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The Great Famine Poetry Trail

As part of the community engagement programme leading up to the National Famine Commemoration which was held in Milford on the 21st May 2023, the Library Service commissioned Arts Facilitator John D Ruddy to work on a Poetry Trail Project with the following primary schools:

Scoil Mhuire, Creeslough

Cresslough National School

Scoil Eoin Baiste, Carrigart

Scoil Mhuire,  Milford

Please click on the school and then the text of each individual poem to listen.

The purpose of the project was to engage with school children to highlight that the National Famine Commemoration was taking place in Milford.  This was a momentous occasion for the County and a great honour to be selected as the host County.

John held workshops with the four schools over a four-week period, where he peaked the children’s interest in creative writing and on the history of the famine. Due to John’s entertaining and charismatic character the students thoroughly enjoyed the workshops. Poetry is a powerful teaching tool, and this project allowed the students to express their emotions while interacting with quite sensitive topics. Creating their own poems allowed them to put their voice to a very traumatic time in Irish history.  This project also motivated the children to read, to build their vocabulary and encouraged their creativity.  Each student was recorded reciting their poem and the results are below for you to read and listen.

The Poetry Trail

Some of the poems were selected for display on storyboards at the National Famine Commemoration. These boards will be available to view as a poetry trail in Milford Town in the coming weeks. The story board includes a QR code which links directly to this webpage where all the poems are available. The Library Service also plans to collate all 70+ poems into a booklet and present a copy to each school involved. More information on this to follow.  

We congratulate the students on their work on this project, the results speak for themselves. We also thank the teachers for allowing us the opportunity to work in their schools.  We hope you enjoy listening to the poems as much as we did.

In the words of Robert Frost; 


Poetry is when an emotion has found it’s thought, and the thought has found words.’




Scoil Mhuire, Creeslough

A Family in the Wild
by Danielle O’Donnell

Gone are the potatoes,
Hungry is my child,
imprisoned is my husband,
A family in the wild.

Gone is my father,
Sad is my mother,
Will we survive?
Where is my brother?

I am imprisoned,
Sad and alone.
I stole for a reason,
Just skin and bone.

I woke amongst the woods
Smell of death in the air,
No food to found,
Don’t know how long I’ll bear.

A family in the wild,
Can they get by?
Will they find hope?
Or will they die?


As I Sail my Coffin Ship
by Dara McGovern

As I sail my coffin ship
To places far and wide
Another person overboard
Another person died.

I wait a while as people board,
It's the only thing they can afford.

Below deck my crew clean up
All the blood and throw up.

I grab my wine, I take a sip
As I sail my coffin ship.

Gone is My Home
by Grace Collett

Gone is my home,
Gone is my brother,
On this ship I am alone,
Alone with my mother.

Our existence feels fragile,
Fragile as a sigh,
Hungry are children once agile,
Weak and brittle as time goes by.

Weeks on that ship with flu and scurvy,
5 of my 6 did not survive,
So used to waves,
the ground seems curvy.

And in America, “the sky is the limit!”

Yet still I’ve no love, food or home,
Still discriminated in the Land of the Free.
I am at death’s door yet trapped in Earth’s dome.
Told to hide what makes me “me”.

Grain of Corn
by Michael Hartigan

In the final hour of light,
Stricken by blight,
Die we might.

Starved we fight,
All for a chance to
Survive the night.

To see the Turks
In all their might,
All for a grain of corn.

by Louise Grace Brennan

Potatoes we eat
Vanish into mush,
We go to the big cities
To beg and cry, tears gush.

As we wander through the cities
Hoping for something to spare
As they kick us away from the doorstep
We cry out in despair.

Nobody dares to look,
Nobody dares to care,
As we lie here dying…

One by One
by Tasha Gallagher

you stand watching the poor
get kicked out of their homes.
people getting on boats
to get away and survive

you stand watching the poor
eating grass and nettles
to survive

walking like zombies on
to boats to get away
and survive

you cannot do but
watch them all die.
one by one

by Sean McCaul

Panicked and rushed.
The blight had struck.

All we found
Was rotten mush.

We stumbled
Lost all our weight
Turned into bones.

We begged for food,
Let out our tears.

Perished and fell,
Survived two years.

No luck.
Sent to the skies above.

by Harry Branch

I’ve grown on a field of death,
I see dead bodies beside me,
Old cold bodies lay there, skin and bones
While rotting away.
I smell their cold flesh that barely covers their bones,
Insects eating inside of me as the rats swarm the field.
Not long until I fade away;
I won’t get picked anyways L

Skin and Bones
by Eddie McBride

Seeing people with only
Skin and bone give
me the shakes. Seeing
them drag their feet
around me thinking they’re

Everybody getting kicked
out of homes and them
all just skin and bones.
The landlord is mean, he
won’t give me a
single bean.

