Children and the Great Hunger, an international conference hosted by Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute and the Irish Heritage Trust, took place at Quinnipiac University from Wednesday, June 14, through Saturday, June 17, 2017. 

In any sustained period of food hunger and famine, children are one of the most vulnerable groups in terms of disease and mortality. The Great Hunger that occurred in Ireland between 1845 and 1852 is no exception. This conference explored the impact of famine on children and young adults.

Keynote Speakers

Keynote speakers

The following speakers presented at the conference:

Michael Collins was born in Limerick, Ireland. He is the author of 10 works of fiction. His work has been translated into 17 languages. His novel “The Keepers of Truth” was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize and the IMPAC Award. Other novels have won the Irish Novel of the Year, the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, along with the Prix Littéraire Lucien Barrière. His short fiction has won the Pushcart Prize for Best Fiction. He is the recipient of numerous New York Times Notable Book of the Year Awards.

Christine Kinealy has worked in educational and research institutes in Dublin and Belfast, Ireland, as well as in England and, more recently, in the United States. In September 2013, she was appointed the founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University. She has published extensively; her most recent books include “Charity and the Great Hunger: The Kindness of Strangers” (Bloomsbury, 2013), and “An Drochshaol” (with John Walsh, Dublin, 2016). 

Mark McGowan is a professor of history at the University of Toronto. From 2014 to 2017 he served as the senior academic advisor to the dean of arts & science on international matters. He specializes in Canadian, Irish, religious and immigration history, particularly the Irish Famine migration to Canada in the 1840s and Irish participation in World War I. In 2009, his book “Death or Canada” was the basis for a joint award-winning Canada-Ireland docudrama on the Famine, and aired in Canada, Ireland, the United States and Britain. His books on Ireland, Canada, immigration and religion have won numerous prestigious awards. His seventh book, “The Imperial Irish: Canada’s Irish Catholics Fight the Great War, 1914-1918,” has just been published. 

Gerard Moran is a researcher at the Social Sciences Research Centre (SSRC) at National University of Ireland Galway, where he has lectured in the Department of History. His areas of research include Irish emigration and the diaspora, the Great Famine and land and political agitation in 19th-century Ireland. He is the author of "Sending Out Ireland's Poor: Assisted Emigration to North America in the Nineteenth Century" (Dublin, 2004 and 2014) and joint editor of "Mayo History & Society: Interdisciplinary Essays on the History of an Irish County" (Dublin, 2014).

Maureen Murphy holds the Joseph L. Dionne Chair of Teacher Education at Hofstra University. She is the author of “Compassionate Stranger: Asenath Nicholson and the Great Irish Famine” (Syracuse, 2015), is a former director of the New York State Great Irish Famine Curriculum and the historian of The Irish Hunger Memorial at Battery Park City in Manhattan. She is the past president of the American Conference for Irish Studies and past chair of the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures.

Schedule of Events

Event schedule

Wednesday, June 14

1 - 3:30 p.m. - Arrival and registration at York Hill

3:30 - 5:30 p.m. - Visit to Ireland's Great Hunger Museum (transportation provided)

5:30 - 7 p.m. - Book launch ("The Bad Times," "An Droch Shaol," and "Women and the Great Hunger") and reception featuring the music of harpist Terra Burgoyne (pizza and refreshments provided)

Thursday, June 15

8 - 9 a.m. - Registration and breakfast

9 - 10 a.m. - Keynote 1: "Suffer Little Children: Life in the Workhouses During the Great Famine," by Dr. Gerard Moran (Galway University). Chair, Professor Christine Kinealy (Quinnipiac University).

10:15 - 11 a.m. - Plenary: "Children as Chroniclers of the Great Hunger. Rescuing from Oblivion the Traditions of the Historic Irish Nation. Famine and Folklore Memories." By Professor Christine Kinealy.

11:15 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. - Panel 1: "Irish Famine Orphans in Canada and the Workhouse," Chair, Dr. Gerard Moran.

  • "Seeking for Nora Walsh: Canadian Irish Orphan Robert Walsh's Search for His Little Sister Left Behind in Famine Ireland," by Dr. Jason King (Irish Heritage Trust).
  • "Not Standing Idly By: Educating Famine Orphans at the Emigrant Orphan Asylum in Saint John, New Brunswick, 1847-1849," by Koral LaVorgna (St. Thomas University, New Brunswick).
  • "Grim Scars: Workhouse Children and Famine Legacy," by Simon Gallaher (Cambridge University).

1 - 2 p.m. - Lunch

2 - 3:30 p.m. - Panel 2: "Children, The Great Hunger, and Literature," Chair, Professor Maureen Murphy (Hofstra University).

  • "Jonathan Swift, William Blake, and Children of the Great Hunger," by Deborah Fallon (Drew University).
  • "A Lasting Hunger: The Legacy of the Children," by Elizabeth Osta (St. John Fischer College, Rochester).
  • "American Perspectives on the Treatment of These Irish Famine Child Migrants in New York City, 1845-1852," by Turlough McConnell (McConnell Communications).

3:45 - 5 p.m. - Tour of Knights of Columbus Museum in New Haven (transportation provided)

5 - 6 p.m. - Keynote 2: "Finding Molly Johnson: Canada and the Orphans of the Great Irish Famine," by Professor Mark McGowan (University of Toronto). Chair, Dr. Jason King.

6 - 7 p.m. - Reception sponsored by the Knights of Columbus Museum

7 - 8:45 p.m. - Free time in New Haven

9 p.m. - Transportation back to York Hill

Friday, June 16

8 - 9 a.m. - Registration and breakfast

9 - 10 a.m. - Keynote 3: "Teaching the Great Irish Famine," by Professor Maureen Murphy. Chair, Professor Christine Kinealy.

10 - 10:45 a.m. - Plenary: "Children in the Workhouse Bioarchaeological Legacies," Chair, Dr. Gerard Moran. 

  • "Children in a Ragged State: Seeking a Bioarchaeological Narrative of Childhood in the Kilkenny Union Workhouse During the Great Irish Famine," by Dr. Jonny Geber (University of Otago).

11 a.m. - 12:30 p.m. - Panel 3: "Searching for the 619 Irish Orphans of Quebec 1847-1848," Chair, Professor Mark McGowan.

  • "An Update on the Strokestown Missing 1490 Project," by Michael Vukas, Conor Finan and Meghan Drascic-Gaudio (University of Toronto).

or Panel 4: "Great Hunger Legacies: Ecology, Epidemiology, Memory," Chair, Professor Muareen Murphy.

  • "The Impact of Famine on Children," by Peta-Gay Clayton (Hofstra University).
  • "The Impact of Famine on Neurological Development," by Nicole Lentini (Hofstra University).
  • "Women Under Scrutiny: Moral Anxieties and the Female Body During the Great Irish Famine," by Karla Freire (Hofstra University).
  • "Globalization, Climate Change, and Famine Today," by Alan Singer and Ashley Balgobind (Hofstra University).

12:30 - 1:15 p.m. - Lunch

1:30 - 2:45 p.m. - "Reading and Writing the Great Famine," Chair, Dr. Jason King.

  • "A Gift of Stone: Wrong Turns and Dead Ends - Writing My Way into a Character's Head," by Maeve Bancroft (UC Cork).
  • "Reading the Famine. In Search of Mary Anne Sadlier's Younger Audience," by Dr. Steven Butler (New York University).
  • "A Review of Books Written for Children and Young Adults," by Robert Young (Quinnipiac University).

3 p.m. - Transportation to Lender Family Special Collection Room, Mount Carmel Campus

3:15 - 4:15 p.m. - Panel 5: "Display: The Great Hunger and Children's Literature."

  • Explore the Arnold Bernhard Library and Quinnipiac's Mount Carmel Campus.

4:30 p.m. - Transportation back to York Hill

5 - 6 p.m. - Keynote Reading: "Into Your Arms I Commend My Spirit - Religious Vocation of The Grey Nuns in a Time of Pestilence and Hunger," by Michael Collins. Chair, Dr. Jason King.

6 - 7 p.m. - Break

7 - 8 p.m. - Cocktail reception sponsored by Strokestown Park House, the Irish National Famine Museum and Irish Heritage Trust. Music provided by The Edjukated Jazz Ensemble.

8 p.m. - Welcoming remarks and conference banquet. Remarks by President John Lahey, Quinnipiac University; and by Caroilin Callery and John O'Driscoll, Strokestown Park House, Irish National Famine Museum, Irish Heritage Trust.

Saturday, June 17

8 - 9:30 a.m. - Registration and breakfast

  • Film screening (optional). Rebecca Abbott (Quinnipiac University): "Ireland's Great Hunger and the Irish Diaspora," narrated by Gabriel Byrne (2015). Nominated for an Emmy Award, 2017.

9:30 - 11:30 a.m. - Irish Community Leader's Forum

  • Chair, Jason King (Irish Heritage Trust)
  • Victor Boyle (Irish Monument Park Foundation, Montreal)
  • Caroilin Callery (Irish National Famine Museum, Strokestown Park House)
  • Bob Gessler (Philadelphia Irish Memorial)
  • Angela Murphy (Passage West Maritime Heritage Festival & Museum)
  • Katie Regan (Lucky Ewe, Hamden)
  • James Russell (New Bedford Whaling Museum)
  • Catherine Shannon (Charitable Irish Society of Boston)


  • Christine Kinealy (Quinnipiac University)
  • Mark McGowan (University of Toronto)
  • Gerard Moran (Galway University)
  • Maureen Murphy (Hofstra University)

Closing remarks

About Us

About us

Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University fosters a deeper understanding of the Great Hunger of Ireland and its causes and consequences through a strategic program of lectures, conferences, course offerings and publications.