Strokestown Park House and Famine Museum
The Great Famine of the 1840s ravaged Ireland, in particular the west of the country, and is one of the principle reasons why the Irish diaspora is both plentiful and widespread worldwide. The Famine Museum in Strokestown is situated on the grounds of Strokestown Park House, which itself is built on the site that was the home of the O’Connor Roe Gaelic Chieftans in the 16th century and later the Mahon family.
The estate was owned by the Mahon family until 1979 when it was bought by the Westward company who saw its potential as a heritage and tourist site particularly as much historical evidence of the famine remained. There is a dark irony that the museum honouring poor Irish tenants who perished during the famine is located on the estate of a landlord family responsible for the eviction of more than 11,000 tenants.
Indeed Major Dennis Mahon was assassinated by local men in 1847 at the height of unrest during the famine but the evictions of poor and starving families continued. The museum includes letters that were sent to the Mahon family from tenants appealing for help, appeals that were usually ignored or rejected.
The inside of the house was seen by ordinary Irish people for the first time on the silver screen, in the 1984 film 'Anne Devlin', which was based on the 1798 rising. In 1987 it was opened as a showhouse with guided tours. The Famine Museum was opened in 1994 by then Irish President Mary Robinson and records show that Mary Lenehan, an ancestor of another former president, Mary McAleese, lived in Strokestown during the 1840s.