Irish charity Afri will host its annual famine memorial walk on May 18th

Fields of Athenry songwriter Pete St. John will join Afri’s annual Famine Memorial Walk as a leader this weekend in Co Mayo.

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Afri, whose goal is the promotion of global justice and peace and the reduction of poverty, first began hosting its annual famine memorial walk in 1988.

The remembrance walk, which is roughly 11-miles long, retraces ‘a journey of horror’ which local people made through the Doolough Valley on the night and morning of March 30 – 31 1849.

The immediate cause of the death march was the arrival of two ‘commissioners’ who were to inspect the people and certify them as paupers, so entitling them to a ration of three pounds of meal each. For some reason, the inspection was not made and the hundreds of people were told they must appear at Delphi Lodge (ten miles away) at 7 am the following morning. They set out on foot along the mountain road and pathway in cold, wintry conditions, including snowfall.

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When they arrived at Delphi Lodge, they were refused either food or tickets of admission to the workhouse and so they began their weary return journey. It was on this journey that perhaps hundreds of people died.

Afri has taken this story as a symbol to represent all those who died during the ‘Great Famine’ in Ireland. But it also represents all those who die of hunger in our world of plenty today. 

Afri says: “A common thread amongst walk leaders over the years has been the degree to which they and their communities have been affected by violence, weapons, war and climate change.”

Past walk-leaders have included Desmond Tutu, Owens Wiwa, Christy Moore, Denis Halliday, Damien Dempsey, Sharon Shannon, Andy Irvine, & Choctaw artist Gary White Deer.

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This year’s walk-leaders are Oisin Coghlan, Hanny Van Geel, and Pete St. John.

As Director of Friends of the Earth, Oisin Coghlan has been a constant and tireless advocate for radical, practical and urgent action and change.

Hanny van Geel, through her work with La Via Campesina, champions ‘the right of people to healthy and culturally appropriate food, produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods.’

Pete St John is perhaps best known for composing of the world-famous Irish song ‘Fields of Athenry.’ His composition ‘Waltzing on Borrowed Time,’ which expresses his concern for the welfare of the planet, will be performed in music and dance as part of the events on May 18th.

You can listen to 'Waltzing on Borrowed Time' here:

Walkers are asked to gather in Louisburgh at 12 noon on May 18 for registration before the walk begins. Registration is available online. You can learn more about the walk on Afri's website or in the event's brochure.

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Learn more about Afri and their annual walk here: