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Songs of the Great Hunger released for National Famine Commemoration Day 2021

May 14, 2021

The National Famine Museum at Strokestown Park and The Irish Heritage Trust have released a short film entitled Songs of the Great Hunger for National Famine Commemoration Day on May 16th, 2021. It is funded by the Government of Ireland Emigrant Support Programme.

Songs of the Great Hunger shares the songs of Brendan Graham performed at famine commemoration events in Ireland, Australia, and Canada. The film explores the historical experiences of Irish emigrant communities during the Great Hunger that inspired his classic songs such as Ochón an Gorta Mór, Crucán na bPáiste, and Orphan Girl. Song performances will include Cathy Jordan, Eimear Quinn, Aimee Banks, and Sarah Calderwood with the Australian Girls Choir. Linguistic Anthropologist Eileen Moore Quinn provides commentary on the songs and their resonances within the Irish diaspora.

Brendan Graham’s songs such as You Raise Me Up and Isle of Hope, Isle of Tears, have become modern day classics, while his Rock ‘n’ Roll Kids and The Voice, were Ireland’s two last winning songs at the Eurovision Song Contest.

He is also the author of the best-selling The Whitest Flower, a ‘documentary novel’ set in the times of An Gorta Mór.

“I am honoured to have my work used in tandem with this year’s National Commemoration of Ireland’s Great Famine to honour the memory of those who died, suffered, were dispossessed and driven into exile as a result of An Gorta Mór,” said Brendan Graham. “We are in a time of reflection and remembering…and many today in a time of loss and grieving. The past, our history, is always present and so, we are the present-day bearers of that past. We carry it with us, but sometimes, it is only through song that we can express the inexpressible of what we carry. It is what led me to write these songs and I thank all the wonderful artistes who gave such sensitive voice to them.”

“Brendan Graham is a uniquely gifted lyricist and composer whose songs about the Great Hunger resonate with Irish diasporic communities around the world,” said Dr. Jason King of the Irish Heritage Trust. “We are honoured to be collaborating with Brendan on our Songs of the Great Hunger short film and to be hosting a live online event with him and Professor Quinn after the National Famine Commemoration Day ceremony on May 16th,” he added.

Songs of the Great Hunger is the first of two documentary films which use the vehicle of Brendan Graham’s songs to look at events in Ireland’s Diasporic history. The second documentary Songs of the Irish American and Canadian Diaspora will air June 6th.

On May 16th, a live online discussion will be held with Brendan Graham and Eileen Moore Quinn following the National Famine Commemoration Day ceremony at 1pm in Ireland, 8am in the United States and Canada (Eastern time). This online discussion will be hosted on

This online discussion will take place after the National Famine Commemoration Day Ceremony. The ceremony, which will be led by President Michael D. Higgins, will take place in Glasnevin Cemetery, Dublin at 12pm on Sunday 16 May and will include military honours and a wreath laying ceremony in remembrance of all those who suffered or perished during the Famine. President Michael D. Higgins will give the keynote address at the ceremony. The ceremony will be broadcast on the RTÉ News channel, and on RTÉ News across social media.

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