It was an emotional sort of homecoming as ancestors of those who fled Ireland in the Famine returned at the weekend as part of the Gathering festivities.

Richard Tye, who lives near the Canadian city of Quebec and speaks only French, travelled to Roscommon to remember his great-grandfather Daniel Tighe.

Daniel and his sister Catherine were amongst those forced to leave Ireland on a coffin ship almost 200 years ago.

The Irish Independent
reports that they were the only members of the family to survive the perilous journey.

The escape to America claimed the lives of his mother and three other siblings whose bodies they witnessed being thrown overboard after they succumbed to starvation and disease.

On Sunday his relatives were awarded a heroes welcome on their return ‘home’ 166 years later.

The paper says Richard Tye is the first descendant of close to 1,400 people from Strokestown who emigrated to Quebec during the Famine to return to his native soil as part of The Gathering.

He told the paper of the rush of emotion when he returned to his ancestral home and met members of the Tighe families in Strokestown, whom researchers believe are distant cousins.

Speaking through an interpreter, he said: “I had a rush of emotion and it just leapt out of my heart.”

Fellow Canadians Frances Kilbride (89) and her daughters Rose-Marie and Joan went through similar emotions as they toured the ruins of their ancestral home in Sligo.

Their ancestors Patrick and Sarah Kaveney fled to Quebec from Sligo in 1847.

Only Patrick, his wife Sarah and their son Martin survived from the family of eight after their ship ran aground, drowning 173 passengers.

The paper reports how Patrick Ward, a distant relative of Patrick Kaveney, took his new-found cousins on an emotional tour of the former family home.

He said: “I was very sentimental about it. When you know you are related to someone you find a gra for them. I felt that.”