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.
We are asking participants to consider raising sponsorship for Afri, so that we can continue our important work. If you would like to do so, please get in touch with the Afri office and we will post you out a sponsorship card. If you would prefer not to raise sponsorship you can register online here or pay €24 on the day – which includes the registration fee and cost of the bus to the start of the walk.
A small but enthusiastic crowd gathered on the Guildhall steps in Derry on a wet weekday afternoon, 21st September 2016 (International Day of Peace), for a famine walk. They were welcomed by Mayor Hilary McClintock. From the Guildhall the walk went to the former Poor House at Glendermott Road and then on to St Columb’s Park House for refreshments and chat. As a regional and transport hub, Derry would have received many starving incomers during the Great Famine, presenting themselves at the Poor House door where the famine walk stopped and remembered those who suffered and died.
Organised by Waylon Gary White Deer for Afri, with Concern backing, the walk leader was Linda Ervine of the Turas Irish language project at East Belfast Mission, some of whose members came on the walk. Linda Ervine drew attention to the fact that the Protestant community, and she is from a Presbyterian background, also suffered in An Gorta Mór, but that history had been hidden. Other speakers included Waylon Gary White Deer, Rob Fairmichael for Afri, and Helen Henderson of St Columb’s Park House, and sean nós singer Noeleen Ní Cholla performed a couple of songs including Éirigh suas a stóirín.
This Walk was part of Afri’s Famine Landscape Project and was organised in partnership with St. Columb’s Park House.
“The Famine is an awful wound on the Irish psyche and we don’t talk about it enough. I think we should have a national day of grieving when we all go a river bank or the sea or a lake and just grieve for all who died of hunger and as a result of Colonialism.”
These were the words of Damien Dempsey as he spoke at the Famine Walk which began at the Garden of Remembrance and ended at Glasnevin Cemetery on Saturday, August 27th 2016. The theme of the walk was ‘Gan Bia, Gan Béal, Gan Ainm” (Without Food, Without Voice, Without Name) and it was organised as part of the Afri-Choctaw Famine Landscape Project.
The event was introduced by Choctaw Gary White Deer and the context and relevance of the walk was outlined by Joe Murray. There was music from RoJ and Paul as well as David Fury before we headed for Glasnevin in glorious sunshine. (more…)
To mark the national famine commemoration day a famine walk was held in Drumshanbo on Sunday, September 11th 2016. The walk took place from St Patrick’s Church to the famine graveyard a short distance away, where a wreath was laid and a tree planted to the memory of the famine dead. The walk was organised by Bryan Ryan a student of Drumshanbo traditional music school run by Mossie Martin.
The walk consisted of over sixty people which included Sinn Fein councillor Brenden Barry and Nancy Woods of Drumshanbo Comhaltas as well as poets and musicians from around Leitrim, A bass drum played by Ronan McManus of the four Green fields flute band lead the walk as it made its way to the famine graveyard where over 500 victim’s of an Gorta Mor are buried. The graveyard was attached to the old pre emancipation Church of Murhaun which stood there in 1744 before St Patrick’s Church was built in 1851 closer to the village. (more…)
A Great Hunger commemoration walk led by Damien Dempsey will proceed from the Garden of Remembrance to Glasnevin Cemetery on Saturday, 27 August, at 2:00 PM. The theme of the walk is “Gan Bia, Gan Beal, Gan Ainm” (Without Food, Without Voice, Without Name) and is being sponsored by Afri.
Glasnevin Cemetery has the largest mass grave in Ireland, with tens of thousands of victims of Ireland’s Great Hunger interred. Names of all Famine victims have been kept in the Glasnevin registry, highly unusual for Famine mass burials. “Through remembering, healing happens” said walk organiser Choctaw Gary White Deer. In 1847, the Choctaw donated monies for Irish Famine relief.
“It’s our duty to pass on the true history, brutal and beautiful, to the children, and they might see they have more in common than they thought with less fortunate people around the world now” Damien Dempsey said. “Everyone is very welcome to come along” he added.
