‘Walking in the Footsteps of the ‘Missing 1,490’ – A Famine Emigrant’s Walk’ to Launch the Programme for the Inaugural Irish Famine Summer School.
‘A more fitting vehicle to explore and engage with the most catastrophic event in 19th Century Europe than a Channel 4 TV Comedy.’
Hundreds of people – across five counties – are to take part in a dramatic re-enactment of one of the most brutal and poignant chapters of the Irish Famine which claimed the lives of over a million people and saw a million more emigrate between 1845 and 1850.
In May of 1847, the worst year of the Famine, 1,490 people from Strokestown in Co. Roscommon walked 155kms. from Strokestown to Dublin and were then transported to Liverpool where they boarded four “coffin ships” which took them on a nightmare journey to Quebec in Canada.
The group, 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”), starvation on their blighted potato patch farms or a place in the terrifying local workhouse.
On Saturday April 18th a group of five Strokestown natives, who hope to be joined by hundreds of others along the way through Counties Roscommon – Longford – Westmeath – Meath – Kildare and Dublin where many events are planned as they go – will re-trace the steps of the Canada bound “Black ’47” emigrants who got from Strokestown to Dublin by walking on the tow-paths of the Royal Canal.
Historian Dr Ciarán Reilly, Maynooth University discovered in his research into the period, in the Strokestown House archive, that the 1,490 men women and children were “walked under the close surveillance of the Mahon estate bailiff John Robinson on the canal towpaths all the way from Strokestown to the Quays in Dublin and then on to Liverpool where they boarded four different ships for the perilous voyage to Quebec.
Seven of these 1,490 were the Tighe / Tye Family. When Bernard Tighe died in Strokestown in 1847, his Widow Mary, along with her five children and her brother, took the emigration scheme being offered by Mahon in an attempt to save her family. And she did; but paid with the price of her own life and the lives of three of her children. When the ship, Naomi docked in Grosse Ile Daniel, aged12 and Catherine, aged 9 were all that remained of the Tye family. The Tighe’s were representative of 100’s of Strokestown families and 1000’s of families nationwide. This walk is the last journey they took together as a family.
As part of the Launch of the Official Programme for the Inaugural Irish Famine Summer School which is being held in the Percy French on Friday 17th April, the next morning a group of natives from Strokestown along with Cathal Poirteir and Mick Blanch will re-enact the c 155 km journey from Clondra to Dublin via the Royal Canal, over five days. Setting off on Sat 18th April they will arrive at Spenser Dock on Weds 22nd – having stopped overnight in Abbeyshrule / Mullingar / Enfield and Maynooth along the way. At each venue the local History Society will give a talk on Famine in their locality – full details closer to the time. Watch out for events in your area. In Dublin they will embark the Jeanie Johnston as their final destination. That evening the Dublin Launch of the Official Programme will be held in St Stephen’s Green.
June 2015 will see the first ever Famine Summer School in Ireland. Rather fittingly it is being held at the Irish National Famine Museum housed at Strokestown Park House in Co. Roscommon, home also to the renowned ‘Strokestown Archive’ – acknowledged as the most important Famine Archive worldwide. The Summer School is a joint project with the Irish Heritage Trust, Strokestown Park, the Strokestown Community Development Assoc and Roscommon Co Co. This Inaugural Irish Famine Summer School is also in association with Quinnipiac University, Connecticut USA and the University of Toronto, Canada.
This project grew directly from the 2011 onwards International Famine Conferences and the Strokestown Community Gathering Celebration of 2013 – in the words of the late Seamus Heaney : “Strokestown’s plans for a return of the Tighe’s is characteristically original and meaningful.” which saw the return of Daniel Tye’s Great Grandson to his native town of Strokestown, 166 years on and re-united him with his relations – the Strokestown Tighe family.
The Irish Famine Summer School includes 3 days of well-known experts from all over the globe – Canada, USA, Northern Ireland, Australia, Europe and the Republic of Ireland and also includes the Fourth Annual International Famine Conference with more than 30 papers on the ‘Local and Regional Impact’ of the Great Famine.
The walk will also act as a fundraiser with 60 % funds being divided between four Strokestown Community groups – Active Age, The Hub Community Cafe, the Bros of Charity and the Men’s Shed and 40% towards the Famine Summer School. Donations can be made online at the charity website – http://www.sponsor.ie – any support would be greatly appreciated. Just select Irish Heritage Trust under Pick a Charity and click into Irish Heritage Trust when it appears and you will see the info on the Irish Famine Summer School Famine Emigrant’s Walk and the option to donate or the direct link to donation page is http://www.sponsor.ie/charity/theirishheritagetrust/
For full details of the amazing Irish Famine Summer School Programme see http://www.irishfaminesummerschool.com