Mayo victims of The Great Famine remembered at Otley Folk Festival

Mayo victims of The Great Famine remembered at Otley Folk Festival

A WEST Yorkshire MP has penned a song paying tribute to Mayo natives who fled to Otley during The Great Famine.

Greg Mulholland joined his Yorkshire-based folk band Summercross for a performance of Irish Fields at the Otley Folk Festival last weekend.

The song is written from the perspective of a parent caught up in The Hunger in the mid-nineteenth century in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo.

Mulholland, who is the MP for Otley, said: “As a songwriter I felt that this was a song that should be told through music.

I hope I have captured something of the personal story of a family who have heard from a relative about Otley and set off to try and get there, not knowing if they would make it or die on the way.”

Irish Fields includes references to Thomas Constable – a local solicitor who organised the saving of Irish families by providing them a safe haven in the Leeds market town and civil parish.

Earlier this year, a community campaign was launched for St. Patrick’s Day in order to raise money for a statue to commemorate Constable, who was joined by his sister Mary in their philanthropic efforts.

"The actions of local man Thomas Constable saved many lives and made the town a beacon of hope for some five hundred people who made it to Otley and were able to begin a new life,” added Mulholland.

“I hope that Irish Fields will draw more attention to the shared history between Otley and Ireland.

“The song is also a tribute to the 53 people who made it to Otley but were already too ill and died.”

The Member of Parliament plays alongside Summercross, a five-piece folk group comprising Annie Raynor, Jim Caswell, Mary Huby, and Mark Daniel Rogers. Otley has maintained strong links with Mayo in recent times.

In 2011, its former mayor Ray Smith led a delegation to Ballina in order to build links between the two areas.