Other walk leaders include: Choctaw Gary White Deer, musician RoJ, and Justine Nantale (Uganda).
“We were very pleased with this year’s Afri Famine Walk in Northwest Donegal” said Máire Nic Fhearraigh, a walk organiser. “Participants came from as far away as Dublin.”
Called “Seeds of Hope and Remembrance”, the nine-mile journey originated on Saturday 4th June in Dunfanaghy and ended in Falcarragh. Walkers stopped along the way to lay flowers at a Famine mass grave. “When Noleen Ní Cholla sang a beautiful sean nós song at graveside, it stirred something there. Everyone felt the spirit of what we were doing. We carried that spirit with us on our walk” Nic Fhearraigh added. (more…)
Around thirty people gathered for Afri’s 3rd annual food sovereignty assembly, which took place in the town hall in Westport on the 20th May this year to examine food sovereignty issues and to explore what practical steps are necessary to implement the ideas of the Food sovereignty Proclamation which was agreed and posted in 2015. Among the questions discussed at this year’s event were: how can we accelerate the transition to a low carbon, fair and resilient society?; how can we produce both food and energy in ways that reduce greenhouse gases and their negative impact on the planet? Among the many suggestions was to continue to have April 24th – the actual date of the 1916 Rising – as a food sovereignty day in future years as it was this year.
A series of memorable events will take place in Mayo on May 20th and 21st as part of a Famine Walk week-end, organised by Afri.
On Friday, May 20th the 3rd annual ‘Food Sovereignty Assembly’, bringing together people involved in many aspects of growing, distributing and cooking food, will take place in the Town Hall in Westport from 2pm to 6pm.
On Saturday May 21st the Doolough Famine Walk will take on added significance, one hundred years on from the 1916 Rising. Remembering and commemorating acts of resistance in Ireland and abroad have been key themes of the Walk since its inception. (more…)
Saturday, May 21st, Registration from 12.45pm (€20 per adult participant)
Delphi Lodge to Louisburgh, Co. Mayo
The first Dromore West area Famine walk took place on Sunday, October 18th at the Dromore West workhouse in West Sligo. The Walk began at St Farnans Shrine, Doonaltonin and after an initial welcome at the Holy Well, walkers made the journey of four miles along country roads back to Dromore West workhouse. Organised by the Afri Choctaw Famine Landscape Project and LEAP Community Project in Easkey, the purpose of the walk is to “commemorate, heal through remembering and stand in solidarity with those who still suffer in a world of plenty” said Máire Nic Fhearraigh, a walk organiser.
The Afri Famine Landscape project has held Famine walks in Derry, Falcarragh, and Ballyshannon. Gary White Deer, a Choctaw, was the walk leader for the West Sligo commemoration. In 1847, the Choctaw donated monies to help feed Irish Famine victims after undergoing similar suffering. “Let’s honour Ireland’s forgotten” said White Deer, referring to the unmarked Famine grave at the Dromore West workhouse. “And then together we can walk into the future remembering others.”
Afri gratefully acknowledges the support of Concern Worldwide
Around thirty people gathered at the Guild Hall on Friday, July 31st 2015 to take part in Derry’s first Famine walk.
Deputy Mayor of Derry city and Strabane District council, Thomas Kerrigan of the DUP officially launched the walk which was also addressed by Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness. Helen Henderson, director of St. Columb’s Park House, spoke about the importance of the walk and the danger of history repeating itself. She warned especially about the dangers of TTIP – the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, a series of trade negotiations being carried out mostly in secret between the EU and US. TTIP is about reducing the regulatory barriers to trade for big business, regarding things like food safety law, environmental legislation, banking regulations and the sovereign powers of individual nations and has been described as “an assault on European and US societies by transnational corporations.”