We got kicked out of
our house and not just
that but the landlord destroyed
the house, me just crying
with hunger and thirst.

The Cloud of the Famine
by Jude McElhinney

Horrible scenes,
From the skies above.
Terrible times,
No energy, no love.

The vicious blight,
Wiping them out,
No food, just hunger,
Too weak to shout.

No food for the sick,
Just skin and bone,
Even I can see,
Not much of a home.

Just passing by,
Can’t help but see
This terrible time,
Must be hard to be.

I cannot heal their pain,
All I can do is rain.
I cannot speak aloud;
After all, I am just a cloud.

The Coffin Ship
by Ava Moore

You will come aboard our coffin ship
Thinking you’ll be safe.

But when you see its real colours,
You seem to regret your decision.

When you see people getting loads of diseases,
You start to worry about your health,
But then the unexpected happens;
The ship started to swerve.

The Coffin Ship
by Luke Duffy

What has happened?
Why are we all so hungry?
This awful fungus has rotted out potatoes,
And the other food is sent away.

What options do we have?
But to go into the dreaded work house
and be separated from our families,
Or head off on those terrible coffin ships.

You will be aboard the coffin
ship to get a tip of money to
tell a funny joke.

The Coffin Ship
by Ryan McGee

People had to emigrate because of The Great Famine
People went on coffin ships to escape Ireland
You would never know if you would survive
As only 1 in 6 people make it out alive
I hope you’re not in a rush because it will take several months
People dying on the ship was definitely not a sight to see
Families crying over their loved ones’ dead bodies
Hoping to see them one last time
But unfortunately they had to carry on with their lives

The Famine
by Siobhán Toner

The wind was howling,
As I stood outside,
I smelled something terrible so
I hurried inside.

I told me wife,
As she prepared the dinner.

We got evicted from our home,
As we weren’t paying rent,
I was separated from my family,
Now I sleep in a tent.

I hope it goes back to normal,
But it probably won’t for a while.


The Famine Poem
by Lorcan Boyce

Mother, oh my dear mother
As I lay here about to leave,
Please give me my grain of corn
So I can see another dawn.

As I walk past the local bakery,
I hear the moans of the local residents,
“Please help me!”
Shatters of glass beneath the windows.

Up on the valleys you can hear the Rally of Help,
People queueing for their life
Outside the door they shout
“Open the noor.”

The Great Famine
by Josh Kelly

I stand there
watching poor people
All the people
digging up
just to find
rotten mush.

People leaving
their country
just to live
another night.

The potatoes
affected by blight.
Being hungry
in the night,
being hungry
in the day.

Trying to live
another day

To My Wife and Child
by Orla McLaughlin

I stand watching you go by,
beneath the rain and shine.
I stay up in the sky,
wishing you here with me.

I feel terrible watching you suffer,
while I’m here in paradise,
The conditions getting tougher and tougher.

Watching you from heaven,
while you’re down in hell,
your young year seven
of your life long journey.

One more mile to that terrible place,
With the pain of losing your spouse.
Once you get there you’ll have no space,
The last step into the workhouse.

Watching from Above
by Annie McNulty

Watching from above
All the suffering and pain.
All this down below
While I am up here,
With not even a speck of rain.

It’s 1847
And you can barely make it past 11.
The world is rough,
But I’m cheering for you up above.
The mushy spuds,
No point entering the field,
Only just to turn away.

My rotten bones in the garden,
The stray dog nibbling
On my old bones
Until they decay.
The fat turned to skinny,
And skinny turned to bones,
Not much of you left.



Creeslough National School

Endless Walk 

by Daniel Parry

Running around having fun
Without knowing what was to come.

Scavenging for food or hay
In a plight to live another day.

Far and wide is where I stumble
One more day and I may crumble.

My stomach rumbles while I look for bread
What I would give for a warm soft cozy bed.

Help Ireland 

by Jake Alcorn 

Istanbul came to help
Day and night,
Evil British we fight,
You brought us pain,
You brought us fright,
I am sure I will never forget that night.
As we cry to our mothers
There’s not much bread for the others,
They load their boats from afar,
See mothers crying, their children dying.
A history in time we will never forget
While WE try to enjoy a stuffed baguette.


by Conrad Parry

Planting crops
Hopeful days
Happy children
as they play.

Warm wet weather
Fungus spreads
Crops decaying
Crowds fled.

Blight has destroyed
There is no food
People are hungry
There is no good.

From disease and hunger
Many die
Hopeless they feel
and the children cry.

Coffin ships
Cannot cope
Across the Atlantic
Believe and have hope.


No Food 

by Donna Moore

I have no food.
I have no mood.
I am very sad.
That the things is so bad.

Off to America I go on a boat
Where I might have a little more hope.

I hope I get some food there
And I won’t have to suffer ever
ever again.

Nothing Left 

by Shauna Moore

no house
no food
starving to death
no power to move
no power to fight.

dead bodies everywhere
mothers crying, children dying
the world is going to end.

don’t have a house
they knocked it down
all my things are in the ground.



by Leon Parry

People seeing people die before their eyes.
People steal bread just to survive.
Rats will eat human corpses with no regrets.
People looking thin and grunt as they walk through the streets.
Oh what would they do just for something to eat?
People walking around the ground.
Falling one by one to the ground.

Sick Spuds 

by Ryan Moore

I am a potato
rotting in the
When they dig me up
not much will be
Riddled with the blight
So sad
we will never see
the light of day.
The people above
depend on me,
But I am diseased
I will break their hearts.


by Shane Moore

In Ireland once there was a potato blight,
All the people had to fight,
Mothers starving, children crying,
Go ahead and give them bread,
Folks, they might not see day light,
Not today or tomorrow,
We will ask to borrow,
Or we will starve.

The Famine 

by Amy Gallagher 

No mothers, no sisters,
My brother in the grave.
Oh Father, I’m hungry,
But so are you.

Oh Father! Oh Father!
Just one grain of corn.
Oh Father! Oh Father!
Will I make it to the morn?

Just one grain of corn
so I don’t end up like mother.
Oh Father! Oh Father!
Just give me some corn.

Oh Father! Oh Father!
Hold me like you held Mother.
Oh Father! Oh Father!
I can’t breathe anymore.

Oh Father! Oh Father!
I am dead.

The Guards of the Grain 

by Nathan King

The guards stand all night all day to
Keep the homeless away.

The guards will stand and make sure
That the homeless stay away,
They give them a fright if they come close tonight,
Keep the homeless away.

The guards look left and right,
One night they got a fright,
The Queen was coming,
The guards were running,
“Open the gate! The Queen is coming!
Keep the homeless away!”

The guards were shocked,
“The Queen,” they said,
“she normally comes at day.”
The guards shouted “shut the door,
The Queen is in!
Keep the homeless away!”

The guards got called,
They went in shaking,
Frightened to the death.
The Queen was waiting,
“You have done well, guards,” stating
“Here is ten grains of corn for your pay.”
Continue. Keep the homeless away.


by Conor Moore

The famine was not so great,
There was no food, not even a grape.
No cheese for the mice, no beef they could cook,
The rich might help if they would only look.
The children are dying, the parents are crying,
Now a lot of our food goes to waste,
What the hungry would do for just a taste.

Two Days 

by Emily Wright 

Two days since I fled,
Other people around me,
It’s so cold,
I look the same.

It’s been two days
constant moving.

When is this going to end?
I’m starving.
It's been two days?
Two months?


Scoil Eoin Baiste, Carrigart


Coffin Ships

by Aoibhe McGettigan


I was built from stacks of wood.
I took about 12 weeks.
I couldn’t wait to travel the world
And to sail on every sea.

One warm July morning,
People boarded onto me.
We were going to America,
Across the Atlantic Sea.

We set sail from the dock,
The trip would take a year.
And although the wind and sky were calm,
The sea was full of fear.

A lot of people were sick,
A baby was first to die.
But then the weather took a turn,
There was lightning in the sky.

There was a wretched scream,
Then a million more.
People ran onto deck,
as water flooded the floor.

By the time we reached America,
Thirty people had passed away.
A mum, a dad, a son, a daughter,
All thrown into the bay.

I was too damaged to travel the world
And to sail on every sea,
So I was taken apart and scrapped,
And that was the end of me.

I’m All Alone

by Chloe Wilkin


Going to Mother
Looking for food
She looks at me and says
“Have you not heard?”
Father walks in and says
Gran has died.

We sit by the fire
on our last log
crying and praying
for food.
The landlord comes
knocking down the door
kicking us out
Mother says “let’s go to the work house”.

We arrive at the work house
The line a mile long
Father says “It’s too late”
Mother and I
look at Father
He is laying on the floor
Gasping for air.

