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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.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.
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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.
We walk on in silence praying the ancient healing Spa waters will have some effect.
Andrew Dalton is soothing his little brothers John and Michael who are still sobbing at the thought of their father being sent to the Cellbridge Workhouse.
‘I hate Bailiff Robinson,’ hisses 16 year old Susan. ‘For God’s sake, will ye all quiet down, or we will never set foot on the Erin’s Queen,’ begs their Mother Onah.
Suddenly we are all startled by the loud clanging of a church bell which draws our attention to a nearby church.
‘Newly built looks like – they will be from the ‘other side’ – no money spared there,’ says James Sheridan, to a glare and a thump from his 20 year old daughter Catherine. ‘Do you want Mam and the ten of us to be dispatched to Celbridge Workhouse like Bailiff threatened the Daltons?’.
We were all startled again by the clatter of approaching horse hooves on the road alongside.
My jaw drops as I see six shiny black horses pulling a magnificent black carriage, with glass sides and silver and gold decorations. As I squint, I hear my little 8 year old neighbour Ann Follen, Catherine’s best friend, screech: ‘A coffin, there is a coffin in it! And lots of red velvet and loads of flowers’.
And a procession of the fanciest carriages I have ever seen with shiny horses with feathers on their heads slowly passes us by.
‘Tis a long way from the bottomless coffins them ones is buried in, t’would make ya sick,’ whispers Thomas Brennan. His wife Bridget cowers a little at the anger in his voice. We quietly remember the rumours of him having a hand in his mother-in- law’s death.
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You are now in Fingal County Council. Ancient Castles, majestic gardens, long sandy beaches, rugged coastline, picturesque towns and villages, Fingal has all this and more. It is right on Dublin’s doorstep, but with the breathing room of the countryside. Learn more at www.fingal.ie/visitor
St Mary’s Church of Ireland church is visible from the canal. It was built in 1846, replacing an earlier church of 1550 and is set in a peaceful graveyard with graves dating back to 1600. Interred in the church grounds is the body of Most Rev. Patrick Fitzsimons, Archbishop of Dublin, who died in 1769. Shortly after his death, it became customary for the coffins of deceased Catholics to be placed on their gravestones while prayers were recited before burial. The church is well known for its stained glass window by renowned artist Evie Hone, installed in 1937.
The nearby Luttrellstown Castle was built in 1200 by Geoffrey Luttrell and the family occupied the castle for 600 years. Over the years, it has entertained the rich and famous alike. Queen Victoria visited Luttrellstown on two occasions; an obelisk in the grounds commemorates her visit.
The Shackleton Garden in Beech Park, Clonsilla, closeby, includes an internationally famous plant collection.
CLONSILLA BOATING TRAGEDY
The next bridge along is Keenan Bridge at Porterstown where to your left you will see the remains of Clonsilla National School, a Catholic School built by two local Merchant brothers when Luke White of Luttrellstown Castle refused to build a school for Catholic pupils. It was opened in June 1853 and closed in1963.
To your right by the bridge, you will see a Plaque erected by the Royal Canal Amenity Group in 1995 to commemorate the sixteen people who lost their lives in a boating tragedy at this site.
See an image of plaque below:
Those lucky enough to be up in the front of the boat were able to escape. One of those who drowned was Mrs Mulligan, who, along with her young child, was returning from Boston in the United States; her child survived. Another of the passengers, Private Jessop of the 8th Hussars, who was returning to his regiment in Longford, saved many lives; while the local people helped the injured and took them back to their homes.
Many of those who died in the tragedy are buried in the Church of Saint Mary in Clonsilla.
A newspaper article in the Cork Examiner (28 November, 1845) headlined ‘Deplorable calamity – sixteen lives sacrificed’ investigates the cause of the accident. It states ‘Upon reaching the neighbourhood of Clonsilla, the steerman went below to dine and unhappily committed the rudder, as we have been informed, to a boy employed on board the boat. This boy, either knowing nothing of the proper mode of steering, or not attending to the serious duty unfortunately and rashly committed to him, permitted the boat to run upon the bank of the canal, which caused her to immediately capsize and speedily to fill with water’. You can read the article here.
Please note, after Porterstown Bridge you will soon be approaching the Deep Sinking, which you will learn about in the Castleknock local history.
Please take great care on this narrow and sometimes slippy path, groups should walk in single file. Bicycles should follow the alternative route.
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Please check ahead for opening hours as some are restricted / seasonal.
St Mary’s Church & Graveyard
ARTS & LITERATURE CONNECT:
Stained Glass window by renowned artist Evie Hone 1937, St Mary’s Church.
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