University supports expansion of the Famine Way

Professor Becky Whay, University of Galway; Caroilin Callery, Irish Famine Way; Captain Denis Rowan, RV Celtic Explorer; HE Nancy Smyth, Canadian Ambassador to Ireland; Rick Officer, Marine Institute CEO; and Anne O'Donoghue, CEO Irish Heritage Trust. Photo:Andrew Downes, xposure
May 01 2024 Posted: 12:24 IST

Marine Institute Research Vessel Celtic Explorer carries cargo of bronze replica famine shoes on symbolic journey to Canada   

University of Galway has supported the Marine Institute in a transatlantic initiative to expand the Famine Way internationally. 

Fifteen pairs of bronze replica famine shoes - which mark Ireland’s official Famine Heritage Trail from Strokestown, Co Roscommon to Dublin and symbolise the countless lives lost and forced migration of An Górta Mór/the Great Famine - are being carried on an historic journey to Canada aboard the Marine Institute’s Research Vessel Celtic Explorer.  

The Marine Institute hosted a special ceremony on board the vessel at Galway Port ahead of the shoes being brought to St John’s, Newfoundland. 

University of Galway Vice-President International Professor Becky Whay took part in the transatlantic crossing and events to launch the Global Famine Way. 

Professor Whay said: “We are taking pairs of these shoes on the voyage across to St John’s and in doing so we are retracing the journey of so many Irish citizens who were forced to take a leap into the unknown in an effort to survive. For University of Galway, we are so thrilled to be involved in this project. The connections with Canada and deepening our relations with Canada are so important, and this is symbolic of that as well as the famine journey.” 

A pair of bronze replica famine shoes will be installed in The Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in St John’s marking the first part of the expansion of the Famine Way.  

The shoes were crafted by artist Alannah O'Kelly. They are based on a pair of shoes found in a disused 19th century thatched cottage and were originally placed on the path from Strokestown to Dublin to remember and symbolise the countless lives lost and the forced migration of Irish people during the Great Famine. The Famine Way will later be expanded further into Canada and the US, Liverpool and Australia, with the aim of raising awareness about its enduring impact on Ireland and Irish communities worldwide. 

The Marine Institute partner with Strokestown House to bring the shoes to Canada aboard the RV Celtic Explorer 

Caroilín Callery of the National Famine Way, said: “We are delighted and grateful to partner with the Marine Institute to have the Bronze Shoes brought on this leg of their journey to Canada. It is symbolic and important to us that their voyage mirrors the journey of the famine emigrants they represent – following the path they took in 1847.”  

Dr Rick Officer, chief executive of the Marine Institute, said: "We are honoured to bring the Bronze Famine Shoes to Canada aboard the RV Celtic Explorer. This journey represents a powerful symbol of solidarity and remembrance, highlighting the enduring legacy of the Great Irish Famine and its impact on Irish communities around the world. It is fitting that the bronze shoes, a poignant symbol of our past, are now being carried on a journey aboard Ireland’s state of the art research vessel connecting history with the promise of tomorrow. 

The Atlantic crossing for the RV Celtic Explorer - Ireland’s largest national research vessel – will also lead to a research expedition and significant survey along the western Greenland shelf as part of the Biological Carbon Export in the Labrador Sea (BELAS) survey.  

This international, collaborative, interdisciplinary survey is being led by Dr Brain Ward, University of Galway, with partners from Dalhousie University of Nova Scotia and Memorial University of Newfoundland. It is supported by Ship-time funding from the Marine Institute, the Canadian Research council, the Ocean frontiers Institute (Canada) as well as the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre in Applied Geosciences, based at University College Dublin (iCRAG)  


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