Great Famine Voices 2022

Great Famine Voices Hamilton, Ontario (35:49) shares stories from the city’s descendants of Famine emigrants and members of the Irish Canadian Club of Hamilton near the location of one of Canada’s forgotten Irish burial grounds in Burlington Heights. They offer moving accounts of the growth of Hamilton’s Irish community from the tragic year of 1847 and the establishment of its close-knit Irish Canadian Club. The film is a National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park, Irish Heritage Trust and Canada Ireland Foundation co-production.

Please join us for its live screening premiere on Sunday May 29th at 5pm EST (10pm IST).

In Tracing Strokestown Famine Emigrants on the Welland Canal (33:58), Professor Mark McGowan from the University of Toronto follows in the footsteps of some of the 1,490 assisted migrants from the Strokestown Park estate (now home of the National Famine Museum) in 1847 who resettled in Canada’s Niagara region to find work on the Welland Canal. He uses newly discovered correspondence from the Strokestown Park Famine Archive between the landlord Major Denis Mahon and his agent John Ross Mahon to explain how the emigration scheme was planned. He also suggests that the horrific fate of former tenants who crossed the Atlantic on board coffin ships such as the Virginius and Naomi — where almost half of them perished — was less attributable to the landlord than previously thought, though he was assassinated shortly thereafter in retribution. In tracing their fate, the film brings to life the tragic and uplifting stories of Strokestown’s Famine emigrants who fled Ireland in 1847 to resettle on the Welland Canal.

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The National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park (6:32) is being launched by the Irish Heritage Trust to mark Ireland’s National Famine Commemoration Day, held in Strokestown Park on 15 May. The film provides a behind the scenes look at the National Famine Museum’s redevelopment where the story of Strokestown’s tragic past is brought to life through a captivating audio-visual exhibition.

The National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park showcases the Museum’s new state-of-the-art facilities, interactive displays, and evocative archival records that offer invaluable insights into the parallel lives of the cottiers, tenants and landlords who experienced the Great Irish Famine. The film explores the Famine migration from Strokestown in 1847 as a painful legacy that defines an educational mission and outreach activities such as Great Famine Voices, the National Famine Way, and the Famine Summer School to reconnect with Irish Diaspora communities.

The National Famine Commemoration Day ceremony was broadcast live from Strokestown Park on the RTÉ News channel on Sunday 15 May. You can view it here. 

Great Famine Voices New York State (59:08) shares the stories of Irish-American New Yorkers and the descendants of Famine Emigrants from the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany, the Irish Cultural Center of the Mohawk Valley in Utica, the Erie Canal Museum and Le Moyne College in Syracuse, and the Buffalo Irish Center. They recall how their ancestors left Ireland during the Great Hunger and afterwards to start new lives along the Erie Canal. The film is dedicated to Eileen Patricia McMahon Zogby in whose name an annual Irish lecture has been established at Le Moyne College in Syracuse. Her discovery that her ancestors fell victim to the Great Hunger inspired her sense of social justice to learn lessons for today as part of her enduring legacy.

The Famine Irish in Chicago (42:02) features Professor Sean Farrell who examines some of the ways that Famine Irish emigrants helped build modern Chicago and Illinois in the 1840s and 1850. He explores how the Great Hunger shaped the outlook of prominent Irish-Americans, such as Mary Harris, or Mother Jones, to fight for fairness and greater social justice.

Great Famine Voices comprises “Famine Heroes” short films, virtual gatherings and open house events that bring together Irish emigrants, their descendants, and members of their communities to share family memories and stories of coming from Ireland to North America and Great Britain, especially during the period of the Great Hunger and afterwards. A selection of these short films and family stories has been made freely available on the Great Famine Voices online archive: 

It is funded by the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme.

Famine Heroes 2021

Sarah Parker Remond – A Feminist Abolitionist in Ireland

Sarah Parker Remond – A Feminist Abolitionist in Ireland (17:54) tells the story of her visit to Ireland in 1859 to win support for anti-slavery, even as her own country was hurtling towards a bloody civil war. She followed her brother, fellow abolitionist Charles Lenox Remond, who lectured in Ireland on the eve of the Great Famine. 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

William Henry Lane “Master Juba” – the Father of Tap Dance (23:37). Master Juba is widely recognized 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 a devastating famine. Juba used his remarkable artistry to challenge stereotypes while also creating a new form of entertainment. 