Following the opening speeches, walkers proceeded from Guildhall Square across the Peace Bridge to the Londonderry Poor Law Union Workhouse, located on Glendermott Road, the Waterside. First opened in 1840, Derry’s workhouse didn’t close its doors until 1948. The Walk had been called “The Longest Walk”, referring to the 13 steps to the workhouse master’s quarters that starving families once had to climb to ask for admittance. (more…)
Report by Gary White Deer
They began in late May of this year on a Saturday afternoon, 85 walkers starting from the old Famine storehouse in Falcarragh, the Afri banner carried by a South African and Ghanian living in Donegal, people all flowing together through the town and then surging on past the edge of things, out by Saint Finian’s. Minutes before, a flower basket had been lowered from the same storehouse window that grain had once been sold from during Famine times, grain sold to waiting families who were starving.
The flowers were meant for the mass Famine grave at Dunfanaghy, a small yellow bouquet passed from hand to hand. The air was cool and thick and the clouds brimmed with the smell of rain. The walkers proceeded in a long and winding line as they came onto the back roads and laneways, curving and twisting before Muckish Mountain, moving slowly out of the Gaeltacht toward a distant Famine workhouse. They were from all over Ireland, but many were from Northwest Donegal and so Ulster Gaelic was spoken up and down the winding line. (more…)
Dublin launch of an Afri development education resource by
featuring 5 short plays on global justice themes with suggestions for follow up activities suitable for school groups, youth theatres, college students and others
And release of ‘Turned Away’ – a specially composed instrumental piece by the multi-talented
“A beautifully evocative melody” – Tom Sparkes
Live music with Imogen Gunner & Friends and reflections by Pete Mullineaux
Imogen’s CD and Pete’s book will be available to buy on the night.
Please book in advance: Tel: 01 8827581 or email: email@example.com
Funded by Irish Aid’s World Wise Global Schools
Whenever Rosemary Grain looks out her office window, she steps through a time portal. Below her third storey office, hungry families once gathered holding half a crown. A bag was lowered from the window, and the coin was placed inside. Then food was lowered back down through the same window. Why the bag? So workers wouldn’t catch Famine fever.
Now called The Yard, previously Mc Carthy’s store, the building in Falcarragh where Rosemary works was once a Famine storehouse. “The starving waited anxiously at a spot near the front door for the food to be lowered in a bag from where my office is on the top floor. Those distributing the food were terrified of catching any diseases from the poor famine victims of the parish. I often look out the window and think of the desperation our ancestors must have gone through.and how fortunate we are to live here now,” says Rosemary, administrator and Information worker at The Yard, which houses Pobail le Cheile Community Development (LCDP).
At the end of this month, the old Famine storehouse will host “In the Footsteps of our Ancestors” a Famine commemoration walk, which will leave from The Yard and head to the Workhouse Museum in Dunfanaghy. “It’s a great way to commemorate the famine. The involvement of Waylon Gary White Deer is very symbolic because Choctaw Indians, sent money to the Irish during the famine. The Choctaws themselves had suffered great tragedy, having been displaced from their homelands and forced to move to Oklahoma in the 1830s – the infamous Trail of Tears. They sent $174 to Ireland.” Rosemary adds. (more…)
The purpose of the walk is to honour the sacred memory of Ireland’s Famine dead; to heal the wounds of Ireland’s Famine through living remembrance; to raise food sovereignty awareness; and to place the Great Famine in solidarity with those who yet suffer from lack of food, water, shelter and other human rights.
With guest speakers, music, poetry. Tea, coffee and refreshments on arrival (bring own water and snacks for the walk). Shuttle bus available for the return journey.
Social afterwards in The Gweedore Bar, Falcarragh, Saturday 30th May from 9pm.
To see who’s going see facebook event page here
The Irish-Choctaw Famine Link
In the spring of 1847, ordinary Choctaw people donated $170 (€8,000) from ‘meagre resources’ to the victims of an Gorta Mór, the Great Irish Famine. Described as an act of ‘one poor, dispossessed people reaching out to help another’ the money was used to buy wheat for Ireland. This unique Famine link is an ongoing legacy of solidarity and remembrance between the Irish and Choctaw peoples.
