The Great Famine Voices project brings together Irish emigrants, their descendants, and members of their communities to share family memories and stories.
In doing so, it is creating a poignant record of those who came from Ireland to North America and Great Britain, especially during the period of the Great Hunger but also in the years that followed.
The Great Famine Voices Roadshow is inspired by the search for the 1,490 former tenants who were forced to emigrate to North America from the estate of Major Denis Mahon at Strokestown Park, now the site of the National Famine Museum, at the height of the Great Famine in 1847.
It was cheaper for their landlord to pay for their emigration to Canada (via Liverpool) than it was to keep them in the Roscommon poorhouse. Only about a third of them survived traumatic journeys to build new lives in the UK and North America.
The Great Famine Voices Roadshow is an ambitious project that is building a detailed picture of memories and stories about the Irish emigrant experience that are at risk of being lost.
What is the Great Famine Voices Roadshow?
The roadshow brings together people from across Ireland, the UK, and North America through open house events, online events and short films. Participants share in poignant and uplifting conversations about the experience of leaving Ireland and putting down new roots.
A collaborative effort
Descendants, historians, ambassadors, and government agencies have joined the National Famine Museum and the Irish Heritage Trust in this ambitious project, which is funded by the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme. Partners include the Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University, the University of Toronto, and the ADAPT Centre at Trinity College, Dublin.
It is estimated that over one million people emigrated to escape the horrors of the Great Irish Famine (1845-1847). Some preferred to leave the past behind them and did not talk about their experiences as their way of coping with the trauma.
But others spoke or wrote about their experiences. Some of their stories were passed down from generation to generation before being shared with the Great Famine Voices project.
Stories from the Great Famine Voices Roadshow
Watch stories from the roadshow to connect with famine emigrants and their legacies.
Strokestown Famine Orphans in Quebec and New York
The descendants of Strokestown’s Edward Neary, Patrick and Thomas Quinn, and Daniel and Catherine Tighe share their ancestors’ traumatic stories of crossing the Atlantic in coffin ships in 1847 to start new lives in Canada and North America.
Sarah Parker Remond – A Feminist Abolitionist
Sarah Parker Remond visited Ireland in 1859 to win support in the fight against slavery, even as her own country was hurtling towards a bloody civil war. A life-long friend of Frederick Douglass, Sarah made her own unique contribution to abolition on both sides of the Atlantic.
William Henry Lane “Master Juba” – the Father of Tap Dance
Master Juba is widely recognised as the father of tap dance, yet little is known about his personal life. He visited Ireland in 1849, when the country was slowly emerging from devastating famine, and he used his remarkable artistry to challenge stereotypes as well as entertain.
[The Great Famine Voices website is packed with resources and information about emigration experiences]