There was a great turn out for the official launch of The National Famine Way on 30th May at The Epic Museum on Dublin’s Custom House Quay with singer Declan O’ Rourke playing a few of his renowned famine songs and doing the honours!
A group of Famine experts and enthusiasts and walkers set off to walk this New National Famine Way led off by Strokestown’s Caroilin Callery and Professor Christine Kinealy from Quinnipiac University’s Great Hunger Institute, Professor Mark McGowan of Toronto University and writer and broadcaster Cathal Poirteir.
I joined them for the farewell Canadian Wake in the Percy French Hotel and the next morning watched as the group re-enacted an eviction outside the gates of Strokestown Park House as they set off to walk along the Royal Canal to Dublin. Schools and walking groups and lots of people joined them along the way!
Six days later watching them arrive into the city, it was emotional to say the least to see them walk alongside Rowan Gillespie’s Famine figures and then board the Jeanie Johnson ship which is moored across from Epic.
The National Famine Way is a milestone project that commemorates the one hundred mile journey of 1,490 evicted tenants from Stokestown Park House in May 1847, who escorted by the Bailiff walked along the Royal Canal to Custom’s House Quay in Dublin. There they boarded ships bound for Liverpool and then on to Quebec in Canada. Many of the children were barefoot and needed shoes for the long walk to Dublin.
The National Famine Way marks their footsteps along the beautifully restored canal and its pathways with small stone plinths, each with a pair of bronze child’s shoes in over 30 locations along the way in the towns,villages and beauty spots that they passed through.
A digital app is available on the National Famine Way website which gives information about the canal way and local history and nature. I have recreated the story of Daniel Thighe, a twelve year old boy who walked all the way to Dublin on the Royal Canal with his mother and uncle and little brothers and sisters , all of them bound for Canada. You can read and listen to Daniel’s journey on the App.
The National Famine Way is a wonderful collaboration between the Great Irish Famine Museum in Strokestown, Waterways Ireland, Irish Heritage Trust and Trinity College’s ADAPT Centre and a large number of County Councils. I was very pleased to be asked to also come on board to help them with this exciting and interesting project.
The beauty of the restored canal and its incredible history, nature and wildlife make it a perfect place for people to walk and visit and explore. Don’t forget to look out for those little bronze shoes as you go!