Short film about the 2017 Afri Famine Walk in Mayo

For 30 years Afri has walked the famine road through the Doolough Valley in County Mayo. It is a walk like no other, abounding in memory, music, history, solidarity and spectacular beauty; retracing the steps of the dispossessed of the past and forging solidarity with the banished and oppressed of today.

The 2017 walk linked the experience of Irish people fleeing on coffin ships or being condemned to workhouses during An Gorta Mór in the nineteenth century with those crossing the Mediterranean in flimsy, rickety boats today, some of whom, if they survive, may end up in Direct Provision Centres for asylum seekers in Ireland.

A short film of the walk was made by RoJ (see above)

Reflections from the 30th annual Famine Walk

Reflections on the 30th Famine Walk from Rob Fairmichael

‘Music from A Dark Lake’ – CD of music from the Doolough Famine Walk available to buy from Afri now! Buy online at www.afri.ie/donate or contact us directly

On 20th May 2017 a couple of hundred people set out  on the 11 mile walk from Doolough/Delphi Lodge for Louisburgh in bright, early summer weather, and it remained dry and bright. They had earlier heard Joe Murray, Danny Cusack and Donnah Vuma speak, and Joe Black sing. The theme, of this the 30th annual walk, was not just the commemoration involved in the Famine Walk but the inhumanity of the Direct Provision system for asylum seekers in Ireland today which treats people not as human beings but as numbers. A tree was planted in Delphi Lodge which again welcomed walkers, a stunning contrast to 1849. These are The Facts.

But what about The Feelings? Every walker has their own feelings, their own reason for undertaking this 11 mile walk.  Remembrance and commemoration are the principal reasons and some people would fast during the walk as an act of solidarity. There is also the challenge of a long walk, and if people are not able then a shuttle car takes them onward. There is beautiful scenery, interesting conversation – on the theme or everything else under the sun – and interaction with others. Those who stay in Louisburgh for the evening enjoy ceol, ól agus craic. But for most being there is also a physical statement of their commitment to justice and peace in the world today. (more…)

Famine Walk 2017: From Hunger and War…to a Home and a Welcome?

‘Bog Cotton’ by Choctaw artist Waylon (Gary) White Deer. The painting, among other things, features the Workhouse and the Direct Provision Centre.

From Hunger and War…to a Home and a Welcome?

Saturday 20th May, Doolough Co. Mayo

Registration from 12.45pm in Louisburgh Town hall

Beginning at 1.30pm

Walk Leaders: Donnah Vuma, Abjata Khalif, Danny Cusack

Music: Joe Black

***Register online here***

See also 2017 Famine Walk brochure

For 30 years Afri has walked the famine road through the Doolough Valley in County Mayo. It is a walk like no other, abounding in memory, music, history, solidarity and spectacular beauty; retracing the steps of the dispossessed of the past and forging solidarity with the banished and oppressed of today. 

Extraordinary people have walked this road over three decades and extraordinary stories have been told: stories of food and famine; of oppression and denial of human rights; of wars, violence and the impact of climate change; but also stories of courage and determination; of inspiration, illumination and motivation. And music, song and theatre from some of our greatest artists have been integral parts of every walk. (more…)

Date for your diary: 30th Afri Famine Walk

Donncha O Dulaing (centre) leads the first Famine Walk in 1988

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.

To register online go here or check out our facebook event page.  If you  are planning on doing the Famine Walk please contact the Afri office for a sponsorship card – admin@afri.ie or 01 8827563.

 

General Information

  • Please assemble in Louisburgh for registration at 12.45pm. 
  • There will be an approximately 15 min opening ceremony, including speakers and music – this is a very important part of the Famine Walk and we would encourage all participants to be present for this part of the event.
  • Buses will bring walkers to start point from 1.30pm. 
  • A tree will be planted at the start of the walk at the Famine Memorial in Delphi Lodge before walkers return to Louisburgh. 
  • There is no parking available at Delphi Lodge. 
  • The walk is approximately 11 miles (18 km) and a shuttle car will be available along the route if needed.
  • Comfortable shoes, raingear and water are strongly recommended.
  • Tea/coffee (but not food) will be provided at a halfway point along the way.  There will also be toilet facilities at the halfway point as well as along the lake.
  • IN THE INTEREST OF HEALTH AND SAFETY, PLEASE WALK ON THE LEFT HAND SIDE OF THE ROAD FOR THE DURATION OF THE WALK.

Sponsorship

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.

Walking With Spirit

Famine walk leader, Linda Ervine, right, holding the Afri banner crossing over the Peace Bridge in Derry with the Guildhall in the background. Nuala Crilly of St Columb's Park House is holding the banner on the left.  Photo: Rob Fairmichael

Famine walk leader, Linda Ervine, right, holding the Afri banner crossing over the Peace Bridge in Derry with the Guildhall in the background. Nuala Crilly of St Columb’s Park House is holding the banner on the left. Photo: Rob Fairmichael

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.

