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
Shoes 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.
As we neared Mosstown Harbour, with its huge mill and Mosstown House, we heard barking and growling and yapping and soon saw a large pack of hungry dogs, come running along the far side of the path.
Catherine and Thomas are terrified and begin to scream, Uncle William pulling Catherine up high into his arms, as I took hold of a terrified Bernard Og.
The dogs turned when they heard so many children and babies crying and upset.
‘Stay quiet,’ warned Uncle William, as the bailiff came down to see what was happening.
‘In times like this the dogs should be culled,’ Bailiff Robinson declared angrily. ‘They are a danger, for with their owners dead and so little left to hunt, the creatures are starving.’
The crazed dogs joined others that were fighting and growling pulling over something, buried in ground the nearby field. Fourteen year old Thomas grabbed at my hand for we were both scared of them too.
My stomach heaved when I saw they had dug up a small pale body from the earth and were dragging it along the ground, snapping and biting at each other fighting over a leg and arm bone.
Bailiff Robinson and his men stood guard along the path as we walked on faster, relieved to escape the dogs.
I filled my mind with thoughts of the new world, where nothing like this could happen.
History: Mosstown Harbour, Kenagh
Mosstown Harbour is 900m to Keenagh village, which is a single winding street lined by buildings of varying heights. It was an estate village and is dominated by the elegant clock tower erected in memory of the Hon. Lawrence Harman King-Harman who died in 1875.
Mosstown Harbour lies close to the site of Mosstown House and Mosstown Mill, the latter now in ruins. The Kingstone family leased the house and surrounding lands, and ran the mill, which was a very successful enterprise in the early 19th century. Alexander C. Kingstone was secretary of the local Kilcommock District Relief Committee, which was set up in May 1846. It immediately raised £87 from local subscriptions, which was matched by a contribution of the same amount from the Relief Commissioners in Dublin Castle. In early June, there was a meeting in Kenagh to organise the buying of seed potatoes for the poor of the district.
Some very stark glimpses of the Famine in the area are to be found in letters written by William Gosselin (1772-1847) of Abbeyderg, near Kenagh, to his granddaughter Sidney Bond (1832-1924). William’s wife was Margaret Kingstone from Mosstown. In 1846, William wrote to Sidney:
Many poor men and women are becoming gaunt and ghastly in their appearance. Stealing cattle, sheep, corn and bread is now quite common in the neighbourhood. A sheep has been taken from Mosstown and one of their milch cows at Tashinny [nearby, where his brother was vicar] being ill and not likely to recover, they had her slaughtered and were making soup for the poor from her beef, when some persons came early last night and carried off all the beef and soup which remained. The police are destroying all the poor people’s dogs about here. They are starving and killing sheep all round.
In another letter, also written in 1846, ‘Grandpapa’ Gosselin described how dogs were roaming around and getting into his house through the servants’ hall ‘where the builders are working’. The Kingstones ran a soup kitchen at Mosstown and they shot their last deer to make soup.
The Mill burned in 1912 and the house was demolished in 1961/2. Some remnants that are still visible include the eagle topped piers at the White Gate, built by Belgian refugees after the first World War, and the restored Pigeon House, the only one of its kind in the country.
Just over a kilometer from Mosstown Harbour, along the canal, is Corlea Track junction, where a 750m bog track leads to the fascinating, Iron Age Corlea Trackway Visitor Centre. Locally known as ‘Danes’ Road, it was constructed from oak planks in 148 BC and is the largest of its kind to have been uncovered in Europe. Please check ahead for opening hours.
About 3 km past Mosstown Harbour, and close to Foigha Bridge, is Ledwithstown House, a very interesting small Georgian house built in 1746, the design of which is attributed to Richard Cassels. It was originally the seat of the Ledwith Family, who left in 1891 when it was bought by Laurence Feeney.
ATTRACTIONS NEARBY :
Please check ahead for opening hours as some are restricted / seasonal
Corlea Track Visitor Centre
Ledwithstown House – by appointment only