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 – 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.
The day is hot and the soup has made me thirsty and we fill our water cans as soon as we reach the fine town of Kilcock, which sits on a wide stretch of the canal. The harbour there is busy as men call out to the lock -keeper to open the locks and let their barges pass as they have goods to deliver.
As we walk I feel a strange pity for a group of hungry women and children in mud cabins who hold out their hands to beg from us as we pass by, for my bread is gone and we have absolutely nothing that we can give or share with them.
Thomas Feeney starts talking of Arcadian Gardens and Ornamental Farms he has heard of in this area. I have no clue what he is talking about and I can see Bridget Holden rolling her eyes. George Cox and Patrick Sheridan call to me to come look at some fighting ducks.
History: Landlords and Tenants in Famine Ireland and Kilcock Famine Folklore from the National Folklore Commission’s Schools Collection
Kilcock is a beautiful canal-side town, famous for native nationalist poet Teresa Brayton’s verse and song ‘The Old Bog Road’. See Judy Beatty sing ‘‘The Old Bog Road’ below:
Kilcock is also renowned for Larchill Arcadian Garden, a ‘Ferme Ornee’ or Ornamental Farm, the only surviving near complete Garden of its type in Europe – 6 km away from here. Please check ahead for opening times.
The railway arrived to Kilcock on 28 June 1847. O ne can only imagine the furious last minute completions that were happening here the last week in May, when our Missing 1,490 were passing through. The new station was opened to great fanfare and celebration recorded in the national newspapers. The canal passenger boats ceased soon after this date. But the station closed on 1 July 1848, as it was sited on a 1% gradient which the locomotives found difficult to climb. A replacement station opened in 1850 west of the town.
In the spring of 1847, about 200 poor, from the nearby parish of Ballivor were cleared out and given their fare to America. This area was part of the estate of Lord Darnley.
It is recorded that the commercial canal boats, carrying grain and other provisions, were plundered as they crossed Cappagh Bog, and that the robbery had been carried out by the people who were starving.
“Earl Grey Orphan Girls Scheme”
Between October 1847 and August 1850, over 4,000 female orphans arrived in Australia after being transported from workhouses from all over Ireland. Most of these girls went on to forge new and successful lives for themselves in their adopted country. Approximately 100 of these girls were from workhouses in Co. Meath.
Professor Mark McGowan (University of Toronto) on the towpath to Kilcock reflecting on landlords and tenants in Famine Ireland:
Also see Kilcock Famine Folklore from the National Folklore Commission’s Schools Collection:
(Bailiúchán na Scol, Imleabhar 0772, Leathanach 011)
John Simmins said he was aged 97 and he remembered the Famine being then but 5 years old. The people of Kilcock used to eat boiled turnips and parsnips. He also said that he met a traveller one day and he went into the house with him. The traveller sat down and asked John Simmin’s mother for a saucepan of water and a spoon. He then removed a blue paper bag from his pocket and he told Mrs. Simmins that it was pollard he got from a farmer who was feeding pigs along the way. He then made porridge out of the pollard and ate it because he was very hungry.
He then said that St. Coca’s well was desecrated buy the Protestants of Kilcock and they called it Tobar na Muc.
The races lasted six days.
Please check ahead for opening hours as some are restricted / seasonal.
Larchill Arcadian Gardens – Ferme Ornamental – 6 km Check opening hours https://larchill.ie/
Donadea Castle & Forest Park – 9.0 km Check opening hours