Mother cries
for help
While I say my goodbyes.
They take Father
Mother and I lay down
to rest
but when I woke up
I see Mother
is gone.

I walk for miles
People dropping like flies
I get so
I fell
Over a rock


The Famine as a Young Child

by Suzanne Doherty


As I wake up on Sunday morning,
I hear Mother’s wail
About Father not paying
And being put to jail.

Mother and I are too weak,
Too weak, too weak to work.
“We have no rent” Mother whispered.
“We’ll take a boat from Cork.”

As we sail through rough cold waters
To find a better place,
We see these sons and daughters
Sick and pale on the face.

“Oh no! Mother! What’s wrong with them?
Is it going to happen to me?”
“Oh, poor child, hopefully not.
Just watch the fish in the sea.”

As we leave the boat and arrive
At the new place,
I realise I forgot my coat
in the scary place.

“I want to go home” I shout,
“I don’t like it here!”
“Child, please don’t pout,
Here we’ll know a lot less fear.”

“Mother, is there any food?
Any food you see?”
“Here is three pieces of corn
That you can share with me.”

I don’t feel very well,
I feel really sick.
And once I hit the ground and fell,
The end came very quick.

If I was in the Famine

by Kevin Lynagh


I look at how my life is so far,
I’m suffering from starvation and I have lots of scars.

People begging for food for themselves,
But they are worrying about the really bad smells.

Landlords taking all the people’s rent,
You just barged in, we gave no consent.

And of course, it was a terrible sight,
The terrible sight was potato blight.

Famine Poem

by Eamon McClafferty


Me, a soldier, guarding a ship,
See all the children, licking their lips,
For we are loading food on board.
While they are begging for the food we hoard
We export it all to foreign countries,
While the Irish people all
Die hungry.

My Poor Kids

by Tara Coyle


As I sit down at my dinner table,
Starving, sobbing, scared,
And I look at my children with nothing left to share.
Our crops are now dead, mush and dirt,
While me and my three children are left starving and hurt.
With no food left, I go look for more,
But I see three men outside my door.
They barge in, they push me aside,
And they take my child as the others go and cry.
They kick and scream, while I grab and plead,
They tell me I have nothing to help their needs.
If only the curse never happened,
I would still be with them singing and laughing,
But no, I’m still here, alone in my home,
Ready to die, die alone.

Peggy & Meggy

by Aimee Bassett


There once was a girl,
Her name was Peggy,
She had a sister called Meggy,
Meggy and Peggy went on a ferry,
But they had no food,
So they were both in a terrible mood.

No food led to starving kids.
Which led to skinny kids.
Which then led to dying kids.
Which then led to no kids.
At all.

Which lastly led to dying parents,
Because they had depression.

And all you could see
(if you were still alive)
Was dead bodies everywhere.

Privileged Guilt

by Eimhear McGurk


I am one of the privileged,
Tho my heart does not feel so,
As I stand around and watch them,
I only feel wretched and cold.

I long to feed the starving,
But my mother only says “No”
She says they need to earn their food,
“We can’t just give it out!”

My father is a landlord,
Each day taking a home,
Not thinking about their hunger,
Only his own.

I’m told I should be happy,
I have warm food and home,
But every time I eat a meal,
I see the boy down the road.

I watch them beg and plead for food,
I hear their cries each day,
Until their bodies turn to bone
And their cries go away.

I am one of the privileged,
Tho my heart does not feel so,
As watching people rot away,
Only feels wretched and cold.


Riches and Rags

by Harry Hegarty (in collaboration with Conor McCarty)


The Catholics starve and wait for food.
The Protestants sit on their throne of riches,
They’re ever so rude.
The landlords and ladies sit up and eat,
While the Catholics don’t have shoes on their feet.
The Protestants lie up on their beds,
the Catholics don’t have hats on their heads.
The Protestants have the money for boats,
The Catholics don’t even have oats.
The British have so much money,
They Irish noses, cold and runny.
The Irish are forced to move away,
The British will last for days and days and days.
The Irish have to leave on ships,
The British have food in their grips.
The Irish don’t have a home,
The British have solid gold thrones.
The British are extremely wealthy,
The Irish not close to healthy.
The British have nice warm clothes,
The Irish have freezing toes.
The British eat lots of pies,
I have to watch my parents die.
The British are fattened by their mother,
I had to witness the death of my brother.
The British have big families,
I’m waiting for God to take me…



The Children are Falling Sickly

by Amy Hunter


Children are falling sickly
No more shall they eat.
Not enough to eat for the
People on the streets.

