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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.
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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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.
We crossed another bridge near Ballybranigan Harbour with its big canal warehouse and ticket office.
There was a line of people waiting to buy tickets for the barges and boats that would transport them all the way to Dublin. Some, like us, were going on to Liverpool and then bound for Canada and the United States.
‘No walking for the likes of them,’ mother said angrily as, despite our tiredness, we were told to hasten our pace.
My stomach was hungry for we had only eaten the oatcakes the men had given us. We were all famished with the hunger for we had so little to eat. Yet all around us there were carts laden with food, and shops and stores and markets.
The big warehouse ahead was heavily guarded, the soldiers ordering us to move on.
‘Look at those brave soldiers with their guns, guarding the huge stacks of food and grain they have stored there,’ Bridget Brennan shouted out at them, ‘while we must walk on with empty bellies’ .
Further on I see a man in a field blood letting a cow’s leg and drinking some of the blood and collecting some, undoubtedly to bring home and mix with the Indian meal. Something I had seen many times around Strokestown.
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Ballybranigan Ticket Office
The restored passage-boat ticket office by the Bronze Shoes is well worth a visit (check opening hours). A bustling location in Famine times, the derelict ruins from the commercial buildings either side of the Ticket House are clear evidence of this. Ballymahon Town is 1.7km from here.
Ballybranigan Harbour was constructed to serve the nearby market town of Ballymahon. In 1841, the town’s population stood at 2,607. The landlord at the beginning of the Famine was Molyneaux William Shuldham, who died on Christmas Day in 1846. He was succeeded by his son John.
The parish relief committee was formed on 8 June 1846 under the chairmanship of William Ledwith JP, another local landowner. Molyneaux Shuldham contributed £50 to the fund, which was by far the largest sum collected. The Longford Journal reported that Shuldham intended to employ additional labourers during the summer months and to pay them weekly. The second largest subscription to the fund was £20, given by Dr William O’Higgins, the Catholic Bishop of Ardagh and Clonmacnois, who was living in Ballymahon.
An account book, detailing transactions by the Shuldhams in this period, shows how they responded to the crisis. They paid some tenants to give up their properties and emigrate to the USA. One such was ‘Widow’ Murtagh from ‘Branagan’ (Ballybranigan), close to this site, who received £15 on 24 September 1847 to go to America. Other tenants were given rent abatements and in a small number of cases, there were ejectments carried out. The book also shows that in July 1847, ‘Mrs Shuldham’ paid £26 to the relief committee and in February 1848, John Shuldham contributed almost £77 for the ‘employment of the able-bodied poor’ in Ballymahon Electoral Division.
In the Famine period, Ballymahon and its hinterland formed part of Longford Poor Law Union, which was served by the workhouse in Longford town. In the aftermath of the Famine, Ballymahon Poor Law Union was created and a workhouse was built on the outskirts of the town. It opened in 1852 and had capacity for 600 people.
The restored passage-boat ticket office in Ballybrannigan Harbour, near Ballymahon, in County Longford, is a striking site along the National Famine Way. Before the Great Hunger, over 40,000 passengers were carried per annum on the canal and the tonnage of goods rose to a peak of 100,000 tons in the 1840s. It is a fitting place to reflect on the Strokestown 1,490 emigrants and multitude of others who passed this way while travelling on the Royal Canal to Dublin.
Professor Christine Kinealy (Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute, Quinnipiac University) reflects on food exports from Ireland during the Great Hunger while at Ballybrannigan Ticket House along the National Famine Way:
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Ballymahon Ticket House – irregular opening
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