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.
As we journeyed on the rain lifted and we neared the fine harbour and bridge at the Hill of Down.
We heard the clang, clanging and soon see an enormous group of hundreds and hundreds of men and boys, backs bent, working on building the new railway station and laying the heavy tracks for the railway line which will soon open. It is hard labour with their picks and shovels but they are getting paid and need the work to feed their families.
There are fine horses being watered and fed, better than ourselves, before being harnessed to pull the Fly boats with their passengers along the canal.
As we walk on the sun comes out and we pass a huge field of yellow buttercups. Catherine and little Mary Cox and Bridget Egan laugh with excitement as they run through them and pick some.
Life in this part of the country is not as bad as it is back in Strokestown, it seems.
History: Betty Doyle and her family memories of Famine migrants on the Royal Canal
You are now in County Meath. Meath, part of the historic and beautiful Boyne Valley, is an area abundant in heritage and lush green landscapes. From brave knights, castles and round towers to tales of emigrants, monks and ancient civilisations, Meath is brimming with stories, culture, attractions, festivals and fun. The rich valley is home to a range of heritage sites, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site at Brú na Bóinne (Newgrange and Knowth) as well as Ireland’s largest Anglo-Norman castle at Trim. Learn more at www.meath.ie/discover and http://www.discoverboynevalley.ie
The Midland Great Western Railway train station opened in Hill O Down in December 1847. It is now a cosy cluster of buildings with a quaint traditional pub, shop and post office, located next to the bridge over the canal.
It was reported that the number of men and boys employed on the railway works during the last week of May 1847, while our Missing 1,490 were walking, was 2,987. There were also 165 horses. The commercial barges were pulled by 2 horses, while the Fly Barges with passengers were pulled by 3 horses. Many bridges bear the marks of the horse ropes, as they rounded the corners pulling the barges.
What a chaotic scene these stretches of the canal must have been for our people, with barges, horses and the sheer numbers of men working and the associated clanging sounds, of the laying of all that railway track. Not to mention the roars of the Gangers driving them to work hard.
Renowned author Michael Collins recounts below the story of Hill-of-Down resident Betty Doyle and her family memories of Famine migrants on the Royal Canal whom he met in 2017:
During our walk, two amateur historians of the Hill of the Down, PJ Massey and Pauric Masterson, urged us to meet with 94-year-old Betty Doyle. Part of the story of the famine lies in a repository of local lore, and the walk, in passing where so many passed, is facilitating a conjoining of past and present. In a throwback 19th century cottage, a diminutive Betty Doyle, under the coaxing intimacy of Massey and Masterson, tapped a font of lore and poetic register that caught the sentiment of an older generation.
I was mindful of Synge and his time on the Aran Islands with Yeats’s evocation that he put his ear to the floor to catch the cadence of the Irish voice. The most impactful of Betty’s stories was the memory of a “famine barley” which grew in small patches from grain in the pockets of those who had perished. One imagines this moribund harvest, this eerie memorial to those fateful years and to so many unburied dead.
On the return to the canal, we stopped at the gurgling throat of a hidden famine well, dug for 4,000 rail workers. In standing amidst the dappled light, conjecture settled that perhaps it was here that emigrants stopped and worked a while, in a prefiguring of the rail work they would eventually undertake a continent away in the United States.
See Betty Doyle recount her story of “Famine Barley” below:
Betty Doyle’s ancestors suffered through the Great Hunger. In 1847, in the middle of the Great Famine, Midland Great Western Railway line from Dublin was extended to the Hill of Down. The station which was built in between the railway and the pre-existing canal. A number of oral history accounts for the Famine in the area survive in The Schools Collection collected in the 1930s, including references to famine fever in the area and the erection of a wooden fever hospital at Scariff, near Trim. Margaret Hynes from Clondalee, Hill-of-Down was said to be the last person admitted to this hospital with fever. Indian meal stirabout was given out to the poor at Clondalee and a soup kitchen was said to have been set up on the nearby Langan estate at Mount Hevey. Continuing construction of the railway provided much needed local employment and other local relief works included drainage works on the Boyne.
Please check ahead for opening hours as some are restricted / seasonal.
Moran’s traditional Pub, Shop & Post Office
Moyvalley Hotel & Golf Club- Longwood/ Hill of Down
Clonard Heritage Trail- Hill of Down
Castlerickard Church & Cemetery (home to the Swift family vault)- Longwood (http://www.mmtrust.org.uk/mausolea/view/545/Swifte_Mausoleum_)
Cullentra Farm Shop & Open Farm- Longwood
Rathcore Golf Club- Enfield/ Longwood
ARTS & LITERATURE CONNECT:
Castle Rackrent by Maria Edgeworth, 1800.
Sir John Piers lived in a house nearby which has fallen into disrepair, and which was allegedly the inspiration for Maria Edgeworth‘s Castle Rackrent. He came from a long-established family of the Anglo-Irish gentry, seated at Tristernagh Abbey in County Westmeath. The family were descended from William Piers, who had been granted the Abbey lands by Elizabeth I: William’s great-grandson Sir Henry Piers was created a baronet in 1661. By the time of his descendant Sir John Piers, the Abbey had been demolished and incorporated into a house which had itself fallen into disrepair, and which was allegedly the inspiration for Maria Edgeworth‘s Castle Rackrent.