artist placing hundreds of glass potatoes in historical tower

‘1845: Memento Mori’ Irish tour of glass famine memorial launches at Strokestown Park

An installation of 1,845 hand-blown glass potatoes 1845: Memento Mori is set to arrive in Ireland from the USA for the first time, to be exhibited as a touring exhibition in multiple venues across the island of Ireland in 2021/22.

The site-specific work will be firstly presented at the historical gazebo tower within the walled gardens of The National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, Co. Roscommon from 29th May –10th July 2021, kicking off a multi-venue tour over the next few years. This touring exhibition will be virtually launched on Saturday 29th May at 12noon (GMT) by Irish Ambassador to the US, Dan Mulhall as part of the Irish Famine Summer School Conference.

1845: Memento Mori is a Famine Memorial dedicated to the Irish Potato Famine, made by Seattle based Irish artist Paula Stokes and has taken 15 years to complete. 1845 is significant as it references the year that the potato blight came to Ireland, marking the beginning of a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration. This Famine Memorial will also be exhibiting at Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens in County Wexford (17 July - 21 August); the Ulster American Folk Park in County Tyrone; and the National Museum of Ireland- Country Life in County Mayo.

The form of the installation differs in response to specific locations, changing shape and volume depending on light, accessibility and exposure of each site. In previous installations it has taken the form of a cairn - a traditional stone pile - which implies a grave or burial mound that represents the one million people that died from starvation and related diseases in Ireland between 1845 and 1852.

“We are delighted that the Irish Heritage Trust is hosting such a memorable outdoor exhibition at two of our historic properties in Roscommon and Wexford (Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens) .It is fitting that the first venue for artist Paula Stokes on Irish soil is to be here at The National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park, and launched during the Irish Famine Summer School”, said Dr. Emma O’Toole, Collections & Interpretation Manager at the Irish Heritage Trust, which cares for and manages the property. “The story of the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s has particular resonance at Strokestown. Tenants on the estate were hugely impacted, many emigrated or died, and a previous owner of the house and local landlord, Major Denis Mahon was assassinated in November 1847 at the height of the Famine,” she continued.

As a modern-day member of the Irish Diaspora, Paula Stokes reflects on her own history as an immigrant to examine historical events that have shaped the present. “In creating this work, I honour my Irish heritage and culture, and I’m thrilled to be bringing this installation to my home country after 15 years of working on the project,” she said. “I would like to thank the Irish Heritage Trust for believing in me, and for the opportunity to premiere the work in Ireland at Strokestown Park. Its specific history and connection to the Famine adds significant meaning to the interpretation and viewing of the work.  I believe 1845: Memento Mori will resonate with a wide variety of audiences as it reminds us of our own fragile humanity and serves as a connection between shared human experiences in the past and present”, concluded Paula Stokes.


  • Video about 1845: Memento Mori: https://vimeo.com/527461400/07d559bda8
  • Entrance to the Installation is included in the gardens entry fee €9.25.
  • The 1845: Memento Mori catalogue is on sale at €7.00.
  • This project has been generously supported by the Thomas Dammann Junior Memorial Trust.
  • Social Media: #1845FamineMemorial
  • Photo: Ann Welch “1845: Memento Mori, blown and sandblasted glass, 2019”



Photo of Johnstown Castle with lake view in front


We look forward to welcoming you to Johnstown Castle Estate, Museum & Gardens, Wexford’s greatest surviving country estate, to enjoy the recently restored Gothic Revival Castle which is open for guided tours for the first time. To avoid disappointment please note that Castle tours need to be booked.  The castle tour includes the adjoining 86 metre original servants’ tunnel, believed to be the longest in the country and also opening to the public for the first time. To book, telephone 053 9184671 or click here.

An entirely new ‘3 in 1’ attraction is now open at the castle, museum and gardens. A new visitor centre is open in the castle courtyard including an extensive shop specialising in local products and a 120 seat café with outdoor terrace. No booking is required to enjoy the Ornamental Gardens and Walks or the Irish Agricultural Museum, providing a nostalgic journey through Irish farming and social history.

The Irish Heritage Trust, an independent charity, was announced in 2015 as the successful applicant to work with Teagasc, the Irish Agricultural Museum and the local community to develop a new and exciting visitor experience at Johnstown Castle which includes the famous Daniel Robertson Ornamental Gardens.

The Johnstown visitor experience also offers access to the stunning lower lake area to meander and explore, as well as new parking and entrance arrangements with ample car and coach parking. www.johnstowncastle.ie




Johnstown Castle on RTE Nationwide

We are delighted that RTE Nationwide aired a full programme on Johnstown Castle, Estate, Museum and Gardens on Monday 20th May showcasing the new 3in1 attraction and the history of Johnstown Castle and the Irish Agricultural Museum.  Watch here on the RTE Player.

Go to the Johnstown Castle website to book your castle tour to avoid disappointment.


Dublin, 15th January 2018: The Irish Heritage Trust today announced the election of Clare McGrath as its new Chairman. Ms McGrath brings a wealth of experience in the fields of heritage and management to the Trust following a distinguished career in public service. Her knowledge of the heritage sector in Ireland is combined with a passion for the inclusive strategic approach to share authority and benefit the communities that surround the Irish Heritage Trust’s historic properties.

