Red letter day as new National Famine Museum opens

Wednesday 12th October 2022 was a red letter day for the National Famine Way as the new National Famine Museum was officially opened at Strokestown Park House, the beginning of the 165km trail. Ms Catherine Martin, Minister for Culture and Arts officially cut the ribbon watched by dignitaries and luminaries from Roscommon and around the country. These included Jim Callery (Westward Holdings), Clare McGrath (Irish Heritage Trust) and Paul Kelly, CEO of Fáilte Ireland who made €3.9million available in grant aid for the world-class museum, the main interpreter of the Great Famine. Up to 115,000 visitors are expected annually which will generate €25 for the local economy within the first decade. It is one of the highlights of Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands.

The new museum has been developed by the Irish Heritage Trust in partnership with Fáilte Ireland and Westward Holdings.

Speaking at the launch, Minister Martin said, “It is my pleasure to officially open the new National Famine Museum here at Strokestown Park today. This significant new museum and visitor experience retells the story of the Famine in a captivating way, and is expected to attract 115,000 visitors annually by its tenth year of operation, driving tourism in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands. The National Famine Museum is an important addition to the visitor experience, both locally and nationally, and will serve to engage and educate visitors from at home and abroad and preserve the stories of the Great Irish Famine.”

Paul Kelly, CEO, Fáilte Ireland, welcomed the new attraction and its importance to Roscommon, commenting, “The National Famine Museum is now a key visitor experience in Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and will encourage domestic and international visitors to come and explore Roscommon and the surrounding area, generating significant economic benefits for the local community.”

Irish Heritage Trust CEO Anne O’Donoghue said, “We would like to thank Fáilte Ireland and Westward Holdings Ltd for their generous support to realise the vision of bringing compelling stories from the Great Irish Famine powerfully to life for people of all ages, in an innovative way. We look forward to welcoming visitors from across Ireland and overseas to enjoy this wonderful new visitor experience, with three attractions at one destination: the immersive National Famine Museum; the guided tour of the Palladian House, with its original furnishings and features; and the historic walled gardens and woodland walk. Visitors can also enjoy the delicious food on offer in our contemporary Woodland Café, located in the old granary of Strokestown Park House, with the best sustainably produced local ingredients.”

Jim Callery, Director of Westward Holdings said, “It is wonderful to be here today 43 years after I found the Famine Plea from the Tenants of Cloonahee – the townland I was born and reared in and where I still live today – when I first explored the house in 1979. This document saved Strokestown Park and its Archive. The Museum tells the story of the Great Famine with a new perspective and will also, I hope, help people to understand that our past is someone else’s present, as is evident in the mass migration of today. I applaud the marvellous recent regeneration and I am glad it is in the safe hands of and under the care of the Irish Heritage Trust.”

The National Famine Museum|Strokestown Park is one of the two museums bookending the National Famine Way – the trail finishes at the award-winning EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin’s Docklands. Visiting these best-in-class visitor experiences at the beginning and end of their journey is an ideal way for trail walkers to fully understand the extent and impact of the Great Famine in the mid-1800s. The Jeanie Johnston ship moored near EPIC completes the full experience. Anyone who has a National Famine Way passport and gets it stamped at EPIC will receive an official Certificate of Completion.

A striking glass wall outside Strokestown Park House marks the trailhead. It is inscribed with the names of all 1,490 emigrants who were the first to walk the trail of tears that is now the official way marked trail.

The new Museum is an important development for the town of Strokestown, providing 26 full-time, seasonal and part time jobs as well as leading to additional sustainable jobs within the wider tourism sector.

The National Famine Museum|Strokestown Park is open from 10.30am-4pm daily. House tours take place every day at 12 noon and more often during the summer.