Songs of the Great Hunger (with Brendan Graham)

Songs of the Great Hunger (38:51) shares the music of Brendan Graham performed at famine commemoration events in Ireland, Australia, and Canada. Brendan Graham and Eileen Moore Quinn explore the historical experiences of Irish emigrant communities during the Great Hunger that inspired classic songs such as Ochón an Gorta MórCrucán na bPáiste, Orphan GirlThe Whitest Flower, and The Voice.

Strokestown Famine Orphans in Quebec and New York

Strokestown Famine Orphans in Quebec and New York (35:14) recalls the harrowing journeys of children from rural Roscommon such as Edward Neary, Patrick and Thomas Quinn, and Daniel and Catherine Tighe who crossed the Atlantic in some of the worst coffin ships in 1847 to start new lives in Canada and the United States. Their sorrowful voyages are recounted by their descendants.

Teaching the Great Hunger in the United States

Teaching the Great Hunger in the United States (23: 23) is presented by Professor Maureen Murphy who developed the New York State Great Hunger Curriculum and is historian of The Hunger Memorial in New York City. She reflects on teaching the Irish Famine, the Hunger Memorial, and the role of women such as Asenath Nicolson in alleviating hunger and homelessness in the past and present.

Exploring Collective Memory : rencontre à Grosse-Île

Exploring Collective Memory : rencontre à Grosse-Île (32:53) is a teacher training film recovered from the archives that follows English and French student teachers on an educational visit to Grosse-Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site in Quebec to learn about the Famine Irish migration to Canada in 1847. It explores the role of the Irish in shaping teaching practices for immigrant communities. Courtesy of Professor Marie McAndrew and Université de Montréal.

Great Famine Voices Roadshow Manchester

Great Famine Voices Roadshow Manchester (1:13:21) tells the story of the Famine Irish migration to the city and legacy of its Irish community. Mervyn Busteed provides a tour of Manchester’s Famine Irish neighborhoods and sites such as Angel Meadow and Little Ireland while recounting the history of the Great Hunger migration to the city in 1847. Mancunians of Irish descent recall their ancestors’ arrival and settlement in these formerly impoverished and now iconic areas at this link.

Songs of the Irish American and Canadian Diaspora (with Brendan Graham)

Songs of the Irish American and Canadian Diaspora (44:06) shares Brendan Graham’s music that was inspired by the historical experiences of Irish migrant communities in the United States and Canada. It features stirring performances of Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears about the arrival of Annie Moore on Ellis Island, March to Battle (Across the Rio Grande) with Liam Neeson and Paddy Moloney and the Chieftains about the San Patricios battalions during the Mexican-American War, the haunting emigrant lament The Fair Haired Boy, the creation of a “transatlantic Ireland” on The Coast of Labrador, and the rousing anthem O, America! Renowned singers Séan and Dolores Keane, Cathy Jordan, and Anthony Kearns and the Irish Tenors perform these classic songs.

Dr Grasett’s Sacrifice: Canadian Caregivers and Irish Ancestors Remembered

Dr Grasett’s Sacrifice (33:59) tells the story of Canadian caregivers who risked and often gave their lives treating typhus-stricken Famine Irish emigrants in Toronto in 1847. Descendants of these Famine emigrants recall the resilience of their ancestors and pay tribute to those who cared for them.

Famine Heroes 2020

Ireland’s Great Hunger and the Irish Diaspora

Ireland’s Great Hunger and the Irish Diaspora explores the historical and socio-political circumstances leading to potato failure, mass starvation and death in Ireland, 1847-52. Narrated by actor Gabriel Byrne, the film includes famine scholars, descendants of famine survivors, emigrants to Quebec, and “Earl Grey” orphan women who emigrated to Australia.

