Launch of National Famine Way Passport/Guide

PRESS RELEASE

  • Printed passport, map and guide with 27 stage stamps
  • Local communities to benefit with expected €2 million economic impact
  • Trail available 365 days a year for walkers and cyclists

10th September 2020: A new interactive outdoor experience the National Famine Way, was launched today by the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park with the establishing of a unique National Famine Way Passport/Guide and OSI Trail Map.

The 14-page National Famine Way Passport/Guide highlights local historical landmarks and allows walkers and cyclists to record their progress with 27 stage stamps along the specially developed route. The Trail details the ill-fated journey of 1,490 famine emigrants who walked from Strokestown Park to ships in Dublin in 1847, at the height of the Irish Famine. A completion certificate is awarded at the end of the Trail at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum.

The National Famine Way is an accredited 165km Heritage and Arts Trail from Strokestown Park, Co. Roscommon through six counties to Dublin, mostly along the Royal Canal. With its captivating layers of history and culture, the Trail is designed to be accessible for families, schools, casual walkers and cyclists, through to famine and historical enthusiasts. It offers a safe, recreational option available 365 days a year in a self-guided and paced format with signposting and trailheads along the route.

The new Passport/Guide is centred around the walk of one of the original famine walkers from Strokestown Park – 12 year-old Daniel Tighe – who remarkably survived the horrific journey to Quebec, Canada on one of the worst famine ships. Award-winning author Marita Conlon-McKenna has written vignettes reimagining Daniel’s journey in 1847 and connected to over thirty pairs of bronze children’s shoes interspersed along the route.

The National Famine Way is an integrated County collaboration between the National Famine Museum, Waterways Ireland and County Councils along the route. The Trail is topped and tailed by iconic museums – The National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park and EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum / Jeannie Johnston Replica Ship. The Passport/Guide explains the historical and cultural landmarks, broken down into distinct sections from 1km to 15km, through Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Kildare, Fingal, ending in Dublin City Centre.

Describing what walkers and families are likely to experience, John O’Driscoll, General Manager of the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park said: “We look forward to welcoming official walkers starting from the National Famine Museum where they can get a real understanding of the Famine. We are delighted that we are now offering a Passport/Guide and OSI Trail Map to accompany this thought-provoking Trail where the #Missing1490 embarked on their journey. Walkers/cyclists are also given a ship ticket and information on one family whose footsteps they will follow, making the Trail especially evocative. As the Trail is over 165km long we envisage that many walkers and cyclists will wish to complete sections of the trail over time. The official Passport/Guide includes a 10% discount to the entrance price of the National Famine Museum as well as the Jeanie Johnston Replica Famine Ship/ EPIC The Irish Emigration and other Museums along the route”. *

Acknowledging the commitment and support of numerous partners in the project, Anne O’Donoghue, CEO of the Irish Heritage Trust, which cares for Strokestown Park and the National Famine Museum, said: “We would like to thank Roscommon County Council for their generous support and vision for this significant project which is designed to make history and heritage accessible in an engaging way.  In addition, the commitment over the last ten years of Waterways Ireland in creating the Royal Canal Greenway by investing over €5 million, means that the National Famine Way is now available to everyone. This Heritage Trail not only links two significant Irish Museums but also makes the connection between Ireland’s Hidden Heartlands and Ireland’s Ancient East. In addition to the health, historical, cultural and arts impact, the Trail also has the potential to open up rural Ireland and offer an economic boost to local communities with cycling hire, cafés, bars, shops and accommodation all benefiting with an expected economic impact of over €2 million spent along the route.”

Commenting on the historical and cultural importance of the initiative, Caroilin Callery, of the Irish Heritage Trust and National Famine Museum added, “As walkers and cyclists experience the natural beauty of the National Famine Way Heritage Trail, the Passport/Guide and OSI Map incentivises them to explore lesser-known sections by slowly unfolding the rich local history wrapped in the journey of famine emigrants. They will also be reminded of our history, through a mix of evocative storytelling, song, art installations and cultural centres along the route. The Passport/Guide brings the historical journey of the 1,490 Famine emigrants alive by allowing them to follow in their footsteps 173 years later.

To book your participation along the route, or for more information please go here:

*Although walkers and cyclists can avail of the Trail for free, the passport is on sale for €10 and available online and from the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park.  In addition to the passport stamping, guide and map it also offers discounted access to Strokestown Park House, Croke Park Museum, the Jeannie Johnson Famine Ship and EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum.

The National Famine Way Passport/Guide and OSI Map is an integrated inter County collaboration between Waterways Ireland and county councils along the route: Roscommon, Longford, Westmeath, Meath, Kildare, Fingal and Dublin. It has been developed by Strokestown Park House, the National Famine Museum, and the Irish Heritage Trust in partnership with Waterways Ireland and EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. This project was part funded by the Department of Rural and Community Development under the Outdoor Recreation improvement scheme

#Missing1490

In May of 1847, the worst year of the Famine, 1,490 people from Strokestown in Co. Roscommon walked 165kms from Strokestown to Dublin and were then transported to Liverpool.  They then boarded some of the worst “coffin ships” which took them on a nightmare journey to Quebec in Canada – only half of those who set-off arrived in Quebec.

The group of walkers, who subsequently became known as the “Missing 1,490”, were tenants of the local landlord Major Denis Mahon who offered them the grim choice of emigration (through “assisted passage”) or starvation on their blighted potato patch farms or a place in the terrifying local workhouse. The story of the #Missing1490 has led to a research programme by the University of Toronto to uncover the life stories the ‘#Missing 1490’ which is slowly following family threads in America and Canada.

Strokestown Park and the National Famine Museum

Archival documents discovered in Strokestown Park House reveal that 1,490 men women and children were “walked” under the close surveillance of the Mahon estate bailiff John Robinson along the canal towpaths, from Strokestown to the Quays in Dublin and then on to Liverpool where they boarded four different ships for the perilous voyage to Quebec.  Since 2015, Strokestown Park House & The National Famine Museum has been managed by the Irish Heritage Trust, an independent not-for-profit organisation. 

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