Hello , and welcome to this weekend’s virtual walk.
It is a lovely November day, the weather is mild, and the trees are golden – Today we are heading for County Tyrone to pay a visit to the Ulster American folk museum.
Located just outside the town of Omagh this is an open air museum that tells the story of three centuries of Irish emigration .
I can’t believe how mild it is today, the sky is blue and there is hardly a breeze – a perfect autumn day. We will park the car and head off for a walk around the folk park.
Our route will be smooth and level, and it will take us about an hour to stroll around.
Having paid our admission, we head out into the park. What we will see are three parts of the story of emigration – the old world, the journey and the new world.
Our first stop brings us to a one roomed cottage. This building was transported stone by stone from the nearby Sperrin mountains and we can get a real understanding how a whole family tried to survive in such harsh conditions in the famine times . We can see a working turf fire and the single pot that was used to cook potatoes .
Our next stop will be to a restored blacksmiths forge and beyond that a weavers cottage complete with a working loom .
Crossing the road , The Mellon farmhouse has stood here since it was bult in 1813 and we are greeted with a crowing cock , several ducks and a pair of honking geese. Take a look at the nearby water pump , from which water was drawn for cooking and cleaning. Strolling on we can visit a larger , two storey farmhouse, the church and the school. I love how these buildings have been so painstakingly restored for us to visit , and it’s great that there are not so many around today – we are like time travellers !
Our next stop is Ulster Street, where we walk the cobbled streets as we buy the last of our supplies and say farewell to Ireland before setting out across the Atlantic to the new world. We can take a look inside the post office, the general store , the butchers and the pub ! Our next stop will be at the docks where a replica famine ship is constructed . A guide tells us that this ship was once a simple freighter that was converted to carry passengers on their journey to America or Canada. Designed to hold 200 people in cramped conditions – often over 400 were crammed into the narrow bunks for the 20 to 30 day voyage . As we walk through the lower deck I think that you will agree that it must have been a horrible experience …
But, the reward at the other side of the ocean was the new world and the promise of adventure and a new life . Now we are in the third part of our walk – the new world . Take a look at the log cabins and farmhouses that the new settlers constructed. These are genuine replicas of settler’s homes that were constructed in Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Tennessee.
As we walk around these houses I think that you will agree that life must have been harsh for these new settlers , and I’m sure many must have missed their homeland and families.
The museum has done an amazing job bringing this story of emigration to life . The lovingly restored buildings complete with the artefacts, the helpful guides and even the smell of the turf fires and live animals bring the past closer to us. For my American and Canadian friends this must be an amazing vision of how your ancestors embarked on a courageous journey in the quest for a new life.
We could spend hours looking around and given the beautiful day it’s great to be in the outdoors .As we head into the visitor centre there are more exhibits for us to see, and a well-stocked gift shop too – they have a lot of books on emigration of you want to read more about the subject.
I don’t know about you , but all that outdoors walking has worked up a fine appetite! Let’s stop for a well-deserved cup of tea and a freshly baked scone in the tearoom.
I do hope that you have enjoyed coming with me today and getting a better understanding of the story of Irish emigration.
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