Children are falling sickly
No more shall they eat.
Down people are dead by the streets,
The rich don’t care for the poor,
Dead or alive.

The children are sickly,
Plenty of food
For the rich but not for the poor.

The poor are dead
And people are fleeing,
But the government doesn’t care.

People by the docks,
Trying to flee
People are dead on the boats
But the government doesn’t care.

 The Poor Little Boy

by Odhrán McGroddy


I saw a little
looking so very

You could have
him for a

The poor little
boy so very
very hungry

His poor bony
body pleading
to be

In the end all
he would CRY
for was
a crumb of


The Famine Tragedy

by Aedín McHugh


My husband is dead on the floor,
My daughter can live no more,
Is it time for me to go?
I guess I’ll never know.
How do I go on
when everyone I love is gone?

How am I supposed to live,
When I have nothing left to give?
Do I deserve this tragedy?
Was this all aimed at me?
How do I go on
when everyone I love is gone?

Is this the end?
Or do I just have to get past the bend?
Will I live to see another born?
Or will I be gone before the morn?
How do I go on
when everyone I love is gone?

Thanks to the blight,
I may never see another night.
Why oh why
Did everyone have to die?
How do I go on
when everyone I love is gone?

It's time for me to close my eyes.
I no longer need to go on,
Since I am also gone.

The Groaning Ship
by Abbie Gallagher

The ship, I feel it groaning,
Straining under the weight.
The smell of the bodies is sickening,
And all I hear is people bickering,
Children crying, women wailing.

The ship, I feel it groaning,
Straining under the weight.
And all I see is people fighting for space,
Bodies piled high and some thrown overboard.

The ship, I feel it groaning,
Straining under the weight.
Then suddenly there was water up to my waist,
My shoulders, my head, and then the current was pulling me under.

My body, I feel it groaning,
Straining under the weight.

The Mattress
by Bridget Carr

I sit on the side of our mattress
My mother on my left
Asleep in her vest.
She baked, she read,
And she always fed.

I sit on the side of our mattress
My father on my right
Awoken from a pest.
He was strong, he was tough
And he was never rough.

I lay in the middle of my mattress
With me, myself and I.
I wonder what I did to deserve this,
I cried and cried and cried.

I awake on our mattress
I feel the scars on my back,
The whip used to scar me,
It represented  my slack.

I’m as starved as a hungry lion.
I’m holding onto life, I’m trying.
She left me in the cold,
How could I be so bold?
Was that fantasy of mine a lie?

The Native Americans
by Seamus Shields

I heard about the problems in Ireland,
So I tried to help their small island.
We sent over some corn maize,
And they said “It’ll save us for some days.”

The Irish said they’d repay us,
We said it is okay,
It’s okay, no need to make a fuss,
“The repay will happen someday.”

As they all just stood
Waiting for the food.
There were so many people, like a flock,
They were all just waiting at the dock.

They all were skinny,
basically skin and bone,
But they couldn’t call a doctor
cause no one had a phone.

And as the landlord banged on the door looking for rent,
nobody could afford, even a small rent.
If they stole anything,
even a loaf of bread
“It is to help feed my family” everyone said.

They would sail them to Botany Bay,
To make them dread,
Or even worse, they would have to kill them stone dead.

The Poor Catholics
by Conor McCarthy (in collaboration with Harry Hegarty)

The Catholics starve as they look for food,
the Protestants sit on their thrones of riches,
they’re ever so rude.
The landlords sit up and eat,
the Catholics don’t have shoes on their feet.
The Protestants lie on their bed,
The Catholics want to be fed.
The Protestants are moving freights of food,
The Catholics are eating potato blight.
The British have nice warm clothes,
The Irish have freezing, broken toes.
The British eat lots of pies,
I have to watch my parents die.
The British are fattened by their mother.
I had to witness the death of my brother.
The British have big families,
I’m waiting for God to take me…

There was a Little Girl
by Jerry Coyle

There was a little girl
that lived in a house
with her mum and dad
and her pet mouse.

They had a field of spuds and a small well.

She woke up one morning
to a terrible smell.
She opened the gate
to an awful state.

She felt her life turned to Hell!

The Potatoes
by Alex Wilk

The people in Ireland
Had very big trouble
Because the British people took all the food
And then the potatoes came.

But the potatoes blight fast,
And they smelled very bad
Many people lost their homes
because the landlords didn’t get their rent.

Lots of people needed food
Begging for some corn,
Dead bodies lying on the streets,
While the Queen is drinking her tea.

