Irish National Famine Museum

The Midlands

In direct and deliberate contrast to the splendour of Strokestown Park is the harrowing Irish National Famine Museum, located in the Stables Yard of the house, which documents the devastating 1840s potato blight. It concisely shows how the industrial age coupled with the Famine devastated the overpopulated island of eight million (about 1.6 million more than today). Strokestown landlord Major Denis Mahon ruthlessly evicted starving tenants who couldn't pay their rent, chartering boats to transport them away from Ireland.

Around half of these 1000 emigrants died on the overcrowded 'coffin ships', and a further 200 perished while in quarantine in Québec (the cheapest route). Perhaps unsurprisingly, Mahon was assassinated by three of his tenants in 1847 (two of whom were publicly hanged in Roscommon). The gun they used is on display. There's a huge amount of information and you can easily spend an hour or more; exhibits here rise above mere lore thanks to more than 50,000 documents that were preserved from the 19th century and which provide often chilling factual underpinning. You'll emerge with an unblinking insight into the starvation of the poor, and the ignorance, callousness and cruelty of those who were in a position to help.

Guided tours of Strokestown Park's house also take in the Famine Museum.

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