Famine Heroes

The National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park and the Irish Heritage Trust Great Famine Voices Roadshow 2020 “Famine Heroes” virtual events season of short films and post-show discussions provides uplifting stories about coping with epidemic and pays tribute to caregivers, both in the mid-nineteenth century and today. It is funded by the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme.


Ireland’s Great Hunger and the Irish Diaspora (50:08)  



The Famine Irish Legacy in Buffalo, New York, explores the reception, settlement patterns, cultural, political, and social impact, and historical memory of the arrival of Famine Irish emigrants and their descendants in Buffalo, New York, with Professor William Jenkins (York University, Toronto).



National Famine Commemoration Day 2020 Ceremony



Minister Josepha Madigan pays tribute to Famine Heroes at National Famine Commemoration 2020 Ceremony in St Stephen’s Green, Dublin, 17 May.


See RTE News Coverage of the National Famine Commemoration

Excerpt from Josepha Madigan, T.D., Minister for Culture, Heritage and Gaeltacht’s Address at the National Famine Commemoration Ceremony in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin, May 17th 2020:

One of the most enduring memories of the international impact of the Great Famine is the contribution to relief by the Choctaw Nation – themselves no strangers to suffering – which has its echo in the contributions by Irish people to recent fund raising initiatives on behalf of Native American communities affected by COVID-19.

Other names that come to mind include the Polish Count Paul Strzelecki who did such important work in so many towns and and Dr. George Robert Grassett in Toronto, and the many doctors and nurses who put themselves at risk to care for the victims who had fled the Famine on the notorious coffin ships.  They will always have our thanks for their courage.

As a people, we have through the generations sought to repay the gift of their generosity of spirit by the contribution of our missionaries and aid workers throughout the Developing World.  As our society has changed and evolved, this commitment to helping others has never wavered and continues to this day.

In her poem Quarantine, the late Eavan Boland movingly evoked the efforts of a loving husband to support his wife with the last of his strength, when she said:

“She was sick with famine fever and could not keep up.

He lifted her and put her on his back.”

The heroes of the Famine that we honour today also sought to lift and carry those who fell or could not keep up.  That same spirit of caring and self sacrifice that is embedded in the caring professions, is being seen again today as our health workers embrace the challenge of caring for those affected by Covid-19.

We honour and respect these modern-day heroes and value their courage.  Perhaps we can best show our appreciation for their work, and the efforts of their forebears during the Great Famine, by adhering to those small acts of heroism we are called upon to perform in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to come though these testing times, just as our ancestors once did.

Read Minister Josepha Madigan’s full National Famine Commemoration Speech here.




Following in the Footsteps of Strokestown’s Famine Emigrants (48:53)



Following in the Footsteps of Strokestown’s Famine Emigrants.  

A documentary presented by Professor Mark McGowan who follows in the footsteps of emigrants from the Strokestown Park House estate of Major Denis Mahon, now home of the National Famine Museum. They were assisted to emigrate in 1847, though in reality had little choice. He follows in their footsteps along the National Famine Way walking trail on the banks of the Royal Canal to Dublin, and then  on to Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site and the Niagara region in Canada.


The Story of the Choctaw Gift (28:40)



The Story of the Choctaw Gift

A documentary about the Choctaw donation for Irish Famine relief in 1847 shortly after the Choctaw people themselves were expelled from their traditional homelands and forced to embark on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. It features a musical performance of The Gift in the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park. Professor LeAnne Howe (University of Georgia and member of the Choctaw Nation), Professor Christine Kinealy (Quinnipiac University), and Dr Padraig Kirwan (Goldsmiths, University of London) share this riveting story of compassion, indigenous cultural values of giving, reciprocity, and the musical performance of cultural memory.


Montreal’s Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger (32:42)


In 1847, approximately 75,000 people fled across the Atlantic from famine-stricken Ireland to Montreal. Those suffering from infectious diseases such as typhus were cared for in the city’s fever sheds by the Grey Nuns or Sisters of Charity. The most detailed and evocative eyewitness accounts of the suffering of Famine emigrants in North America can be found in their annals. Discover the stories of James Flood from Strokestown and Rose Brown from Galway who were cared for by the Grey Nuns after losing their parents. Learn about the miracle of Rose’s marble which led to her reunification with her mother and vocation to join the Grey Nuns as Sister St. Patrice.  Over six thousand Irish emigrants are buried in Montreal, the largest Famine Irish mass grave outside of Ireland, which is marked by the Black Rock memorial. This burial ground has been recently excavated. The film pays tribute to Montreal’s Famine Irish and their Canadian caregivers. You can watch the post-show discussion here.


Count Strzelecki’s Legacy: A Polish Irish Famine Hero (19:31)



Frederick Douglass in Ireland (27:48)


The film gives an overview of Frederick Douglass’s life-changing time spent in Ireland at the beginning of the Great Famine in 1845-1846. Irish actor Kwaku Fortune reflects on Douglass’s legacy for new communities in Ireland. You can watch the post-show discussion with the film makers and Black and Irish founders Femi Bankole, Boni Odoemene, and Tobi Lawal here.


Great Famine Voices Liverpool Irish Festival (44:46)


Witness Famine and migration accounts of Liverpool’s Irish community, recorded for the Great Famine Voices Roadshow as part of an ongoing partnership between the Irish Heritage Trust, the National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park, and the Liverpool Irish Festival. The Great Famine Voices Liverpool Irish Festival short film features interviews with members of Liverpool’s diverse Irish community, many of whom are of Famine Irish ancestry.


Remembering James Hack Tuke: Emigrant Descendants (29:00)


Emigrant descendants of James Hack Tuke’s migration schemes from Counties Galway and Mayo during the “Forgotten Famine” of 1879-1882 pay tribute to the Quaker Philanthropist who rescued their ancestors from poverty to start news lives overseas. You can watch the post-show discussion here.