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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.nationalfamineway.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.

Gaelic translation:

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

Shoe Stories by Marita Conlon-McKenna:

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 Clonliffe Bridge Catherine and I stop, for below us, there are two pairs of swans with their cygnets, swimming and dabbling in the water. They are the most beautiful birds that I have ever seen.

‘Swans mate for life,’ said mother watching them. ‘Their hearts are broken if they lose their mate, just as I am broken hearted without your father Bernard.’

Bailiff Robinson lets a roar at us and tells us to ‘keep up,’ even though we are exhausted we cannot rest now for we are near our journey’s end.

History: The Great Famine Centenary 1947 GAA All Ireland Final in New York City

CROKE PARK  

The Gaelic Athletic Association National Stadium, Museum, Shop and Skyline Tours are located on the canal bank across from the Bronze Shoes. Currently the third largest stadium in Europe, it has been home to All Ireland Finals since 1896. The 1947 All Ireland Final was played in New York, to mark the Famine Centenary, the only time it left this site. 

The famous Stadium Canal End Stand dominates this section of the Canal.   This site has a long association with sport. In the 1870s, it was the City and Suburban Race Course, but was generally referred to as Jones’s Road Sports Ground. It failed as a race course and was then hired out for various sporting activities, including athletics, boxing and ladies football. The Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA)  used the grounds frequently for hurling and football matches. The All Ireland finals were first held here in 1896. Originally the site contained 14 acres, but the Jesuit Community at nearby Belvedere College bought 4 acres and in 1913 the GAA bought the remaining 10 acres for £ 3,500. 

The Croke Mark Museum is a short walk from the Bronze Shoes as indicated in the map below:

GAA FAMINE CENTENARY IN NEW YORK IN 1947

Nathan Mannion (Senior Curator, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum) at Croke Park reflects on the 1947 GAA All Ireland Final played in New York to mark the Famine Centenary of 1847:

In 1947, for the first and only time, the final was played outside Ireland, at the Polo Grounds in New York City, to cater for the large Irish-American community there. The New York final was intended to observe the centenary of the Great Famine that triggered mass Irish emigration to the U.S. and other countries. There had been little in the way of commemoration on the ground in Ireland.  Around 30,000 people were in the ground for the final. The Cavan team travelled by air and the Kerry team by sea; the Cavan team credited their victory, partially, to their shorter time spent travelling. The Cavan team flew via the Azores, taking 30 hours and having time to acclimatise. Kerry’s trip by Ocean Liner took far longer.

Mick Higgins, a key member of the Cavan team that day, recalled in later life: “There was no huge send-off for us in Cavan, but both teams got a good reception in New York when we arrived. I remember the team stayed in the Commodore Hotel, but I stayed with my relatives.” He also remembered there was “oppressive heat” during the game itself.

John Joe O Reilly, of the Cavan team, is one of the all time great players, featured in the centenary exhibition in the GAA Museum.  Cavan County Museum, in Ballyjamesduff, has much memorabilia of this match, including a model of the Polo Grounds which is now an Apartment block.

Michael O Hehir, the famous Irish Sports commentator,  was reporting on the day. As the match ran over, the agreed allotted transmission time with ABC, by five minutes, he was heard to plea desperately live on air: “If there is anyone along the way there listening in (from ABC), just give us five minutes more.”  And they did ! Allowing those tuned in to get the final score – Cavan 2 11  –  Kerry  2 7. 

This story is featured in the Media Box as part of the one and a half hour Stadium Tour, as does the commemoration Plaque to this Famine Centenary event erected in 2018.

In recent years, Belevedere College sold their 4 acres to the Association. Today it is the principal ground and administrative headquarters of the GAA and one of the largest and best equipped sports stadiums in Europe.

It also operates as a Conference Centre. The Croke Park Hotel is located across from the stadium and alongside the canal.

FAMINE CENTENARY COMMEMORATIONS (by PROFESSOR CHRISTINE KINEALY)

The centenary of the first appearance of the potato blight in 1845, which marked the onset of the Great Famine, was only observed in a limited number of ways in Ireland. Rather than engage directly with this tragedy, the Irish government hosted a series of cultural events to mark the centenary of the death of Thomas Davis, an Irish nationalist, also occurring  in 1945. This commemoration culminated with an art exhibition in August 1946, to highlight important episodes in Irish history. It included almost 20 works on famine-related themes, notably the haunting Gorta (also known as Burying the Child) by Lilian Lucy Davidson.

