in unmarked mass graves due to the death toll from the Great Famine of the 1840s and a later cholera epidemic.
In the 1830s, funerals entering the cemetery were forced to pay a toll at the junction of the Finglas and Glasnevin Roads. To avoid paying the toll, a new road was opened directly into the graveyard from this junction, thus avoiding the turnpike. It was O’Connell who suggested the new road and so was born the phrase ‘that he could drive a coach and four through an Act of Parliament’ – the coach and four being the horse-drawn hearse on its way to the cemetery. In the early 1850s, the high walls and towers which surround the cemetery were erected. This was to prevent the stealing of the bodies from the newly opened graves by the ‘sack-em-ups.’ Dublin medical schools needed a vast number of bodies to dissect and improve their medical knowledge. Dead bodies were in short supply and so a lucrative trade developed in grave robbing. An adult body could fetch as much as two pounds, and a child’s body was sold by the inch.
Professor Christine Kinealy (Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University) reflects on the Great Hunger and Daniel O’Connell’s legacy on the National Famine Way with the Round Tower in Glasnevin Cemetery visible in the background:
Please check ahead for opening hours as some are restricted / seasonal.
Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, Graveyard Tours, O’Connell’s Tower Tour
National Botanic Gardens