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.nationalfamine way.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
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.
As we near Tarmonbarry, an old man begins to shout, for at the side of the ditch are three poor starved bodies left there these past weeks to rot. A man and a woman and a little girl by the look of them! They are in filthy rags and the smell is fierce.
‘No one to bury them, poor things,’ Mother said, telling us to shut our eyes and to keep walking. But I still looked, for I am twelve and have seen dead bodies before. I try not to think what might have happened to them and how they came to such a terrible end.
We cross the bridge over the wide River Shannon, the blue water sparkling in the sunshine as the crowds of us kept walking.
‘I wish that we could stop and swim or wade in the river,’ sighed nine year old Catherine staring down into the clear water.
‘Hush,’ scolded mother. ‘Don’t let Mr Robinson hear you say such a thing.’
A few barges and boats passed us by so close that I could have jumped up on their narrow deck. One had coal, and two had barley, and we watched as the sturdy horses pull their heavy loads along the tow path.
I have never seen the River before, never been this far from home. I am somewhat mesmerised by the glistening water and fearful crossing this border, pushed on and carried by the crowd.
History: The Famine in Tarmonbarry
Part of the Mahon estate during the Famine years, this beautiful Shannonside village, with somewhat of a culinary reputation, originates from an abbey founded by St.Berach in the 6th century. The name of the village in Irish means roughly “Berach’s sanctuary”.
A Memorandum in the Strokestown Park Archive records that ‘Sir’ John Ross Mahon, Denis Mahon’s notorious Agent, held lands of his own in the Tarmonbarry area. It notes the names of the tenants on Sir John Ross Mahon’s property at Tarmonbarry including the total amount of land held by each tenant as well as a breakdown of the amount of land planted with various crops, the amount of annual rent and rent arrears and the number of livestock.
The local middle man was John Mc Cann, who does not fare well in local folklore, where it is held he was quite happy to carry out evictions himself.
The Strokestown Park Archive holds correspondence from him, include the following –
- forwarding £4 being the arrears of Widow Curly who has offered to quit her holding and enquiring if Mahon will ‘buy 4 Gallons of Potteen’ (25 Nov 1847);
- a letter from McCann claiming that John Kennedy will not give up possession unless McCann gives up Peter Duffy’s IOU for £6 10s and seeking permission to give the IOU to Duffy (7 Mar 1849).
- On 25 Nov 1847, in the following letter, he forwards £4, being the arrears of Widow Curly who has offered to quit her holding and enquiring if Mahon will ‘buy 4 Gallons of Potteen’ from her also:
Nov 25 th 1847
I enclose 1/2 notes for four pounds
handed me by James / jonny Scally which
pays Widow Curlys arrears up to
Nov 1846 & has instructed me
what leave ? I may give Widow
Curly on quitting. Major Kelly offered
her 5 pounds and to pay you 6 pounds of the
arrears. You are now paid the
whole arrear – will you buy 4 gallons of poteen
I am Sir
Your old Servant
John Mc Cann
The Bridge in Tarmonbarry, built c. 1845, was said to be a joint venture between Major Denis Mahon and Lord Granard of Newtownforbes. It was most likely tolled as was the Strokestown to Tarmonbarry road of its day. Opposite the golf course in Strokestown is the remains of an octagonal Toll House which has been renovated.
At the Strokestown Gathering in 2013, Richard Tye, the great grandson of little Daniel Tighe who left Strokestown in 1847, made a return visit from Quebec to his ancestral home. It caught the attention of our former Poet Laureate, Seamus Heaney, who said: “Strokestown’s plan for the return of the Tighes is characteristically deep and meaningful.’
Heaney was a regular visitor to the renowned annual Strokestown International Poetry Festival. Listen to or read his poem ‘At A Potato Digging’ which reflects on the Irish Famine here.
Caroilin Callery (Director, National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park House and Irish Heritage Trust) on Famine in Tarmonbarry as reported in Freeman’s Journal in May 1847:
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Corlea Track Visitor Centre