The Trek
by Madison Brogan

No more land left to farm,
Gathering up what little you have left
To start the trek to you new life.
The further you walk, the weaker you get.

Mobs of people heading towards the docks,
Mothers wailing as their children slowly fade away.
Bodies piled along the roads.
The further you walk the weaker you get.

The occasional roast dinner gone at the blink of an eye.
Surviving on the little food you have from home,
And the small bowl of soup you’ve waited hours for.
The further you walk the weaker you get.

When you finally reach the boat,
Everybody is crammed into a small lower deck,
Hoping you survive the journey.

The Voyage
by Ciarán Cooney

I do not know what I’m doing here,
They said I would get good pay.
But here I am, sailing this ship,
I’m going to Botany Bay.

They’re calling it a coffin ship
I don’t know what to say.
As we set sail, surely a fail.
As we arrive, so many have died.

But the people that survived,
Wanted to live their lives,
But the heat was so hot,
So many would rot,
Working in the sun,
Our work is never done.





Scoil Mhuire, Milford

An Endless Loop
by Ethan Gibbons

People in workhouses work for soup.
They said it was just an endless loop.
People on the street beg and pray,
But many die anyway.
They said any food had a great taste
Apart from the people who ate their own waste.

As the Years Go By
by Andrew McTaggart

As the years go by
Loads of people cry
More and more people die
And all we rely on is potatoes with blight
Everyone around me is sick.

I am slowly starving
The high up are ruining our life
Tonnes of graves everyday
I say to myself
Why am I still living?

I always think to myself
Will I even live another day.

Bring Me a Better Life
by Lilly Lynch

Rats are scurrying with fleas on
their backs in the cabin below.

People lying dead from how long ago
I don’t know?

No water, no food and no good mood.

How do I sleep? How do I
Keep going?

There’s no fresh air I can’t
Go anywhere.

No space, no safe place to
Escape the tragedy of my life
Bring me to America for a better

by Eoghan Ward

The potato blight is spreading,
The country is sad,
Going through the workhouse,
I can’t find my dad.
Mother was crying,
The potatoes were bad.

by Jasmine Barret Doherty

Starving people singing for bread,
homes being burnt to ash and shred,
Crying, sobbing as they walk,
Passing the dead
In their resting spot.

by Ryan O’Donnell

There were many deaths in workshouses.
As people’s bodies were dragged along slowly to graves,
Rats ate their flesh.
Some tried to sail to Australia,
But some didn’t make it.


Famine Poem
by Jake Morgan

The fields were bare,
The crops all gone.
The people suffering, one by one.
Their bellies are empty, their spirits low,
They had no hope, nowhere to go.

The Famine hit and hit so hard.
It left the broken scarred and marred,
But still they fought, they held on tight,
Never lost hope, never lost sight.

And though the Famine took its toll,
the Irish people had a soul.
They rose again and stood up tall,
And showed the world they could conquer all.

Gorta Mór
by Kayla Molloy

Children falling to
their knees
rats gnawing
on human
once a
land of
now a land of
dancing or
cheering no
more silence

Gorta Mór
by Liza Dill

People of Ireland
are dying
The English are

Children wanting
to play with
a doll
maybe even
to kick a ball.

People yell
and scream
trying to go to sleep
at night hoping
it was a dream.


Hungry Potatoes
by Fabian Strain

I woke up one day,
Went out to play
And found a potato.
It looked yummy,
Growl in my tummy,
It didn’t smell too good.
I ate it.
I died.

Illegal to Survive
by Calum Friel

We were on a boat starving
Barely breathing
So we stole some food.
Jimmy told the guards,
We got transferred to a prison ship
Sailing away to Australia
And then shot dead.

In a Graveyard
by Lucy McNulty

In a graveyard
Thinking of people being buried
Long long ago
All the people under the ground
Dead from hunger
Never to live again.

Life on a Coffin Ship
by Ryan Connolly

Hi, my name is Jack.
I am trying to leave
because all the food is dying.

I’m running away
and I’m barely going to make it
onto one of these big ships.

They’re called the coffin ships
and they’re very dirty, dangerous and scary,
but there’s no other way to leave.

I am trying to get on board
and it can barely fit the amount of people
because everywhere I look
there’s beds taken,
people on the ground,
people are dying everywhere.

Some people are pale and dying.
Some are not well,
some are okay,
but some can’t really find anywhere to go.

There are mice, rats on board,
and the dirt is disastrous,
and my friends aren’t too well either.

Living in a Workhouse
by Eimear McClintock

Trying to get through
the night because
of the potato blight.