Famine History Presentation Talk on Friday 29th May, 8pm in The Yard, Falcarragh (The Old Famine Storehouse)
Organised by Afri and supported by Concern
Many themes have been explored in the Famine Walk over the past 27 years. The Philippines was the focus of the first ever famine walk as Niall O’Brien, recently released from prison, outlined the experience of living under the Marcos military dictatorship. Significantly, the Philippines is again a focus of this year’s walk as Maitet Ledesma updates us on the current situation there, with particular reference to the devastating impacts of militarism and global warming.
The issue of food and famine has always been a central theme of the walk, as it is this year. As nations continue to turn to war as a first resort, in many cases, food security is further threatened, global warming is intensified and corporate control of food is extended, despite the fact that small-scale producers remain the mainstay of global food supplies. Food sovereignty is the common ground on which the realities and hopes of many of these small producers meet. (more…)
“During the 1840’s a new disease was found in the Irish potato crop… By May 1846 the price of potatoes in Carlow had risen to fifteen shillings per barrel. This was about three times the normal rate. The situation continued to worsen rapidly. At the end of 1846 the crop had completely failed and no potatoes were available in the County” – The Famine in Carlow
IT Carlow chaplain, Fr Martin Smith spoke about the profound significance of this famine graveyard, situated in the grounds of the college. He stressed the need to be silent in this sacred place, to become aware of those buried there and to embrace the reality that these were real people, as real as the students who are now attending the college, largely unaware of the extraordinary history associated with the ground on which they tread. Church of Ireland Minister, Reverend Williams lives close to the graveyard and referred to the strong presence that can be felt there. Three to four thousand Famine victims lie buried together in Carlow Town, many of them children. The veil is thin in such places.
“The Poor Relief Extension Act 1847 empowered Guardians to grant relief at their own discretion to the aged and infirm and to widows with two or more dependent children. The Guardians were also empowered to grant food aid to able-bodied persons for limited periods… In Carlow the guardians were firmly against such measures. This attitude gave rise to the overcrowded conditions in Carlow Workhouse from late 1846” – The Famine in Carlow
When the potato blight hit Ireland, only the lumper variety was affected. Over one million men, women and children died because they had been forced to depend on a single crop, the lumper potato, though enough food was being exported out of Ireland to have sustained them. If ignored, such epic human trauma stays trapped within a nation’s soul.
Last February, we gathered again in Carlow Town. Afri partnered with the Carlow Institute of Technology and with Carlow County Council. A pilgrimage was made from the Institute to the cemetery, where a strong spirit was felt and a Famine memorial unveiled. Such healing acts of remembrance let us see more clearly how essential biodiversity is for human survival, that there is still enough to eat in the world and that access to food and water are basic human rights which in solidarity, we must all work to ensure.
Report by Gary White Deer
“Community Pays Tribute to Famine Victims During Walk” in the Carlow People
Former speaker at Féile Bríde, Kathy Kelly has just begun a 3-month prison term, having been arrested when she went to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of Whiteman Air Force base Missouri, which operates drones over Afghanistan.
Here is an update from Voices for Creative Nonviolence, the organisation of which Kathy is the Co-ordinator:-
Co-coordinator of Voices for Creative Nonviolence, Kathy Kelly will turn herself in to the federal prison camp in Lexington, KY on Friday, January 23. She will begin serving a three-month sentence for her June 1, 2014 protest of drone killings at Whiteman Air Force Base, in Missouri.
Kelly asserts that drone warfare jeopardizes the security of ordinary people and that the U.S. Constitution protects her right to assemble peaceably for redress of grievance. She was arrested when she went with Georgia Walker and other activists to the gates of Whiteman Air Force Base to deliver a loaf of bread and a letter to the commander of the base, which operates drones over Afghanistan. At her trial in December, Federal Magistrate Matt Whitworth found her guilty and sentenced her to three months. (more…)