The Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship tells the desperate stories of those who fled the Great Famine in Ireland, in search of a better life abroad. Many of these people died in harrowing circumstances and the sadness of these people is etched in many of the stories from the ship. Any yet there is hope for those that make it.
The tales from this recreated ship are both heartbreaking and hopeful, the tantalising promise of a new life always pulling at those people with life changing choices to make. And yet, these choices were forced on the people as what was left for them in Ireland? Poverty, hunger, and death.
The original Jeanie Johnston dates back to 1847 and was built in Canada by the John Munn who was Scottish. However, the ship was not intended for human passengers, it was actually designed as a cargo ship. Her maiden voyage was made from Co. Kerry and travelled to Quebec in Canada. In total the shop carried 2,500 Irish emigrants over 16 transatlantic voyage to the Americas. Each journey took about 47 days. The most passengers the ship carried was 254, for perspective the replica ship only carries a maximum of 40 people.
Eventually the ship was sold in 1855 to William Johnson who was based in the north of England, near Newcastle. The ship returned to it’s original duties of hauling cargo. However, in 1858 the ship became waterlogged on the way from Hull to Quebec carrying lumber. After nine days of slowly sinking, the crew were rescued by a passing ship, the Sophie Elizabeth. Even as it was sinking, no crew members lost their lives so the ship held its unblemished record right to the end.
Sailing in the Famine
At the time, famine ships had a dreadful reputation for deaths on the high seas, as poverty and illness swept through the ships. In contrast, the Jeanie Johnston never lost a passenger or crew member. This is generally put down to the skill of the captain, James Attridge and the presences of an onboard doctor, Richard Blennerhassett.
The cost of a journey across the Atlantic was 3 pounds and 10 shillings. Although the ship has an impeccable safety record the journey was treacherous and the passengers endured terrible sickness, disease and filth on the crossings. You will learn about all of this on the tour.
Recreation of the Jeanie Johnston
Even though there was talk of recreating the ship in the 1980’s the first concrete steps were taken with a feasibility study in 1993. Finally, the ship was completed in 2002.
Apart from some modern technology to make the ship seaworthy, the ship is a faithful recreation of the original Jeanie Johnston.
From 2002 to 2008 the ship sailed around the United States and Canada, taking in 32 cities and 100,000+ visitors. She also took part in the Tall Ships Race of 2005. Since 2008 the ship is based in Dublins Docklands where you can now go tour the ship.
The tour itself has received very good reviews and for anyone with an interest in old ships or the Famine, it really is a must see. It lasts about 50 minutes.
Admission prices start at 6 for children with adults priced at 11. Family tickets are also available. Access to the ship is only via the guided tour.
See more at jeaniejohnston.ie