A pilgrimage’s progress

Our intrepid explorers have completed The Walk of the Bronze Shoes (more at this link).

The travellers (and the bronze shoes) have arrived in Liverpool and the journey has been phenomenal. In terms of kilometers walked, pedometers show the Liverpool walkers walked a total of 221.3km in nine days, 201.2 of which were done on just six National Famine Way days!

A post card a day…

Two of our walkers – John Maguire and Emma Smith – will document their pilgrimage; one using journals and the other photography. Each day, the two will collaborate to create a digital post card from The Walk of the Bronze Shoes (Wi-Fi permitting). Those post cards will be presented here, day-by-day, and shared on social media. Keep checking back to view their progress. Look out for the following hashtags: #famineway #missing1490 #globalirishfamineway

Press release: 28 May 2024

As well as the post cards below, readers may be interested in the Festival’s press release issued on 28 May 2024. Get PDF here. The National Famine Way have released this press release, too.

The Pool of Life – day 9, 27 May 2024


The bronze shoes sit on the dock wall at Seacombe, overlooking the Liverpool waterfront.


Written side of post card 9; trasncribed below.

John’s message

It’s hard to believe our bronze shoes are finally in Liverpool. After trekking 200km+, we board the ferry to cross the Mersey. People stop to ask questions about the shoe’s significance. We walk them to the Clarence Dock trail plaque. This has marked where 1.3 million Irish refugees landed in Liverpool since the 1990s, including Strokestown’s 1,490. Walking in parallel with the waters, through the docks, we pass the Pilotage building (another plaque site) cutting through China town, to St Luke’s (Bombed-out) church. We stand at the Irish Famine Memorial, where poetry and words are shared before a minute’s silence for those who died in An Gorta Mor and hunger around the world. Famines can be avoided. We need to do better, learning from history, not repeating the same mistakes. The story of leaving lands to start new isn’t confined to history, it’s ongoing. The shoes will find a permanent home but, for now, they’re still seeking a place to call home.

The Dublin Swift – day 8, 26 May 2024


The bronze shoes sit on the deck of the Dublin Swift Ferry, beside a bright orange life buoy.


Post card back for day 8. Text transcribed below.

John’s message

As we walked into Dublin’s busy streets, from rural landscapes, we felt exposed and vulnerable. The sights and sounds of the city are unnerving after the birdsong and big skies of the country. Would this have been true for the 1,490? Would it have felt overwhelming to them, too? Many would never have seen the sea; some may not have been to a city. The ‘newness’ of everything seems as though it would have created anxiety. Would there be any possibility for excitement?

We ponder on this as we board the ferry at Dublin port. The ocean air cools the bronze shoes and moisture forms on their surface, just as it would the cheeks and noses of passengers throughout time. Today, they cross the sea, to a new chapter in a new home.

An EPIC arrival! – day 7, 25 May 2024


Bronze shoes sit beside a bronze dog in the Dublin Famine Memorial (black and white photograph).


Post card for day 7. Text transcribed below.

John’s message

Arrival at Dublin. The group has become a trusted collective, willing to share their vulnerabilities, stories and personal histories. Despite the shortness of our 6-day experience, the connections are surprisingly deep. We wondered if the 1,490 had moments like this?

We board the Jeanie Johnston (replica famine ship) in clothing from the time. There’s an overwhelming surge of emotion, brought on by the call of the bailiffs herding the hungry. Collectively, the group mourn. After walking in all weathers…

We place our arms out of the ship’s ropes. Hands stretching through time.

The bronze shoes, carried from Strokestown, are placed at the memorial; toes burnished by fabric and touch of their bearers. The journey continues.

Clover horse shoe – day 6, 24 May 2024


Day 6 post card of a three-leaf clover made of horse shoes.


Post card back from day 6. Text transcribed below.

John’s message

As we walk along, we dance with a heron who lands in our path and then flies away. The landscape changes from foliage to bog and back again.  Water lilies bloom in the canal water. We stumble upon a clover made of horse shoes on a gate. All the tips connect. A trinity of luck. What would this have mean’t to the 1490? Perhaps opportunities in a new world? Something more, something better?

Siar siar leat/Green green grass – day 5, 23 May 2024


Day 5's post card - Siar siar leat (Green green grass) text, with a picture of multiple grasses behind.


Post card back from Day 5. Text transcribed below.

John’s message:

Wildflowers, like poppies and buttercups decorated the tow paths. We heard a story that any wheat found along the Royal Canal could mark a famine grave. Some of the tenants had collected seeds in their pockets, to sow when the reached their destination. Here in unmarked graves, those seeds germinated and bloomed. A scooter accident with a young boy coming off made us think about the potential hazards the missing 1490 would have encountered, like the horses and carts, falling amongst the lily pads and foliage could be fatal. Decision in the fug of hunger could lead to death.

Bridging with kindness – day 4, 22 May 2024


Coolnahay Harbour, where the 1490 were fed en route to Dublin.


Post card from day 4. Text transcribed below.

John message:

Overcast day, but no rain or severe sunshine. Through bog-land and mesmerising vistas. Over lunch we stopped where the 1490 were actually fed back in 1847. Local communities meet, greet and genuinely encourage as we continue. Bridging the past with our present. From desolate rural plains, we reach built up areas which feels strange and jarring. The halfway mark! And the body starts to tell us.

The long look back from the Cloondara shoes – day 3, 21 May 2024


Bronze Shoes at Cloondara (Longford), surrounded by decorated pebbles.


Day 3 post card text. Transcribed below.