Famine Commemoration: Without Food, Without Voice, Without Name

Damien Dempsey leads the walk from the Garden of Remembrance to Glasnevin cemetery organised as part of the Afri-Choctaw Famine Project. Photo by Derek Speirs

Damien Dempsey leads the walk from the Garden of Remembrance to Glasnevin cemetery organised as part of the Afri-Choctaw Famine Landscape Project. Photo by Derek Speirs

“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…)

Famine Walk in Drumshanbo, Leitrim

resizeTo 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…)

Damien Dempsey to lead Dublin Famine Walk

Choctaw Gary White Deer in Glasnevin Cemetery

Choctaw Gary White Deer in Glasnevin Cemetery

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).

Spirit Felt During Famine Walk

Nóilín Ní Cholla sings sean nós song An Mhaighdean Mhara to walkers at Famine Graveyard in Dunfanaghy

Nóilín Ní Cholla sings sean nós song An Mhaighdean Mhara to walkers at Famine Graveyard in Dunfanaghy

“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…)

Reflections from the Food Sovereignty Assembly and Famine Walk

The 2016 Famine Walk began at Delphi Lodge, led by walk leaders Cathryn O'Reilly and Clare O'Grady Walshe (the other walk leader not present here is Rafeef Ziadah) among others. Photo by Derek Speirs

The 2016 Famine Walk began at Delphi Lodge, led by walk leaders Cathryn O’Reilly and Clare O’Grady Walshe (the other walk leader not present here is Rafeef Ziadah) among others. Photo by Derek Speirs

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.

Rafeef Ziadah speaking during the Afri Famine Walk in Mayo. Photo by Derek Speirs

Rafeef Ziadah speaking during the Afri Famine Walk in Mayo. Photo by Derek Speirs

(more…)

Famine Walk 2016


Mairtín OConnor family

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…)

Food Sovereignty Assembly 2016

Food Sovereignty Assembly 2016 p1 (more…)

Date for the diary: Famine Walk 2016

Famine Walk 2016 poster

Famine Walk 2016: Memory, Solidarity, Sovereignty

Saturday, May 21st, Registration from 12.45pm (€20 per adult participant)

Delphi Lodge to Louisburgh, Co. Mayo

To register go here. See also facebook eventpage here.

Walk Leaders:
Rafeef Ziadah (Palestine)
Francisco Cali-Tzay (Guatemala)
Clare O’Grady Walshe (Ireland)
Cathryn O’Reilly (Dunnes Stores Strike)

 

Music: Máirtín O Connor
(special fundraising gig for Afri with Máirtín & family in the Derrylahan, Louisburgh at 8.30pm on Saturday 21st)

(more…)

West Sligo Famine Walk

Gary White Deer at the Dromore West Workhouse in Sligo

Gary White Deer at the Dromore West Workhouse in Sligo

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

Derry’s First Famine Walk

Crossing Derry's Peace Bridge during the Famine Walk on the 31st July 2015

Crossing Derry’s Peace Bridge during the Famine Walk on the 31st July 2015

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…)

‘In the Footsteps of Our Ancestors’

Donegal1 WEB

Walkers at the Falcarragh to Dunfanaghy Famine Walk. Photo: Máire Nic Fhearraigh and Moses Alcorn

 

“They walked to carry the message of food sovereignty, a warning to not ever depend on a single crop, nor a crop seed that carries calculated impotency.”

 

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…)

Just A Second!

L

Dublin launch of an Afri development education resource by

Pete Mullineaux

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

Imogen Gunner

“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.

When:  Wednesday August 5th 2015

Time:   6.30pm – 8pm

Where: Liberty Hall, Dublin 1

Please book in advance: Tel: 01 8827581 or email: admin@afri.ie

Find out who’s going on facebook here

 

Funded by Irish Aid’s World Wise Global Schools

Donegal Famine Walk: A Portal of Hope

Rosemary Grain

Rosemary Grain

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…)

‘In The Footsteps of Our Ancestors’ Famine Walk

Choctaw Gary White Deer

Choctaw Gary White Deer

‘In the Footsteps of Our Ancestors’

Famine Walk, Saturday 30th May 2015, 1pm

Starting at The Yard, Falcarragh (The Old Famine Storehouse)

To the Dunfanaghy Workhouse Museum (approximately 9.5 miles)

 

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

Famine Walk 2015: Food Sovereignty, Global Warming and Resisting Militarism

Photo: Kerstin Hellman.

Photo: Kerstin Hellman. Photo shows famine memorial on grounds of Delphi Lodge.

 

Food Sovereignty, Global Warming and Resisting Militarism

Saturday, May 16th 2015

From  Delphi Lodge to Louisburgh, Co. Mayo.

Registration from 12.45pm; Walk beginning at 1.30pm

Walk Leaders: Abjata Khalif (Kenya), Maitet Ledesma (Philippines) and Sharon Staples (Wales)

Music: RoJ Whelan

 

 Please park cars in Louisburgh: no parking available at Delphi Lodge – a shuttle bus will be provided.

 

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…)