Famine walking trail app and book launched in Skibbereen

Posted on: 6th July, 2015

Category: Headlines

Contributor: West Cork People

Above: Terri Kearney and Philip O’Regan, co-authors of ‘Skibbereen: The Famine Story’ signing a copy of their new book for Maura Cahalane, chairperson, Skibbereen and District Historical Society, at the launch of the walking trail app and book at Skibbereen Heritage Centre.

‘Skibbereen: The Famine Story’, is the title of a new walking trail app and a book, which were launched on Saturday evening, June 20, at Skibbereen Heritage Centre.

Terri Kearney, manager at Skibbereen Heritage Centre, welcomed the big attendance and thanked all those who had helped in any way with this project. Terri said that this was really a community project because so many people had given of their time and talents when asked to help. She thanked all those who contributed in so many ways.

Mike Murphy of UCC, one of the editors of the ‘Atlas of the Great Irish Famine’, officially launched ‘Skibbereen: The Famine Story’ in front of a very big attendance.

Mike was very generous in his praise and his appreciation for authors Terri Kearney and Philip O’Regan. He emphasised how important it was to record the stories of the Famine and to pass them on to the next generation. He said that his own department at UCC would be particularly interested in the walking trail app as it was another way, using modern technology, of engaging with people.

The story of the Great Famine in Skibbereen is a particularly compelling one, and over the years Skibbereen Heritage Centre and the local Famine Commemoration Committee have done much valuable work in researching and recording it. The development of this walking trail app and the publication of a new book bring this work to a new level.

During the Great Irish Famine (1845-52) Skibbereen was one of the worst affected areas in all of Ireland, a fact testified to by the mass graves at Abbeystrowry Cemetery, where between 8,000 and 10,000 Famine victims are buried.

The streets of Skibbereen offer a palpable link to the Great Famine and this new app guides walkers through the town pointing out locations and buildings that have direct links to that period. The app is narrated by Terri Kearney and local residents Jeremy Irons, Fachtna O’Driscoll, Gerald O’Brien, Stan Rispin, Peter Murray, Declan McCarthy and Derry Moynihan have all lent their voices to help bring to life some of the characters who feature in the Famine story.

The book, which complements the walking trail app, also expands on the story throughout the Skibbereen Union area which stretches from Rosscarbery to the Mizen. The book outlines the progress of the Famine, distilling it down to local level and telling the story through the experiences of people who witnessed first-hand the devastating consequences of the tragedy in this area.

Local people, such as Tom Guerin – the boy who came back from the grave, the Widow Geaney, evicted to die on the side of the road, and Denis McKennedy, who died of starvation while working on one of the infamous Board of Works schemes, represent in microcosm the stories of the thousands of people who perished in this area and whose stories remain untold.

The Famine was a tragedy on an unimaginable scale and was a defining event in the history of modern Ireland. At least one million people died and double that number fled the country within a decade. Skibbereen was at the epicentre of this appalling tragedy and one of the areas that suffered most. Horrific reports from the Skibbereen area featured in the media of the time as it became infamous for the suffering endured by its people. Skibbereen quickly became a byword for famine and today is still synonymous world-wide with the Great Hunger.

The walking trail app, book and ebook are on sale on the Skibbereen Heritage Centre’s website, www.skibbheritage.com, and the book is available at all good bookshops in Cork county.

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