The Connemara country house and sporting lodge, the Delphi Lodge, is taking responsibility for its part in Famine deaths by participating in the annual commemorative famine walk. During the Famine, Delphi Lodge turned away hundreds of people who later perished from hunger, cold and disease.
Peace and justice organization Afri hosts an annual event called the “journey of horror,” which travels through the Doolaugh Valley from Louisburgh. For the first time this year, the event will conclude inside the 1,000 acre Delphi estate.
In late March of 1849 several hundred people sought certification as “paupers” in Louisburgh and were told to travel ten miles to Delphi Lodge for inspection by two commissioners. They traveled the mountain road through the snow, but were denied help at Delphi Lodge. They returned to Louisburgh and many died along the route.
Delphi Lodge manager Michael Wade said about the new addition to the commemorative walk, “By opening our doors to the Afri Famine Walk, Delphi Lodge is acknowledging our part in what happened in 1849, instead of ignoring it, while showing to the world what we are today: an Irish country house which offers a welcome to all.”
Joe Murray of Afri said, “The welcome being extended to walkers by Delphi Lodge this year is rich in symbolism- representing a much needed ‘opening of gates.’”
He added that the walk was a “solemn act of respect, remembrance and solidarity with the forgotten people who died as a result of poverty and hunger in Ireland and continue to die throughout the world today.”
Walk leaders will include Gary White Deer, of the Choctaw nation of Oklahoma, whose ancestors gave to the Irish Famine Relief, Fergal Anderson of the Food Sovereignty Movement and Salome Mbugua of Akidwa, the migrant women’s network in Ireland.
During the walk participants will carry the names of those who are known to have definitely died along the route. Participants will plant “symbols of life,” including trees and non-genetically modified potatoes, at the end of the walk. Singer and songwriter Declan O’Rourke will be among those attending the walk. He is scheduled to release an album of original songs on the theme of the Famine.
The Famine began in 1845 when a potato blight was brought over from the north eastern seaboard of Canada and the United States. The blight devastated the potato crop, which many Irish heavily depended on because of its high crop yield in small plots and the potato’s high nutritional content. Many Irish lacked the funds to buy other food and the British were reluctant to intervene believing that the famine would soon end and the market would fix itself. By the Famine’s end in 1850, about a million died in Ireland from hunger and disease. Many emigrated to the United States and Canada, but many died during the journey on what became known as “coffin ships.”
No Irish Need Apply? Not anymore