National Famine Commemoration

The National Famine Commemoration 2024 takes place at The Green, Edgeworthstown, County Longford, on Sunday, 19 May from 12pm to 1pm.

This is the State commemoration of the Great Famine, 1845-52.

Longford County Council is delighted to have been awarded the holding of this national event. The event is led by the Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport, and Media.

Tickets to the National Famine Commemoration

Tickets are available on Tickets are free, but limited and will be released in stages. If tickets are currently not available, please call back soon. 

Supporting events

A countywide programme of events supports the National Famine Commemoration, helping people to learn more about how the Great Famine affected County Longford. These events include:

Talk on The Heritage Potato and the Loss of Old Varieties by Maria Flynn

Takes place in the Yard Hub, Abbeyshrule on Monday, 13 May at 7.30pm. No booking is required.

The potato is a nutritious food that is a staple in many parts of the world. It has been part of the Irish diet for centuries. While the date and exact circumstances of its arrival are unclear, it probably came here in the late 16th century. The most
widely used variety before and during the famine was the Lumper.

Maria Flynn and her husband David run Ballymakenny Farm, near Drogheda, County Louth. They produce speciality potatoes including Pink Fir Apple, Red Emily and Violetta. Pink Fir Apple potatoes date back to the famine, while Violetta developed from a parent variety that itself goes back to that period.

Maria’s talk will show that there are many varieties and colours of a vegetable that we all take for granted.

Lecture: Maria Edgeworth’s Social Conscience: Temperance and Famine Relief by Dr Lucy Cogan

Takes place in Edgeworthstown Community Library on Tuesday, 14 May at 7.30pm. No booking is required. 

Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849), novelist and educationalist, spent much of the end of her life working hard to alleviate distress in the Edgeworthstown area. She wrote several appeals for funding, including to contacts in the USA and to the Society of Friends (the Quakers), which ran a major relief programme in Ireland. Through her efforts, she raised significant funds. In 1848, Maria wrote her last book, a novel for children entitled Orlandino, which was sold to raise money for famine relief.

Dr Lucy Cogan is an Assistant Professor in the School of Literature, Drama and Film in UCD. Her interests include drinking studies, medical humanities and Irish women’s writing. She is the Principal Investigator of the Wellcome Trust funded career development project, ‘Drinking Cultures: The Cultural Reception of Medical Developments Related to Alcohol in Ireland 1700-1900’, which will run 2023-2028.

Lecture and performance: The Fiddle Tradition of Thomas ‘Blind’ Kiernan by Dr Conor Ward

Takes place in The Ninety-Eight Hall, Ballinamuck on Wednesday, 15 May at 7.30pm. No booking is required.

Thomas ‘Blind’ Kiernan (c.1807-87) was a fiddle master from Drumlish, Co. Longford. He was both a renowned performer and teacher in south Leitrim and Longford. He performed in taverns, at cross-roads dances and at ballroom dances held by local landlords. Arguably, Kiernan’s greatest legacy is a fiddle tradition he developed, which continues to flourish. Fr John Quinn PP, Gortletteragh, County Leitrim, has a collection of fiddle music of national importance, including an original manuscript used by Kiernan, dating from 1844-46.

Dr Conor Ward is a native of Annaduff, Co. Leitrim. He is a chartered accountant and an accomplished fiddle player and teacher. In 2018, he completed a PhD in Dundalk Institute of Technology on the fiddle tradition initiated by Thomas Kiernan and developed by his pupils. Dr Ward is a founding member of Cumann Ceoil Chonmhaicne, which preserves and passes on Kiernan’s tradition.

Lecture: Reflections on Granard Workhouse by Sr Maeve Brady RSM

Takes place in Granard Community Library on Thursday, 16 May at 8pm. No booking is required. 

The workhouse in Granard, which stood close to Cnoc Mhuire Secondary School, was one of two in Longford during the famine. It opened in 1842, with capacity for 600 people, and the poor law union it served included bordering areas of Cavan and Westmeath. Like all workhouses, it was swamped during the famine: in February 1847, there were 747 inmates and even higher numbers in the following year. After the famine, the workhouse continued to house poor and infirm people. It closed in 1921 as part of the formal winding-down of the poor law system.

