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 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.


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.

Gaelic translation:

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

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. 

The day was warm as the huge crowd of us began to fold up our blankets and throw water on our heads and faces to wake up and stretch ourselves for the next stage of our long journey to Dublin.

We were surprised to suddenly hear music. Much to our delight, as we got ready to leave Mullingar, a piper appeared down the lane, and sat by the edge of the bank and began to play the pipes for us.

The sound of the pipes filled the morning air. Their music lifted our hearts. Everyone listened, even Bailiff Robinson and his men, as he played his tunes. Reels and jigs and favourite tunes lightened our spirits. Catherine Anne Gilmartin, Bridget Holden, Marie Madden, Mary Cox and Ellen Sheridan all did a 6 hand reel. It warmed our hearts. We were glad to get such a kind farewell from the Mullingar Piper.

Pipers Boreen – Encampment and auxiliary workhouses

In 1806, the first canal boat reached the harbour at Piper’s Boreen on the south-eastern side of the town. Local pipers gathered along the boreen leading from the harbour to pipe the passengers off the boats. During the Famine years, they also played final farewell to numerous emigrants passing through Mullingar via the banks of the canal.

 The Royal Canal Amenity Group erected a stone monument at this location in the 1990s to commemorate and honour the Pipers.

In 1831, Mullingar Poor Law Union had a population of 70,000 with 7000 living in Mullingar. While there was an overall decline of 21% decline in the population of the union between 1841 and 1851, the population of Mullingar actually increased by 32%. This increase was due in great part to a large influx of country people into the cabin suburb of Cabbage Street and 1500 paupers in the workhouses. And in what must have resembled a pitiful site, many impoverished people fleeing the impoverished western districts crowded into temporary encampments along the canal bank.

Overcrowded, unsanitary conditions and starvation facilitated the spread of diseases. The two deadliest diseases in the town were dysentery, caused by the change in diet from potatoes to raw turnips and maize, and two forms of fever, relapsing or yellow fever and black or typhus fever, both spread by lice. April 1849 saw the return of cholera, a fatal bacterial infection spread through contaminated water sources. In 1848 with Mullingar Union facing bankruptcy, the union administrators decided to discontinue outdoor relief and reserve the workhouse for able bodied paupers. A series of auxiliary buildings were sourced for women, children and the infirm. These included a corn store near Moran’s Bridge (the Dublin Bridge) into which 100 infirm females were placed, as well as Hevey’s disused brewery on Linen Street, which housed 1000 children in December 1848. Rathconnell House and its converted stables, two miles from the town, was acquired for infirm males, as was an overcrowded byre-type farmhouse at Irishtown. For most entry into the workhouse was a last resort. When the new regime was introduced, 600 able bodied paupers refused to enter the main workhouse and thereafter nearly all who entered did so in a ‘dying state’. Mullingar Gaol, became a workhouse in all but name with reports of some people committing petty crime in order to access the better rations available there – built for 150, it housed over 300 after 1848. 

Pipers’ Boreen is said to be named after a famous eighteenth-century maker of pipes, Keena, who lived nearby.  This site has  been connected with Uilleann Pipes and Pipers over the centuries. It is renowned in folklore for its Pipers who during the Great Famine sat by the banks of the Royal Canal playing a final farewell to the stream of emigrants heading for Dublin. Perhaps they played for our 1,490 and lightened their hearts a little as they trudged on towards the city. You find a monument nearby to the Pipers erected by the Royal Canal Amenity Group.

The Uilleann Pipes were inscribed in 2017 on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity.     This important global accolade reflects heritage cultural practices that are considered to enrich all of humanity.   Uilleann piping is a musical practice which uses a particular type of bagpipe (known as the ‘uilleann’, ‘Irish’ or ‘union’ pipes) to play Irish music.

UNESCO has now agreed that Irish Uilleann Piping – often referred to as “The Sound of Ireland” – merits this recognition. As a result, the distinctive Irish musical art-form joins such other cultural expressions as the Argentinian Tango , the Armenian Duduk and its music , and the Baul songs of Bangladesh.

Older than Guinness, the Uilleann Pipes descend from an instrument introduced in the 1740s and were known as “The Irish Pipes”. It is a sophisticated instrument that provides more musical possibilities than any other type of bagpipe due to three different streams of sound.  Uilleann Piping had declined in the nineteenth century, but has since been successfully revived.

It is now a thriving art form in both Ireland and worldwide, where it is celebrated in 50 countries and on six continents. There are more than three thousand Uilleann Pipers throughout the world, playing Irish music on this Irish instrument in dedicated clubs throughout Europe and in North and South America, Australia, New Zealand and Japan.

See Uilleann Piper Colgan sending out Strokestown’s 1,490 Famine emigrants from Piper’s Boreen below:


Local Attractions


Please check ahead for opening hours as some are restricted / seasonal.

Note:   The Tourist Office is located at the Market Square in the centre of the town.  Market Square is also the location of a Statue dedicated to Joe Dolan, a Mullingar native and beloved Irish entertainer and pop singer for over six decades from the late 1950’s until his death in 2007.   Musicans – There were quite a few musicians in this area.. There was a famous maker of pipes in the  eighteenth century called Keena which contributed to the development of Uilleann Pipe  playing in this location


      Joe Dolan Statue

Jonathan Swift

Ulysses – James Joyce