12 people, dressed in period costumes, will walk 155 kilometres from Strokestown to Dublin over the coming days as part of the 2017 National Famine Walk.
The National Famine Walk takes place from May 27th to June 1st and aims to follow in the footsteps of the 1,490 tenants from Denis Mahon’s estate who were forced to emigrate to Canada during the summer of 1847.
Day One, Saturday May 26th, will see the group walk from Strokestown to Clondra and then from Clondra to Mosstown. The route runs along the Royal Canal with the destinations being Spencer Dock, the Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship, and Rowan Gillespie Famine sculptures in Dublin city centre.
The story of the tenants’ fate after they left Dublin is a harrowing one. They travelled on open deck packet steamers to Liverpool where they waited in the cellars of quayside buildings at Liverpool docks to board their ships to Canada. The four ships they boarded – Erin’s Queen, Naomi, The Virginius and The John Munn – were badly fitted out and poorly provisioned. Almost half of those who embarked died aboard ship or in the ‘fever sheds’ at Grosse Isle when they arrived in Quebec. Of course, this was not known to them as they walked along the Royal Canal to Dublin, away from hunger and hoping for a better life.
The event begins, as it would have done in 1847, with a “Canadian Wake” in the Percy French Hotel, Strokestown at 8pm. Admission is free and all are welcome.
The Famine walkers’ journey can be followed in real time at www.nationalfamineway.ie. The National Famine Walk organisers are inviting local people to join them for stretches of the journey any time during the six days.