Sr Maeve Brady is a Sister of Mercy, living in her native Granard. After teaching in Cnoc Mhuire, she founded and ran the Rath Mhuire Community Resource Centre in the town, and its companion Dolmen Resource Centre in Aughnacliffe. Sr Maeve was centrally involved in the County Longford Decade of Centenaries Programme.

Guided visit: The Famine Cemetery by Martin Morris

Takes place at St Joseph's Care Centre, Longford on Friday, 17 May at 7pm. Assemble at the Padraic Colum memorial. No booking is required. 

Longford Workhouse occupied the site of St Joseph’s Care Centre. Built to accommodate 1,000 people, it opened its doors in 1842. The workhouse served a poor law union that covered most of the county and parts of neighbouring Leitrim and Roscommon. During the famine, the board of guardians (which ran the workhouse), had to acquire additional premises, including at Market Square, on Great Water Street and in Mullagh, outside the town. The cemetery opened in 1844 and continued to be used after the workhouse became the County Home in 1921. Sadly, there are no records of those buried there.

Martin Morris is the County Archivist with Longford County Council and the PRO of County Longford Historical Society.

Children's Activities

Children's Storytelling

Award-winning storyteller, author and dramatist Órla McGovern will hold storytelling sessions for local schools in Ballymahon Library on Monday, 13 May and Longford Library on Tuesday, 14 May.

Potato Stencilling Workshops

Children are invited to join well-known local artist Anna Wiercioch to learn stencilling using potatoes at the following venues:

  • Granard Library on Tuesday, 14 May from 3:30-5pm. Call 043 668 61 64 to book. Booking is essential. 
  • Longford Library on Wednesday, 15 May from 4-5:30pm. Call 043 334 07 27 to book. Booking is essential.
  • Lanesborough Library on Thursday, 16 May from 4-5:30pm to book. Call 043 332 12 91 to book. Booking is essential.

Primary Schools’ Exhibition on the Great Famine

Visit Edgeworthstown Community Library from Monday, 13 May to Friday, 17 May to see projects about the Great Famine which were produced by children in St John’s National School, Edgeworthstown, and Scoil Bhríde, Glen, with the help of their teachers.

Art Workshop with members of the Ukrainian Community

Visit Edgeworthstown Library from 10.30am to 1.30pm on Saturday, 18 May to learn some traditional Ukrainian arts and crafts in a session open to adults and children. Booking essential. Call 043 334 33 35 to book.

Walk along the National Famine Way

From Monday, 20 May to Friday, 25 May

The National Famine Way commemorates the walk of 1,490 people from Strokestown, County Roscommon, to Dublin in 1847, mostly along the route of the Royal Canal.

They were emigrating to Canada as part of a scheme organised by their landlord, Major Denis Mahon, who owned the Strokestown Estate. Bronze shoes mark important locations along the way and there are six in Longford.  This year’s walk will be accompanied by bronze shoes that are destined for installation in Liverpool, which was on the route of the Strokestown party.

The second day of the walk, Tuesday, 21 May, will cover 30km from Clondra to Abbeyshrule. Walkers will set off at 9:30am and arrive at their destination by 5pm.

Enchanted Croí Theatre, Strokestown, in collaboration with the National Famine Way, will deliver a project called ‘Pass The Shoes 24’. It will provide educational theatre workshops to primary schools based on the National Famine Way. The schools will also be invited to participate in a section of the walk along the National Famine Way. Schools participating in the County Longford leg include Scoil Mhuire, Clondra, Tashinny NS and St. Sinneach’s NS, Colehill. This project, which is video documented, will move from county to county and content devised from the workshops will be used in making an art video. The walk will arrive in Dublin, 25 May and the video will be presented at an arrival ceremony at the EPIC Emigration Museum