The Famine Irish and Canada’s First Responders

A documentary exploring Canada’s compassion in welcoming the 109,000 Irish emigrants fleeing the Great Famine in 1847. This film visits Grosse Ile, Montreal and Toronto to understand how the memorials to the Irish Famine help to tell the story of courage and compassion on the part of Canada’s First Responders.

The Famine Irish in Liverpool from the Strokestown Park Estate

Short documentaries, online lectures, and online discussion about the Famine Irish in Liverpool by Greg Quiery and Roger Appleton featuring John O’Driscoll (Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee and National Famine Museum Strokestown Park), Professor Christine Kinealy and Professor Rebecca Abbott (Quinnipiac University), Professor John Belchem (University of Liverpool), and others. See all videos here

The Famine Irish Legacy in Buffalo, New York

An online lecture about the legacy of the Famine Irish in Buffalo by Professor William Jenkins (York University, Toronto).

Honouring Famine Heroes

An online discussion about Heroes of the Irish Famine hosted by the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park and Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University following the National Famine Commemoration Day Ceremony in Dublin.

Following in the Footsteps of Strokestown’s Famine Emigrants

A documentary presented by Professor Mark McGowan who follows in the footsteps of emigrants from the Strokestown Park House estate of Major Denis Mahon, now home of the National Famine Museum. They were assisted to emigrate in 1847, but in reality had little choice. He follows in their footsteps along the National Famine Way walking trail on the banks of the Royal Canal to Dublin, and then on to Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site and the Niagara region in Canada.

The Story of the Choctaw Gift

A documentary about the Choctaw donation for Irish Famine relief in 1847 shortly after the Choctaw people themselves were expelled from their traditional homelands and forced to embark on the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. It features a musical performance of The Gift in the National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park.  Professor LeAnne Howe (University of Georgia and member of the Choctaw Nation), Professor Christine Kinealy (Quinnipiac University), and Dr Padraig Kirwan (Goldsmiths, University of London) share this riveting story of compassion, indigenous cultural values of giving, reciprocity, and the musical performance of cultural memory.

Montreal’s Grey Nuns and the Great Hunger

In 1847, approximately 75,000 people fled across the Atlantic from famine-stricken Ireland to Montreal. Those suffering from infectious diseases such as typhus were cared for in the city’s fever sheds by the Grey Nuns or Sisters of Charity. The most detailed and evocative eyewitness accounts of the suffering of Famine emigrants in North America can be found in their annals. Discover the stories of James Flood from Strokestown and Rose Brown from Galway who were cared for by the Grey Nuns after losing their parents. Learn about the miracle of Rose’s marble which led to her reunification with her mother and vocation to join the Grey Nuns as Sister St. Patrice.  Over six thousand Irish emigrants are buried in Montreal, the largest Famine Irish mass grave outside of Ireland, which is marked by the Black Rock memorial. This burial ground has been recently excavated. The film pays tribute to Montreal’s Famine Irish and their Canadian caregivers.

Count Strzelecki’s Legacy: A Polish Irish Famine Hero

In 1847, Count Paweł Edmund Strzelecki provided aid to the most destitute in the west of Ireland for the British Relief Association and helped feed over 200,000 hungry children in schools. This film tells his story and explores his legacy from the perspective of Polish communities in Ireland today.

Frederick Douglass in Ireland

The film gives an overview of Frederick Douglass’s life-changing time spent in Ireland at the beginning of the Great Famine in 1845-1846. Irish actor Kwaku Fortune reflects on Douglass’s legacy for new communities in Ireland.

Great Famine Voices Roadshow Liverpool Irish Festival

Witness Famine and migration accounts of Liverpool’s Irish community, recorded for the Great Famine Voices Roadshow as part of an ongoing partnership between the Irish Heritage Trust, the National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park, and the Liverpool Irish Festival. The Great Famine Voices Liverpool Irish Festival short film features interviews with members of Liverpool’s diverse Irish community, many of whom are of Famine Irish ancestry.

Remembering James Hack Tuke: Emigrant Descendants

Emigrant descendants of James Hack Tuke’s migration schemes from Counties Galway and Mayo during the “Forgotten Famine” of 1879-1882 pay tribute to the Quaker Philanthropist who rescued their ancestors from poverty to start news lives overseas.