Connemara estate implicated in Famine deaths to erect commemorative plaque

Oak planted at Delphi Lodge in tribute to those who died along Mayo’s Doolough Valley

The north Connemara country house and sporting lodge which once turned away Famine victims is to erect a permanent memorial to those who died of hunger in the area.

Delphi Lodge, formerly owned by the Marquis of Sligo and once visited by Britain's Prince Charles, is to erect a plaque in honour of those who perished along Mayo's Doolough Valley back in 1849.

A commemorative sessile oak tree will also be nurtured on the 1,000-acre estate, having been planted there on Saturday by participants in the annual Afri Famine Walk.

Singer Declan O'Rourke, Gary White Deer of the Choctaw nation of Oklahoma, in the United States, Fergal Anderson of the Food Sovereignty Movement, and Salome Mbugua of Akidwa – the migrant women's network in Ireland – were among some 200 people who participated in the walk along the Doolough valley.

New departure
In a new departure, the walkers were welcomed into the grounds of Delphi Lodge on Saturday evening , where manager Michael Wade and staff acknowledged the estate's role in the fatalities and a minute's silence was held.


Mr O'Rourke performed Her Silken Brown Hair and Connaught Boy – two in a series of songs he has composed on the theme of the Famine.

The March 1849, deaths occurred after several hundred people seeking certification in the village of Louisburgh as “paupers” were told they had to go to Delphi Lodge 10 miles away for an inspection by two “commissioners”.

The distressed group set out on foot along the mountain road and pathway by Doolough in wintry conditions, but were refused assistance when they arrived at the lodge, and had to turn around for home, with some dying en route.

“It was overdue, but now was the time to make this gesture, and we are honoured and humbled,” Mr Wade said yesterday, explaining the background to his decision to open the gates.

“This was a part of Delphi’s dark history, and it is something we need to acknowledge,” he said. Afri, the peace and justice group, has been holding the walk along Doolough since 1988.

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins

Lorna Siggins is the former western and marine correspondent of The Irish Times