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.
So we began our journey. Mam dried her eyes and held her head high as in our new shoes we began the long walk to Dublin. There was young and old, pretty girls and old men, widows with children like my Mam, all of us crowding together along the muddy path as we set off.
Little Bernard and Catherine and I are excited to be off on such an adventure with so many of our friends, but the old people are sad and do not want to go. There are many more children than grown ups.
Bailiff Robinson warns us that we must all stick together and do what he and his men tell us if we want to get our tickets for Canada.
‘Troublemakers will be left to wander the roads and will get no passage from me,’ he shouts as he passes down the long line waving his silver tipped blackthorn stick in the air.
We soon come to Scamogue passing by the new Church. Mother and all the men and women cross themselves as we see the church and pray out loud for God to keep them and their children safe on our long journey.
We all know of the goings on in nearby Ballykilcline with their Rent Strike, refusing to pay the Crown after Major Mahon stopped renting the Townland from them.
‘Keep your head down,’ warned Uncle William. ‘This is dangerous country, Molly Maguires everywhere, the old rules still apply here’.
I nervously played with the pocketful of clay I had brought from our little Lisonuffy plot.
History: Scramogue, Strokestown townlands, the Cloonahee Petition, and Ballykilcline
St. Anne’s Church, where the Shoes are located, was built in 1839. Five families, 24 of our Missing 1,490 came from here. Nearby, Ballykilcline was the site of a famous Crown Rent Strike – the Ballykilcline Rebellion – in the mid 1840s. In 1847/48, 370 people were evicted as part of a Crown Assisted Emigration to New York City.
Ballykilcline was a hotbed of local agitation where the old Irish communal land system clashed badly with the new market town economics of the area. It was known as a ‘townland of outrages’ where the Molly Maguires secret society held sway. Denis Mahon was obsessed with them. It was his opinion that a number of his tenants were influenced by this nearby revolt and many who were able to pay nevertheless chose to follow the example of the Ballykilcliners.
Scramogue is one of a number of townlands in the Strokestown area from where 1,490 former tenants of Major Denis Mahon emigrated to Canada in 1847 after walking the length of the Royal Canal to Dublin and embarking for Liverpool by steamship.
Before their departure, starving tenants in the townland of Cloonahee submitted a petition to Major Denis Mahon seeking food and relief that is now held in the Irish National Famine Museum. It was his chance discovery of the Cloonahee Petition that persuaded Jim Callery to create the Famine Museum after he had purchased the property.
The Cloonahee Petition:
Folklore of the Irish Famine from the Scramogue area can be found in the Irish Folklore Commission’s Schools Collection at the link below:
Like the townlands near Strokestown, the Crown estate at Ballykilcline was also cleared of many of its tenants through evictions and forced emigration. As Mary Lee Dunn notes:
After a dozen years of striking over what they saw as unfair high rents, the people of Ballykilcline, a Crown property near the River Shannon in Kilglass Parish, not far from Strokestown in eastern Roscommon, were evicted by Crown authorities and sent to New York City in 1847 and ’48. Evictions began during the worst year of famine and continued as about 370 people left their homeland where officials had labeled them “trouble makers,” neighboring tenants had started to imitate their strike which was worrying local land owners, and many had lost family members to famine diseases or starvation. These conditions drew headlines in Dublin, England and elsewhere and, meanwhile, Ballykilcline was emptied out.
In the new world, many of these evicted immigrants settled in the northeastern states; dozens of them, for instance, went to Rutland, Vermont, where an earlier cluster from Kilglass had made their homes to work in the emerging marble industry. Some evictees subsequently moved on to Boston, Providence or the mid-West joining fellow tenants who had arrived in the 1830s.
For 41 years before their strike began in 1835, Ballykilcline’s inhabitants had been tenants of the Mahons at Strokestown, who sub-leased from the Crown and who owned or leased nearby lands as well. About the same time as Crown authorities moved to “clear” Ballykilcline, Denis Mahon, trying to regain control of the indebted property he had recently inherited, evicted hundreds of his own tenants and paid their way to Quebec. Scores of them died during or soon after their Atlantic crossing from famine-related causes. Months later, Mahon was assassinated.
The population of Kilglass Parish was nearly halved in that decade of despair. The Irish who left tried to make their way in a new world while at home their families and friends who stayed tried to recover.
Leavy’s Bar – Please check ahead for opening hours as some are restricted / seasonal.
Sliabh Bawn Mountain – Trails https://www.sliabhbawnwindfarm.ie/recreation/
Cruachan Ai – Rathcroghan Visitor Centre – neolithic Royal site – https://www.rathcroghan.ie/
Nineteenth-Century Windmill, Elphin