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.
We march until we reach Enfield, where the roads, the railway and the canal meet. We see more men hard at work with their shovels laying the track for the railway line.
The Bianconi coaches with their passengers and mail stop at the town’s General Post Office building. The biggest Post Office outside of Dublin. I have never received a letter. But some have. The Brennans plan to go to Niagara where the Connors went a while back. They say there is work on a new Canal near there.
Uncle William says we may join them.
‘We’ll see when we get there. I’ve also heard one can get land easy there.’
I can’t read or write but I must learn Mother says. ‘There is nobody left in Lisonuffy for me to write back to,’ I point out to her.
Thomas Kilmartin and Widow Cox say they haven’t made their minds up yet.
Across from the Post Office, there is livery yard where the horses can be changed and rested, while travellers take their ease at the Royal Oak Inn.
‘Everything will change once the new railway station opens here,’ says Uncle William. ‘For there will be no more coaches or barges once the trains come!’
A large hungry crowd has gathered for there is a soup kitchen. Bailiff Robinson tells us to stop and then he and one of his men go off to the dispensary to find out about it.
He returns smiling for they have offered us tickets for the soup kitchen. We join the long line of people waiting there.
Finally our turn comes and a man takes our tickets. There are two huge pots of soup cooking over a special type of fire.
A woman takes her ladle and fills up a tin mug of soup for me and another gives me a small loaf of rye bread and tells me to go sit at the long table, to eat.
The soup is hot and salty with a little meat, barley, turnips, and peas. Although John and I are starving Mam tells us we must eat it slowly.
Little Bernard doesn’t like it and Mam dips the bread in the soup to make him take it.
Suddenly a bell rings, and we give back our mugs and leave.
Mam wishes that we could stay in Enfield to build up our strength, but Mr Robinson orders us to make ready to leave immediately.
History: Enfield's Famine pot
For centuries, Enfield has been associated with developments in transportation with the Royal Canal and the railway being central to this. In the 1800s, it was a Bianconi’s horse-drawn carriage network hub, named for the Royal Oak Inn.
Enfield had the first GPO – General Post Office – outside Dublin. A livery stable and horse park existed opposite the old Post Office, where the Bianconi Coaches could swap out for a fresh team of horses. Local reports of Famine times speak of extreme poverty with one mother reputedly trying to give the juice of a turnip to her baby in an attempt to keep him or her alive. Now a Famine Pot feature stands outside the GPO heritage building.
The Newcastle Quarry was a good limestone source nearby which was sought after and used to rebuild some of the docks and bridges.
The nearby Johnstown House, an eighteenth century estate, has been renovated and is now home to the Johnstown House Hotel.
Enfield’s growth as a town in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was due to its location on the main transport routes. The stage-coach road from Dublin to Mullingar which was opened in 1735, passed through the town and resulted in the construction of a large livery stable and courtyard and mail-coach inn in the town. Charles Bianconi operated a coach service through the town between the 1830s and 1860s and Enfield General Post Office, which was opened in 1822, was an important sorting office prior to the extension of the railway to Mullingar. The Royal Canal, which was opened in 1817, passed through the town and continued to carry freight until the mid-twentieth century.
Both road and canal transport relied on horse-power and at the time of the Famine there were five blacksmiths operating in the town as well as harness makers and ostlers. On the 28th June 1847, in the midst of the Famine, the Midland Great Western Railway opened the line between Broadstone Station in Dublin and Enfield. Construction of the railway provided vital employment in the area and it was reported that in May 1847, 2987 men and boys and 165 horses were employed on the works. Despite this availability of local employment, the population of the town decreased from 375 to 342 between 1841 and 1851.
The Schools Collection, which gathered oral histories in the 1930s, has numerous Famine accounts for County Meath, frequently noting the desperation of the starving poor as they attempted to survive on diseased potatoes, berries and haws, nettles, birds and grasses and there are reports of armed men guarding fields of turnips. A side effect of this drastic change of diet was the potentially fatal disease of dysentery. The Schools Collection also mentions local relief works, including drainage work to lower Ryndville Hill, where the labourers were given four pence a day and rations of yellow meal stirabout.
In the heart of Enfield can be found an Irish Famine Soup Pot that serves as a memorial to the Great Hunger and all who perished, suffered, and fled from the town in the 1840s. The Famine Soup Pot memorial was dedicated in May 2017.
To learn more, see Cathal Póirtéir speak about Famine Pots in English and Gaelic:
Please check ahead for opening hours as some are restricted / seasonal.
Johnston House Estate – 1.8 km
Rathcore Golf Club- Enfield/ Longwood