Thirty years on the ‘Famine Road’ have generated many memorable moments and iconic images. On the first walk in 1988, walk leader Donncha O Dulaing arrived by helicopter to join Niall O’Brien, recently released from prison in the Philippines, and Mayo woman Caitriona Ruane, recently returned from Central America, before leading us off on the first ‘chapter’ of this extraordinary journey.
The following year, Brian Willson, having lost both legs while attempting to stop a train delivering arms from the US to Central America, was applauded as he bravely crossed the finishing line.
Desmond Tutu and his wife Leah were almost blown away with the force of the gale that blew up when they led the walk in 1991. It helped us all to understand a little better how it would’ve been for the hungry poor of 1849.
The voices of Juana Vasquez and Dario Caal, representing the Maya from Guatemala, echoed off the mountains as they spoke at the edge of Doolough about the importance of solidarity and how they believed they were walking with the spirits of our ancestors through the sacred Doolough valley in 1995.
And then the gates of Delphi Lodge were opened to the walk in 2013. We walked through the gates solemnly carrying the names of those who had died in the tragedy of 1849 and the names of those who died of hunger in our own day, in our world of plenty. We planted an oak tree, we planted potatoes supplied by Willie Corduff of Rossport and we listened to the deeply emotional rendition of ‘Connacht Orphan’ sung by its author, Declan O’Rourke.
Join us for the 30th Walk on May 20th 2017 where more extraordinary moments are sure to be generated.
Afri’s annual Doolough Famine Walk was featured on BBC Radio 4’s ‘Ramblings’ show and was selected as BBC Radio 4’s ‘Pick of the Week’ on Sunday 19th February. Listen to the show here.