The compelling Great Irish Famine Archive – most of which has not seen the light of day in over 170 years – was discovered by chance by Mr Jim Callery in 1979 and led to the establishment of the National Famine Museum at Strokestown. Containing over 55,000 documents in relation to the Great Irish Famine of the 1840s, it is a complete record of economic, social and estate history over a 300-year period. Document by document it tells the story of the Strokestown estate and those who lived there. Among them are pleas of tenants for work, for aid and for clemency.
Since the 1990s, academic studies have been carried out providing major insights into the stories contained within the papers. Assisted emigration and the plight of the landless labourers and cottier class have been two very significant areas of interest. Some 1,490 tenants were part of an ‘assisted emigration’ scheme to Canada during the famine period and this has led to a research programme by the University of Toronto to uncover the life stories the ‘Missing 1490’ which is slowly following family threads through time in America and Canada.
Realising the full potential of Strokestown Park’s unique asset, the Archive, requires full-time professional attention. This will open up the multiple stories contained within these documents for everyone to learn from. The Archive has been protected from further decay, is secure and partially catalogued. A dedicated environmentally controlled archive room has been created above the stables and our ambition is to create a study centre within the stable wing. We are now appointing an archivist to start the process of cataloguing and categorising these records to identify key themes to share publicly and to develop initiatives to encourage local skill development as well as learning and participation.
If you wish to contribute to this project, please contact us or click on the Donate link below. More information will follow in the coming months.
“The archive is one of the largest collections of famine documents in the world ……….most of these documents have not seen the light of day since they were generated almost 170 years ago’”. Dr Ciaran Reilly, Maynooth University, Ireland