Many died because the gentry were taking their lunch…

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of Doolough Lake, Co.Mayo

Doolough is a wild and magnificent glen in the west of County Mayo –  but I can never visit the place without thinking of the Irish Famine.  We paused at the memorial cross recently and cast our minds back to those terrible days…

The year was 1849 and the Famine was still persisting in the county – when a rumour went around in the town of Louisburgh that, if people could walk to Delphi Lodge, they would be given food.  However, when they reached Delphi Lodge (about 20km away), they were told that the gentry could not be disturbed while they were taking their lunch.

pencil drawing by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of famine memorial in Doolough, Co. Mayo

This story first came to light in a letter that was published in the Mayo Constitution newspaper, in April 1849, written by “a Ratepayer”.  It mentions a Colonel Hogrove, a member of the Board of Guardians (who administered Poor Relief in the area), and a Captain Primrose, the local Poor Law inspector.  They had come to Louisburgh to interview those seeking relief.

But instead, these two fine gentlemen decided to head south to Delphi to enjoy a spot of fishing with the Marquess of Sligo (who owned the lodge at that time).  Now, they left clear instructions for the poor to meet them in Delphi if they needed help but – because it’s never good to mix business with pleasure, I suppose – the people were sent away empty-handed.  Many of them died on the way back to Louisburgh.  It is reported that several corpses were found along the roadside with bits of grass in their mouths, such was their terrible hunger.

photo by Eoin Mac Lochlainn of fishing in Connemara
A spot of fishing, mayhaps?

There is a simple stone cross, a monument to their memory at Doolough Pass.  Every year since 1988, there has been a walk along this same route in memory of all those who died and also to highlight the starvation of the world’s poor to this day.  It has been organised by Afri, an organisation that campaigns for ‘a more peaceful, equal and sustainable world.’

Afri’s 2023 Doolough Famine Walk will be held again this year on Saturday, the 20th of May, from Louisburgh, Co. Mayo.



  1. A Johnny Seoige tuig mo ghlór is
    Mé ag teacht as dóchas faoi do dhéin…

    Is as ucht Chríost tabhair dhom relief
    Nó go gcaitear oíche Nollag féin…

    Ní bhfuair mé freagra ar bith an lá sin
    Ach mo bhean is mo pháistí a bheith amuigh faoin drúcht…

    Tá mé bruite, dóite, sciúrtha, feannta, liobraithe, gearrtha as neart an tsiúil
    Is a Mhr Joyce tá an workhouse lán
    Is ní ghlacfar ann aon fhear níos mó…


  2. I have a brother in law from Louisburg in Mayo and I’ve been a few times,The place always makes me think of the famine and the hardship endured by our ancestors. The landscape has remained the same, you can imagine the people walking along the roads in the hope of a morsel of food already dying of starvation. I am at the moment reading Declan O Rourkes book ‘The pawnbrokers reward a story about the Great Famine based in Macroom. It is a harrowing tale, his song Poor boy shoes’ is based on the story. A good but challenging read.


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