Working, cleaning,
children weeping,
while we’re sweeping.

The smell is reeking,
give us the help
we are seeking.

Worker treating
patients while they’re

Will the torture
ever end…?


Our Mother Tongue
by Clara Lynch

Translated from the country who
Colonised us for centuries
Here I am shamefully writing
In English.

From Pre-1800s the English
Have made us dislike
Ourselves, language and culture.
And believe it or not
It’s still happening today.

It’s hard for people
To love our language
When we’re already speaking another.
So next time
You complain about Irish,
Remember all our language
Has been through.

by Michaella McElhinney

Sitting beside my brother in a graveyard,
The moon goes down and the sun comes up.
Thinking about the rest of my family.
Where are they? Where am I?
I’m just going to sit here til I die.
I don’t care when or where,
You will always find me there.

The Dark Days
by Lucia Cannon

The days are not
as people fight
through the potato
fighting for
our life
fighting for
our children
but we slowly
lose hope
bodies fall
children bawl
struggling to
“My children
are not fed
give them a
slice of bread”

The Death of My Child
by Darcy Shields

My boy and I,
Lying here for dead.
Starved to our core
Because they took our bread.

The horrifying landlords
Burned down our house.
They think nothing of me,
Like I’m a weak little mouse.

My child’s life was traumatised,
God our saviour will take him soon.
His face is white, he’s skinned to the bone.
My boy will not make it past noon.

“I will miss you Mother” as he perished
He whispered in my ear.
“Don’t worry, my child, I’ll be with you soon.
I’ll miss you more my dear.”

The Famine
by Aoibheen McConigly Blaney

I woke up one morning
to my father sounding sad.
My mother was crying,
All the potatoes had gone bad.

I used to go on a walk.
If I see someone I stop and take
Nowadays if I go on a walk
Not an animal,
Nothing in sight.
This is all because of this stupid blight.

The Famine
by Nancy McCarthy

The famine was caused by a potato blight,
And oh the potatoes were quite the sight,
Mush and smush nothing more.

And all the landlords thought they were right.
If you didn’t have rent they would
Come and knock down the roof of your shed.

Everybody hoping to get through just one more night.
Nobody likes the potato blight.

The Famine Workhouse
by Ryan Murray

There was once a workhouse for the poor
And I was waiting for the door to open.
I was waiting for days
If not weeks.

When the door opened
I realised I could not move
And I watched people going in
And more people arriving
As I could do nothing more than
Watch and feel powerless.

The Fox in the Workhouse
by Gray Osborn

I snuck through the window
And onto the floor looking for food,
When I got startled by a tall man
Who stood with a hood.

He coughed and spluttered
And with a one two three
He was lying in front of me.

When my tummy rumbled,
I had no choice
But to eat his flesh
With no remorse.

When the maid saw me,
She screamed and yelled,
So I ran out the window
And back to my den.

The Lonely Road
by Lochlan McBride

was once
Now it is
lonely path

It once
was a
now is

The New Pet
by Sophie Beth

Me, Gemma, and Mum
adopted a new pet.
We took it home.
We bathed it.
We fed it.
We put it into bed.

The pup’s name was Cookie
Then it was daytime.

We woke up and
We played outside and
We went to get ice cream.
My mum had strawberry.

We came back.
We had dinner.
then we watched a movie.

Then the next morning,
The puppy died.

The Potato Blight
by Kane Toye

as the potatoes used to
be fresh and nice
then up came the
potato blight

the people keeping losing
the plot
and the potatoes
continue to rot

some people trying
to survive
some people
left there to

The Road
by Ronan McGranaghan

The road is packed,
I might not make it in time.
I might nearly escape
This hunger of mine
Or die trying
I hear a scream or yell
Every now and then
A person dead on
The street, pale and
Not fed.
I seen a cottage
Dethatched and in ruin
I’m nearly there
I trip and fell
Bleed and yell
I look at the sea
The ship has left
I am stuck left to not
With nothing left
Awaiting the sweet relief of Death.


The Rotten Potatoes
by Dylan Friel

One day the
wind blows

The potatoes
are growing
the grass

After a
while I
look at
the potatoes
they have

No food now!

While the Rooks Fly
by Holly Hewett

While the rooks fly,
We just die.
Starvation spreads,
We just dread.

Waiting for news
if our potatoes came through.
We have been evicted
From our small tenant home.

Our plants started rotting long ago.
Trying to keep ourselves alive,
Many have already died.
We just hope we will survive

Working in the Workhouse
by Dáithi Deery

In the workhouse
I work day and night,
All the time.