“I am delighted to have the opportunity to lead the Irish Heritage Trust into this exciting period of development. Over the last eleven years, the Trust has successfully demonstrated ways to create greater public benefit by developing new ways of operating. This is visible at Fota House & Gardens (Cork), which is now financially secure and brought back to life with vibrant participation initiatives and significant community support,” said Ms McGrath.

Ms McGrath qualified as a barrister from King’s Inns and in 2003 was appointed as a Commissioner in the Office of Public Works (OPW), the first woman to join its Board within its then 170-year history. Clare was appointed Chairman of the OPW in September 2009 and remained in that role until her retirement in late 2016.

Clare McGrath succeeds James Osborne who died in August 2017 and who served on the Board since the Trust was established in 2006 and had been Chairman from 2012.  “I would also like to take this opportunity to acknowledge the work of James Osborne who was committed to the Trust for over a decade, the last five years as Chairman.  He energetically led the Trust and had a particular interest in encouraging business to get involved and match the support and commitment made by local communities to Trust properties,” she continued.

In addition to acquiring Fota House in 2007, the Irish Heritage Trust became responsible for Strokestown Park and the National Famine Museum (Roscommon) in 2015 and is partnering with Teagasc and the Irish Agricultural Museum to undertake conservation work and develop a new and exciting visitor experience at Johnstown Castle, Estate and Gardens (Wexford) in 2019. The Trust is based in No. 11 Parnell Square, Dublin and is working in partnership with Poetry Ireland to open up the property for public access through the creation of the Poetry Ireland Centre.

What was Christmas in the past really like?

We are so lucky at the Trust to have properties where traces of Christmas past still remain. At Strokestown Park the focus is on a ‘Victorian Christmas’, greenery is brought in from the estate to ‘deck the halls’ and one tree is decorated with original Victorian candle holders left by the Pakenham-Mahon family. At Fota we know what life was life both above and below stairs on Christmas Day. On Christmas morning the family went to church and delivered Christmas gifts to their tenants. For lunch on Christmas day, the family served themselves a cold lunch (one of the few times they served themselves at lunch or dinner) while the servants ate their Christmas dinner downstairs. In the evening the family changed into fancy dress costumes that they kept in a big trunk in the attic. At exactly 8 o'clock they returned downstairs and the servants assembled in rows at either side of the hall and bowed to each family member as they went past into the Dining Room (was this a show of deference or was it to play along with the fancy dress theme?) The family would then drink from a loving cup and eat their lavish dinner.  Their dinner usually consisted of a humungous turkey and all the trimmings plus of course a Christmas pudding made the previous Christmas, so that it was extra rich and dark. Once finished eating they played games in the Library late into the night.

You can hear more about Christmas at Fota here where Patty Butler, Fota's former maid recalls her Christmas memories.

You too can experience the magic of Christmas in the 'Big House'! Why not book:

The Magic of Santa at Fota House or

Victorian Christmas at Strokestown Park

Merry Christmas from Fota House & Gardens & Strokestown Park, and from everyone at the Irish Heritage Trust.

Children house tour Fota House


National Heritage Week 2017 takes place from 19th to 27th August. At Fota House and Strokestown Park we have an exciting schedule of events lined up for the week.  Come and engage with your heritage!

With free admission all week, Fota House Arboretum & Gardens will operate a busy programme of events, including 'Restoration in Practice' with Justin Laffan, a Baroque concert in the Gardens, dedicated children’s tours and much more.

Strokestown Park offers a range of activities including a talk on the hidden 17th century Chapel and plans for its conservation. There will be free access to the walled garden on the 26th of August as well and Poetry and Folklore walking trails. 

Please check the Fota House and Strokestown Park websites for more information.

Johnstown Castle Teagasc Irish Heritage Trust


We were delighted to host the “Johnstown Open Days” with Teagasc and the Irish Agricultural Museum during the summer.  The public were invited to see what is happening at the wonderful Johnstown Castle, which is just outside Wexford town. Hundreds of people enthusiastically came through the doors of the Castle over two days. They enjoyed hearing about the exciting plans for the future and there was plenty of goodwill and support for this project, which includes a new visitor centre.  As it is such a large property, the work is happening in phases.   

In the meantime, the beautiful grounds are open all year round as well as the Irish Agricultural Museum which houses exhibitions designed to display and explore the collection of folk, farming, rural history and objects from the turn of the 18th century until the middle of the 20th century.
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Heritage Week

Heritage Week

Heritage Week will run from the 20th to the 28th August. Both Strokestown Park House and Fota House, Arboretum and Gardens are running a series of events in the Gardens and the house.

For more information Click Here!

Fota House event Cooking with Caroline for Christmas

Cook with Caroline for Christmas

Get into the festive spirit at “Cook with Caroline for Christmas” at Fota House on the 10th November @8pm. Healthy eating habits don’t have to go by the wayside over Christmas and Caroline will give plenty of creative ideas for the festive season!

For more information Click Here!