John’s message

The rain came down forever, soaking rain. Stark contrast to yesterday. Lush hedgerows, green spaces flank the canal stony paths. How did the 1490 walk along in this weather? Here we are walking in  ‘rain-proof’ plastics. Their natural fibres, weigh heavy when wet. Heavy on the clothing, heavy on the mood. Meagre possessions perishing in the rain. How did they steer their young children along this canal stretch. It’s hard to direct yourself.  Looking back at a landscape that would have been called home, destroyed.

From field to flow – day 2, 20 May 2024


History Research Group leader, John Maguire, holds the Strokestown National Famine Bronze Shoes in their presentation box, shortly after their presentations.


Day 2 - back of our Day 2 post card; prose typed below.

John’s message

To: Liverpool Irish Festival. FF9 Northern Lights. 5 Mann Street, Liverpool, L8 5AF, UK.

Collected the bronze shoes for Liverpool. Recreated this morning the Strokestown eviction from 1847. Sunshine to the point the tarmac melted our very path as we walked on. Like the migrants that tread before, the shoes have not got a final destination. But we are going to find one. When we own so little the land is all we know, so if we’ve not got the land what have we got! Walking through the emerald green fields. Up the old Dublin road, we journey. We reach the end of the canal, point 46.

A safe passage – day 1, 19 May 2024


A picture of the ferry's tide path, on ferry from Holyhead to Dublin


Post card 1, Day 1 of The Walk of the Bronze Shoes. Content typed out below.

John’s message:

To: Liverpool Irish Festival. FF9 Northern Lights. 5 Mann Street, Liverpool, L8 5AF, UK.

Fresh Sunday Morning.

Sea Salt Spray, kisses the cheeks.

I think of the ancestors crossing here on flimsy vessels NOT on sturdy, secure ships like this one.

2 hours now instead of 6!

An Irish greyhound bus whisks us across from Dublin to Roscommon.

To the Big House, to participate in a re-enactment of the 1490 tenants being thrown off the land ahead of the 6  day trudge to Dublin.

Starved, destitute, evicted from the land they called home.

Tomorrow we re-trace the steps taken.

NB. All stamps (c) An Post. These have been modified for digital purposes, but remain the copyright of the original artists and An Post.


Between 19-27 May 2024, members of the Liverpool Irish Festival team along with Irish and Canadian friends, will walk Ireland’s National Famine Way.

They will transport a pair of bronze shoes to Liverpool. Simultaneously, multiple pairs of bronze shoes will sail the seas to find homes across the world. 

John Maguire – the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail‘s History Research Group leader – talks about The Walk of the Bronze Shoes on BBC Sounds (scroll to 1hr 28m to hear the feature).

Global Irish Famine Way

On Sat 25 May 2024, the walkers — and invited guests — will officially launch the Global Irish Famine Way. This network of trails will link across the world to showcase the plight of 1.3m+ people. These were the people forced to leave Ireland during An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger) in 1845-52. 

Just Giving (TM) logo in purple.Running alongside The Walk of the Bronze Shoes is a fundraiser. This will raise much needed unrestricted funding for the development of the Liverpool Irish Famine TrailRead more and give to the campaign, here

“You’ve brought life to history and history to life”, Minister Heather Humphreys.


  • Sun 19 May 2024: Paul Robinson will drive Emma Smith, John Maguire and Greg Quiery to Holyhead ferry terminal. The three will take the Holyhead to Dublin ferry, before catching a bus from Dublin to Strokestown. This group will be known as the Liverpool party. At 7pm there will be an ‘American/Canadian Wake’
  • Mon 20 May 2024: Walk from Strokestown to Scramogue/Clondra (20km). Start the day in period dress. During the week, schools and other parties will join to complete sections of the walk with the main party. Walking Tours Ireland and the National Waterways teams will run support vehicles and carry luggage
  • Tue 21 May 2024: Walk from Clondra to Abbeyschrule (30km)
  • Wed 22 May 2024: Walk from Abbesyschrule to Mullingar (27km)
  • Thurs 23 May 2024: Walk from Mullingar to Longwood (30km)
  • Fri 24 May 2024: Walk from Longwood to Maynooth (27km)
  • Sat 25 May 2024: Walk from Maynooth to Dublin (27km). Arrive at EPIC in period costume, ready for a launch of the Global Irish Famine Way. The Liverpool Irish Festival will present an artistic commission to the Strokestown team, in honour of and thanks for the connection made with the 1,490
  • Sun 26 May 2024: The Liverpool party will return via ferry from Dublin to Holyhead. Paul Robinson will collect from Holyhead. The shoes will stay on Wirral
  • Mon 27 May 2024: The shoes will be taken to Seacombe Ferry, sailing on a pleasure cruiser to Liverpool’s Mersey Port. From Mersey Port, they will be walked to Clarence Dock gates (those facing the entrance to Cotton Street), before being walked to St Luke’s Bombed Out Church. This concludes the 2024 Walk of the Bronze Shoes.

Canadian progress

Ahead of the main walk, fifteen pairs of bronze shoes were sent to Canada on research vessel, the Celtic Explorer. A leading light in forging these connections is Ireland’s Ambassador to Ireland, Dr Eamonn McKee, who will walk the National Famine Way with the Liverpool and Strokestown teams in May 2024.

The following images have been captured and shared by the Canadian team.

On 1 May, the first of the shoes arrived in Newfoundland. The story made it to RTÉ and was captured by Caroilin Callery (Strokestown lead) in this home footage:

Additional coverage can be seen here:

UK acknowledgement

Made possible with the National Lottery Heritage Fund logoThe Liverpool Irish Festival is indebted to The National Lottery Heritage Fund. Through their support, we have been able to continue work on the Liverpool Irish Famine Trail, maintain our History Research Group and undertake this link with the Global Irish Famine Way. To them — and to players of the National Lottery — we give our thanks.