The National Famine Way Commemorative Walk and launch of Global Irish Famine Way

PRESS RELEASE issued on behalf of the National Famine Way 13th May 2024

The National Famine Way Commemorative Walk takes place over six days from Monday 20th to Saturday 25th May 2024. It will be led by the Ambassador of Ireland to Canada, Eamonn McKee and representatives of the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail to mark the launch of the Global Irish Famine Way. The Commemorative Walk is free, accessible and open to everyone in the six counties it passes through to join in. Starting at the National Famine Museum | Strokestown Park in Roscommon, it follows the National Famine Way™ for 165km to EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin’s Docklands.

The walk begins with a dramatic re-enactment of the events in 1847 which prompted the foundation of the trail including traditional musicians, school children and walkers dressed in famine costume. Members of the Tighe family, whose ancestors were evicted, will read the names of the 1,490 tenants forced to leave their homes in Strokestown, march to Dublin and emigrate to Canada on the worst of the infamous coffin ships. Only half of the emigrants survived. Their names are etched on a commemorative glass wall outside the National Famine Museum.

The National Famine Way™ traverses six counties and each is staging commemorative events as the walkers pass through. The National Famine Way™ is a collaboration between Waterways Ireland, the Irish Heritage Trust and the county councils along the route. The local authorities involved are Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Kildare, Fingal, and Dublin.

Bronze-shoesThe symbol of the National Famine Way™ is a pair of children’s shoes displayed at the National Famine Museum. The trail is waymarked by bronze replicas crafted by artist Alannah O’Kelly as a poignant reminder of the journey the 1,490 souls made. Ambassador McKee, the Liverpool Irish Famine Way walkers and children from local schools will carry a symbolic pair as they make this evocative pilgrimage.

Caroilín Callery, National Famine Way, said, “We are getting close now to the 2024 commemorative walk – the first since the trail was officially launched in 2019. I am very much looking forward to doing it for the 5th time as it is always a thought provoking and enriching experience. This time it is all the more special as it being led by the visionary Ambassador Eamonn Mc Kee who has been a driving force behind the development into the Global Irish Famine Way.

“Our emigrants did not stop in the Quays in Dublin their journeys spread far and wide around the world and it is only fitting to tell the second part of their stories as they carved out new lives on foreign shores and had worldwide influence over the decades and centuries to follow which is still being felt worldwide today. And we can see and feel that in the huge interest and warm welcome the Bronze Shoes have received already in this inaugural phase”.

The official launch of the Global Irish Famine Way will be at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum when the walkers arrive on Saturday 25th May. It is an extension of the National Famine Way and will be the largest heritage trail in the world. It will eventually follow the journeys of all the Irish Famine emigrants around the world, including the UK, Canada, the United States, South Africa, and Australia. The Bronze Shoes that mark the National Famine Way will also mark each significant location on the Global Irish Famine Way. It begins in 2024 with Canada and the UK (Liverpool). Representatives from each are taking in the commemorative walk.

Fifteen locations have already been secured in Canada including Grosse Île, St John’s Newfoundland, Quebec City, Montreal, Ottawa. Toronto, Niagara, Saint John Partridge Island, Saint Colomban and Hamilton. Evoking the initial journey, these bronze shoes travelled by sea from Galway to Newfoundland on the Marine Institute vessel the RV Celtic Explorer. A series of commemorative events will mark their arrival.

The first pair of shoes destined for Liverpool will be carried on the Commemorative Walk and then on to Liverpool on ‘The Walk of the Bronze Shoes’. The Liverpool walkers will escort the bronze shoes by ferry to Holyhead; by road to Birkenhead and by ferry to Mersey Ports. From there, they’ll walk the shoes to Clarence Dock, where 1.3m Irish Famine poor were brought into Liverpool during An Gorta Mór. The group will carry the shoes to the Irish Famine Memorial at St Luke’s Church. Church.

Organisers hope that the National Famine Way Commemorative Walk will become an annual event following National Famine Commemoration Day (which falls on Sunday 19th May this year). The National Famine Way™ is open to walkers at any time and the route and associated stories can be followed through a free app. Walkers can also purchase an official passport to get stamped along the route.