Emigrant Travel Box presented at annual Famine 1848 walk in Ballingarry

Dr Thomas McGrath


Dr Thomas McGrath


Emigrant Travel Box presented at annual Famine 1848 walk in Ballingarry

The walkers after arrival at the Famine Warhouse 1848 OPW site which is situated in the parish of Ballingarry, near The Commons village

In contrast to 2018, this year's Famine 1848 Walk in Ballingarry took place in beautiful weather conditions. The sun shone throughout the event. Under Walk Leader Michael Blanch, Chairperson of the Committee for the Commemoration of Irish Famine Victims, the Walk started - to the accompaniment of Moycarkey bagpipers - from the Young Ireland 1848 monument in the village of The Commons.

In his speech at Famine Warhouse 1848 Mr Blanch stressed the importance of commitment and passion if one wishes to get anything of importance done. He spoke of the great difficulties he encountered in trying to get the State to declare a fixed date for the annual Famine commemoration. 

Walk leader Michael Blanch (second right) and group ascending Kyle Hill, near Famine Warhouse 1848 site

He was finally successful this year when the third Sunday in May was named as the day of the annual commemoration.  In years to come, Mr Blanch stated, this date had the potential to become a very big event in the national and international calendar. 

Mr Blanch praised the patriotism of John Webster (manager at the site) and Anthony Ivors in raising the national flag daily at the 1848 monument in The Commons since it was erected thirty years ago this year in 1989.

On behalf of the Governor of Arbour Hill prison in Dublin, Mr Mark O'Brien, recently retired from the Irish Prison Service spoke about the emigrant Travel Box which was presented on the occasion.

The box is a replica of the boxes used by Famine era emigrants and it was made specifically for Balllingarry by prisoners in Arbour Hill prison who gave voluntarily of their time. 

Mark O'Brien, Irish Prison Service, addressing the walkers with Michael Blanch and Dr Thomas McGrath

The Travel Box recalls the emigration of the eight member Mc Cormack family of the Famine Warhouse to the USA in 1851. The box was unveiled by Mr O'Brien and Mr Blanch. 

After the speeches, all participants enjoyed light refreshments in the courtyard of the house. Music was provided by Bryan Byard,  Camilla Schmidt and David Murray.

As usual international visitors were in attendance. This annual act of witness and remembrance thus came to an end high in the scenic hidden Ireland, midway between the Rock of Cashel and Kilkenny Castle, of the Slieveardagh Hills.

The commencement of the Famine 1848 Walk, led by members of the Moycarkey Pipe Band from the National Flag monument in The Commons village to the nearby Famine Warhouse 1848 OPW site Pictures: Paul Brown