Surprisingly, Irish historians showed little interest in marking the one-hundredth anniversary of the Famine, proving reluctant to publish on the topic, even though the Taoiseach, Eamon de Valera, offered a financial incentive to do so. The resulting publication did not appear until 1956, and it was a disappointment in terms of its partial and sanitized approach. More imaginatively, in 1947, the All Ireland Final was played in New York—the only time that it had not been played in Dublin.  It was a timely reminder that the impact of the Famine had travelled far beyond the shores of Ireland.  

In contrast to the low-key and isolated remembrances of the 1940s, the commemorations in the 1990s proved to be multi-faceted and international, encouraging fresh ways to understand and re-imagine the tragedy of the Great Famine. The veil of silence was finally lifting and worldwide commemorations and academic research have followed.

The National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, which opened in 1994, was founded during this seminal moment. It  has been involved in new and cutting edge research and developing new methodologies to explore the Great Hunger. Using the documents and objects from Strokestown Famine Archive as a basis for the interpretation, the National Famine Museum has sought over the past twenty five years to help tell the stories of the Irish Great Hunger, eviction, migration, the assisted emigration scheme enacted by Major Denis Mahon of Strokestown Park and of his murder in November 1847.

Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University partners with the National Famine Museum to run an annual Irish Famine Summer School and Conference  as well as the Great Famine Voices Roadshow to further these explorations.

Brendan Behan was born not far from this Bridge and one of his favourite ‘watering holes’ was Gills Cornerhouse at the end of the street. Behan was an Irish poet, short story writer, novelist and playwright who wrote in both English and Irish. He is widely regarded as one of the greatest Irish writers of all time. He was an Irish republican and a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army. The Quare Fellow and Borstal Boy are amongst his most famous works. There is now an apartment block where his house once stood called Behan Square.

Bram Stoker also lived nearby. Stoker was an Irish author, best known today for his 1897 Gothic horror novel Dracula. During his lifetime, he was better known as the personal assistant of actor Sir Henry Irving and business manager of the Lyceum Theatre, which Irving owned.  There is an annual Bram Stoker Festival run by Dublin City Council.

WORLD POVERTY STONE

As you make your way towards the final pair of Bronze Shoes at the Dublin Trailhead on Custom House Quay, after the Jeanie Johnston and before the trail head, keep an eye out for the flat World Poverty Stone – a large circle engraved into the ground.

The commemorative stone was commissioned by Dublin City Council and Dublin Docklands Authority and is inscribed with words from Joseph Wresinski, founder of the international human rights organisation.

The words – “Whenever men and women are condemned to live in poverty, human rights are violated. To come together to ensure that these rights are respected is our solemn duty” – were first inscribed on a commemorative stone laid on October 17th, 1987, on the Human Rights Plaza in Paris where the Universal Declaration of Human Rights had been signed.

Since then, the same words have been used on more than 50 similar commemorative pieces around the world, including the UN headquarters in New York and the European Parliament building in Brussels.

The text on the Dublin stone is engraved in Irish, English and French, and the stone was sculpted by Irish sculptor, Stuart McGrath.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted 17th October as its International Day for Eradication of Poverty in 1992. The day is now observed in more than 100 countries to highlight the struggles faced by poor people throughout the world.

Speaking at its unveiling on the 17th October 2008, Councilor Costello said that the erection of the stone so close to the Famine memorial would “link the struggles of Irish people living in poverty today with the struggles of the past”.

“It will serve as a reminder to Dublin’s citizens that poverty knows no borders, is timeless, enduring, and is a global issue,” she added.

Many of the world’s leading crusaders against hunger have today voiced frustration that global financial issues often overshadow food crises tipping millions toward starvation.

As happened in Ireland during the Great Irish Famine.

Local Attractions

ATTRACTIONS NEARBY:

Please check ahead for opening hours as some are restricted / seasonal.

Croke Park Stadium 

Croke Park Museum

ARTS & LITERATURE CONNECT:

Bram Stoker of Dracula Novel fame lived nearby 

Brendan Behan, Playwright and Novelist –  Behan Square – Gills Cornerhouse