The Walk of the Bronze Shoes

Close up photograph of a pair of bronze shoes, cast from an original nineteenth century children's pair.

 As custodians of Liverpool Irish Famine Trail, this year team members will walk from The National Famine Museum in the midlands of Ireland to the port of Dublin.

This commemorates the 1847 journey taken by 1,490 evictees from Strokestown Estate (Co. Roscommon, Ireland).  The evictees were marched 165km to Dublin, to be put on cargo ships to Liverpool and thence to Canada. It’s estimated over half those who made the journey died before they reached their destination.

A shared path

The route we’ll walk in Ireland is known as The National Famine Way. Its marked at regular intervals with commemorative bronze shoes. These were cast from a real pair of 19th century children’s shoes found on Strokestown Estate.

The Festival’s Artistic Director and CEO, Emma Smith, will walk with our History Research Group leader, John Maguire. They’ll be joined by Liverpool Great Hunger Commemoration Committee member (and local historian) Greg Quiery and members of the National Famine Way and Strokestown Estate teams. We’ll walk with Ireland’s Ambassador to Canada, Eamonn McKee. All told it will be a group of around 20 people. Our team will carry a pair of bronze commemorative shoes along the route to Dublin. They’ll then cross the Irish Sea to Liverpool, before being taken to the Liverpool Irish Famine Memorial.

Once the shoes arrive in Liverpool, we’ll walk them from Clarence Dock — where 1.3m Irish migrants arrived during An Gorta Mór — to the Irish Famine Memorial at St Luke’s Church. The shoes will remain in Liverpool as a poignant symbol of the shared history of Liverpool and Ireland, a history both devastating and enriching. Two further pairs of the commemorative shoes, will travel onward to Canada, to be homed there. Later in the year, during the Liverpool Irish Famine Memorial in October, Ireland’s UK Ambassador, Martin Fraser, and Consul General Sarah Mangan, will repeat the Clarence Dock to St Luke’s Church walk.

Just Giving

Just Giving (TM) logo in purple.Besides the commemorative aspect of the project, the journey from Strokestown to Liverpool will be a fundraiser for Liverpool Irish Famine Trail. You can give via Just Giving here: https://www.justgiving.com/page/bronze-shoes-liverpool

We hope that you can partake in this act of rememberance and thank you in advance for yor gift.

Commemorating a Shared History

The Great Hunger/An Gorta Mór caused more than a million deaths between 1845-52. Another 1.3 people migrated, a migration which continued to flow for decades afterwards. Many of these Irish people would have travelled via Liverpool. Deaths from hunger and disease were common on the so-called coffin ships, transporting the fleeing population mainly to North America and Australia. The same is true of the boats travelling the relatively short distance from Ireland to the coast of Britain.Of course, large numbers of migrants chose to stay, or for a variety of reasons were forced to stay, in Liverpool. By 1851 over 25% of the city’s population was Irish born. Ireland is still the only country in Western Europe where the population today is smaller than it was in 1840. Meanwhile it is estimated that approximately 50%+ of the current Liverpool population has some Irish ancestry.

Our Home

Watch our short film  about the Trail. Commissioned in 2021, ‘Our Home’ ((c) Ella Dalton and Thomas Jones) is a short film documenting the sites of the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail. Set to the Festival’s theme song, and told through the eyes of a young mother and child, viewers come to learn a little of the landscape they faced then and what this looks like today.

The film was funded with National Lottery Heritage Fund funding and commissioned through an open call led by the Liverpool Irish Festival.

Coming up

  • Song commission winning entry to be shared with Choirs over summer. They will sing it at the 2024 Liverpool Irish Famine Memorial event on Sun 27 Oct 2023
  • An app (or alternative technological equivalent) will be developed and released to test in winter
  • A book will be written and released
  • An exhibition will be held at Collingwood Dock, showing work from four artists and featuring the bronze shoes
  • A public walk from Clarence Dock Gates, with the bronze shoes, will take place on Sun 27 Oct 2024. Times TBC.