Bronze Famine Shoes to embark on journey aboard RV Celtic Explorer to Canada

Caroilín Callery of the National Famine Way handing over the Bronze Shoes to Captain Denis Rowan, RV Celtic Explorer. Picture credit XPOSUREThe Bronze Famine Shoes which mark Ireland’s official Famine Heritage Trail are a powerful symbol of remembrance for the victims of the Great Irish Famine. Now the Shoes will embark on an historic journey to Canada aboard the Marine Institute’s Research Vessel Celtic Explorer. The sculptures, which pay tribute to the millions affected by the devastating famine of 1845-1852, will travel across the Atlantic Ocean to be placed in Canada following the launch of the Global Irish Famine Way, the aim of which is to raise awareness about this significant historical event and its enduring impact on Irish communities worldwide.

Crafted by artist Alannah O'Kelly, the Bronze Famine Shoes symbolize the countless lives lost and the forced migration of Irish people during the famine. The decision to bring the Bronze Famine Shoes to Canada underscores the shared history and cultural ties between Ireland and Canada, particularly the significant Irish diaspora in Canada. The journey aboard the national RV Celtic Explorer presents an opportunity to engage Canadian audiences in meaningful conversations about Irish migration, resilience, and commemoration.

The Marine Institute is proud to partner with Strokestown House to bring the Bronze Famine Shoes to Canada aboard the RV Celtic Explorer. This historic collaboration combines the expertise of the Marine Institute in maritime research and cultural exchange with Strokestown House's commitment to preserving Irish heritage and fostering dialogue about the Great Irish Famine.

Speaking on the occasion of the handover of the Bronze Shoes to Captain Denis Rowan aboard the RV Celtic Explorer, Caroilín Callery of the National Famine Way, said “We are delighted and grateful to partner with the Marine Institute to have the Bronze Shoes brought on this leg of their journey to Canada. It is symbolic and important to us that their voyage mirrors the journey of the famine emigrants they represent – following the path they took in 1847.”

The RV Celtic Explorer is Ireland’s largest national research vessel and is one of the most intensively used research vessels in the world. For over 20 years it has played an essential role in fisheries surveys, seabed mapping, and oceanographic research. Expeditions on the RV Celtic Explorer in Irish and international waters have resulted in many exciting discoveries - from deep-water shark nurseries, cold-water coral reefs, to hydrothermal vents fields in the mid-Atlantic.  The RV Celtic Explorer continues to facilitate a deeper understanding of our ocean, helping us to safeguard it for future generations.

The vessel will travel to St. Johns Newfoundland to mobilise for a significant survey along the western Greenland shelf as part of the Biological Carbon Export in the Labrador Sea (BELAS) survey. This international, collaborative, interdisciplinary survey is being led by University of Galway with partners from Dalhousie University of Nova Scotia and Memorial University of Newfoundland, and is supported by Ship-time funding from the Marine Institute, the Canadian Research council, the Ocean frontiers Institute (Canada) as well as the Science Foundation Ireland Research Centre in Applied Geosciences, University College Dublin (iCRAG)

"We are honoured to bring the Bronze Famine Shoes to Canada aboard the RV Celtic Explorer," said Dr Rick Officer, CEO Marine Institute. "This journey represents a powerful symbol of solidarity and remembrance, highlighting the enduring legacy of the Great Irish Famine and its impact on Irish communities around the world."

“It is fitting that the Bronze shoes, a poignant symbol of our past, are now being carried on a journey aboard Ireland’s state of the art research vessel connecting history with the promise of tomorrow”, added Dr Officer.

The arrival of the Bronze Famine Shoes in St Johns will be marked by the launch of the Global Irish Famine Way, and a series of events and exhibitions hosted by Dept of Foreign Affairs, Strokestown House, and their partners. These events will provide an opportunity for people to learn about and reflect on this pivotal moment in history.


For more information, please contact:

Sheila Byrnes, Marine Institute e. m. +353 (0)87 815 5271

Sinéad Coyne, Marine Institute e. m. +353 (0)87 947 7090

Notes to Editor:

About the Marine Institute

The Marine Institute provides government, public agencies, and the maritime industry with a range of scientific, advisory, and economic development services that inform policy-making, regulation, and the sustainable management and growth of Ireland’s marine resources. The Institute undertakes, coordinates, and promotes marine research and development, which is essential to achieving a sustainable ocean economy, protecting ecosystems, and inspiring a shared understanding of the ocean.