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Famine Trail Walk and Famine Emigrant Play

On this coming Easter Saturday, 15th April, several members of the Kavanagh family from Canada return to Sligo to take part in another Famine Trail walk from their ancestral home in Cross, south Sligo, to Sligo Port repeating the walk their ancestors took when leaving Sligo at the peak of the Great famine in April 1847.

This walk of over twenty miles will start in Keash at 9.15 am that morning and will arrive at the Custom Quay in Sligo about 4pm.  Relations of the Canadian family living here will join their now recently acquired Canadian cousins for the walk as will other walkers from Sligo. Those wishing to join are welcome to do so, just turn up at the start or join in as the walk goes through your town or community.  Walkers are expected to reach Ballymote around 10.45am, Collooney around 1pm, Ballysodare around 1.45pm and Sligo Quays at about 4.00 pm. Mayor Marie Casserly will welcome the group at City Hall after 4pm.

While in Ireland for the walk, Rose Marie Stanley, a fifth generation descendant of Patrick and Sarah Kaveney - who were given the name Kavanagh on arrival in Canada - will present a play she has written in memory of her Famine ancestors in both the community hall in Cliffoney and the parish hall in Keash.  This will be the first time this play, entitled “Emigrant: Woven threads from the Caves of Keash to the Capes of Forillon”, is presented and this will take place on Thursday 20th April at 8.30pm in Cliffoney where Anne Hoey, together with the local hall committee, will assist in this first presentation.  Later that week, on Saturday 22nd April, a second presentation will take place in Keash.  The play recalls the epic journey undertaken by Sarah Mc Donough Kaveney and her family from leaving her home in south Sligo, through the sinking of the Carricks and the loss of her five daughters, and through her struggles and achievements as she set up a new home and a new family in eastern Canada. 

Patrick and Sarah Kaveney with their six children left Sligo on the Carrick’s in early April 1847 but it sank after crashing into the rocks at Cap des Rosiers, on the Canadian coast, later that month.  Only 48 of 173 passengers survived and among those drowned were five of the Kaveney children, all girls.  Both parents and their son Martin survived and lived on in Jersey Cove near the shipwreck site.  Eight years later Patrick also died when caught out in a snow storm leaving Sarah and son Martin, plus four additional children born in Canada.

Since research by Mullaghmore and Cliffoney Historical Society made the link between the Kaveney family of Cross and the Kavanagh family of Jersey Cove, Canada and told this story with that of the large scale emigration from Lord Palmerston’s Sligo estates to Canada in 1847, interest in these happenings has increased in Canada.  Several more descendants of survivors were identified since 2013 by the Mullaghmore Society and the growing descendant community in Canada and the increased interest in their story has led to two short films been produced there on the topic, both for release this year.   Interest has also grown on a mass grave uncovered last year near the site where the Carrick’s sank, on-going analysis of its remains may disclose whether any are of the Sligo emigrants drowned nearby. 

Mayor Marie Casserly will welcome the group at City Hall between 3.30pm and 4pm.