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.
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
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.
Suddenly we are on the North Strand Road and walk down to the city quays where the ships await us. Even though we are all so tired and our clothes our dirty, we walk with our heads up high, even little Bernard who keeps a strong hold of my hand, as we pass the Royal Canal Docks where cargo is being winched off and onto ships that are all about us. Before us is the wide blue green River Liffey.
The streets and dockside are crowded, and the people of Dublin stare, curious to see such a huge crowd, but some call and shout at us.
‘Go back to your own place for you are not wanted here!’
Bailiff Robinson leads us past them. Mam’s eyes are full of tears at their cruel words, but she just keeps walking.
All along the riverside and quays are fine buildings and warehouses and ships’ offices. Bridges stretch from one side of the River Liffey to the other. The grandest building that I have ever seen, The Royal Custom House, looks out on the river with its tall columns and arches and magnificent blue green dome.
‘That is where all the business and trade of the city must be done and taxes and duties paid,’ Thomas Egan explains.
There are ships laden with barrels of porter and food for the city. I have never seen such a sight as I look up and down the river. There are carriages and carts everywhere with horses pulling heavy loads in all directions.
Tall ships with their sails and masts and steam packets all lie moored along the quays.
‘We stop here,’ shouts Bailiff Robinson, ‘for this is where you will board these steam packet ships that will transport you across to Liverpool’.
Finally our long hard journey from Strokestown to Dublin along the Royal Canal Way is ended.
‘What about the ships to take us to Canada?’, Uncle William asks.
‘They await you in a few days at Liverpool docks,’ Bailiff Robinson explains.
Mam grows pale as another man appears with a long list.
‘Daniel, that’s the agent Mr John Ross Mahon who put us off our land,’ she whispers.
We all line up as the name of every family is called and he carefully marks the exact number of passengers in every group.
‘William Kelly, Mary Tighe, with children Daniel, Thomas, Catherine Margaret and Bernard Tighe.’
Eventually we are told to board the middle steam ship, everyone crowding on board the deck like we were livestock, the belly of the vessel full of Irish grain.
There is little space up on the open wooden deck. We are surprised to see Bailiff Robinson, also boarding the ship.
Suddenly the ship begins to move, pulling away from the quays and out onto the river. The city of Dublin spread all about us. Mam grabs my hand and begins to cry.
‘I will never see this land or my people again, nor the place that your poor father lies.’
‘Mary we must all learn to look to the future,’ says my uncle kindly, putting his arms around her, ‘and the new life that lies ahead for us.’
Steam fills the air, as our packet ship leaves the river and city behind us, and makes its way out towards the sea. Many are silent and in tears, as land and green fields are left far behind us, for we know that we will never see our home place and Ireland again.
There is sadness and fear but also great excitement for me, for our journey to a new life in Canada has just begun… our ship Naomi awaits us in Liverpool.
History: Rowan Gillespie Famine Sculptures and Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship on Dublin Custom House Quay
Finally arriving at Dublin Quays, our Missing 1,490 would have filed up the quays to emigrant offices near the Custom House. They collect their tickets and board the steamship to Liverpool, where they would be held up a few days in fetid basements before boarding one of the four Mahon Ships. The place of their departure on Custom House Quay is commemorated by Rowan Gillespie’s Famine Sculptures and the Jeanie Johnston replica Famine Ship.
See the Famine Walkers arrival at Rowan Gillespie’s Famine Sculptures and the Jeanie Johnston Replica Famine Ship on Custom House Quay in Dublin as the follow in the footsteps of Strokestown’s Missing 1,490 Famine emigrants:
The arrival of Strokestown’s 1,490 Emigrants in Dublin was reported in a number of papers:
DUBLIN PILOT (May 28, 1847):
Their arrival at Custom House Quay was also reported in the Quebec Anglican newspaper The Berean on May 24, 1847:
In 2013, ten year old Méabh Tighe from Strokestown wrote a poem entitled “The Journey” to mark the return of her distant ancestral cousin Richard Tye (great grandson of Daniel Tighe) to his Irish homestead for the first time since 1847. You can find Méabh Tighe’s poem “The Journey” here.
Professor Mark McGowan (University of Toronto) reflects on the Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship on the journey of Strokestown’s missing 1,490 emigrants to Dublin along the National Famine Way and their fate in the New World:
Please check ahead for opening hours as some are restricted / seasonal.
Rowan Gillespie’s Famine Sculptures on Custom House Quay
Jeanie Johnston Replica Famine Ship
EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum
Windmill Lane Studios
The Diving Bell – a remarkable feat of 19th Century Irish Engineering
The Central Bank Visitor Centre