Everyone looks
Grim and famished
All waiting to die.

Getting by with
Crumbs of bread
Sad and lonely.

People die
Left and right.

The horror that
You witnessed as
A child.

All alone
as you die.







Decade of Centenaries Commemorations and Heritage Week, 6 Podcasts. Sit back, listen, and be transported back in time.

Click this link


Night Night North West

Night Night North West is a series of half-hour radio broadcasts of bedtime stories on Highland Radio, which were aired in the Spring of 2018.

The programmes were recorded at library venues around the county, featuring various readers reading to pupils from local schools.

The first and final broadcast in the series featured Laureate an nÓg PJ Lynch reading tales by Oscar Wilde to local primary school pupils in Central Library Letterkenny.

The series was designed to educate and inform but in a soft and informal way, where those present and those listening will get to experience and learn about Irish literature.

Speaking about the project, Real Films Director, Alison Toomey said ‘Night Night North West is a bedtime story format which aims to use the power of oral tradition and the depth and strength of our literature, to explore themes of Irish culture, heritage and experience with the young people of Donegal. In doing so we will encourage, reading, literacy, debating and the process involved in creative thought.’

Click on the 'listen back' links below to listen to a bedtime story suitable for all ages. 


Schedule of broadcasts:


Series 2





Title of Book 

Listen back


Central Library Letterkenny

Educate Together

Siobhan Parkinson

The Nightingale and the Rose

Programme 1


Buncrana Community Library

Scoil Íosagáin

Alison Toomey

The Dreaming Tree

Programme 2


Carndonagh Community Library

Scoil Mhuire Gleneely

Alison Toomey

Olanna’s Big Day

Programme 3


Bundoran Community Library

St MacCarthan’s N.S. Bundoran

Terence McAnerney

Favourite Rhymes from an Irish Childhood

Programme 4 


Bundoran Community Library

Four Masters, Kinlough

Terence McAnerney

A Sailor went to Sea, Sea, Sea

Programme 5


Cross Border Mobile Library

Ray National School

Alison Toomey

A Garden for Tom

Programme 6


Twin Towns Library

St Marys N.S. Stranorlar

Tricia Keane

The Boy who fell off the Mayflower

Programme 7


Carndonagh Community Library

Donagh N.S.

Alison Toomey

Guess how much I love you

Can’t you sleep little bear?

Programme 8


Leabharlann Phobail Ghaoth Dobhair

Scil Phádraig, Dobhair

Mary Thoraig

Éasca Péasca. Scéal Eile

Programme 9


Twin Towns Library

St Marys N.S. Stranorlar

Tricia Keane

Ed’s Funny Feet

Programme 10


Leabharlann Phobail Ghaoth Dobhair

Scoil Chonaill, Bunbeg

Mary Thoraig


Programme 11


Buncrana Community Library

St. Mura’s N.S. Buncrana

Alison Toomey

Owl Babies

Lottie's Letter

Programme 12


Milford Community Library

Scoil Mhuire, Milford

Alison Toomey

The Secret of Kells

Programme 13


Central Library Letterkenny

St Patrick's N.S. Lurgybrack

Siobhan Parkinson

The Remarkable Rocket

Programme 14




Series 1





Title of Book 

Listen back


 Central Library Letterkenny

 Scoil Colmcille

 PJ Lynch

 The Selfish Giant

Programme 1


 Bundoran Community Library

 St McCartan's NS        

 Alison Toomey

 The Bee-Man of Orn

Programme 2


 Twin Towns Community Library

 St Mary's  NS

 Marion Rose McFadden 

 The Sunbeam Path & the Dolmen Arches

Programme 3


 Milford Community Library

 Scoil Mhuire

 Eoin McNeill

 Did You See My Celebration?

Programme 4 


 Carndonagh Community Library

 Scoil Mhuire Gleneely

 Alison Toomey

 Sinead the Dancer, Ribbit-Ribbit & No Shoes for Tom!

Programme 5


 Buncrana Community Library

 Scoil Íosagáin

 Alison Toomey

 Molly's Secret World

Programme 6


 Leabharlann Phobail Ghaoth Dobhair

 SN Gort an Choirce  

 Bernie Ní Dhuibhirb


Programme 7


 Cross Border Mobile Library, Newtowncunningham

 Moyle NS

 Alison Toomey

Amy's Wonderful Nest & The Little Black Sheep 

Programme 8


 Central Library Letterkenny

 Scoil Mhuire gan Smál   

 PJ Lynch

 The Happy Prince

Programme 9