When the second day of our Ireland Road Trip dawned bright and sunny I just knew we were in for great day out exploring. Unlike our first day, when things just didn’t work out, today things were going to happen!
SS Dunbrody Famine Ship
Docked in New Ross is an authentic reproduction of an 1840’s emigrant vessel that tells the story, along with the help from some talented performers, of the mass emigration of the Irish people. The 19th century brought a period of extreme hardship to Ireland, especially in 1845 when potato blight killed the mainstay of the Irish tenant farmers. This, combined with political conflict with Britain, led to the famine. Within only seven years, 1 million people had died and 1.5 million had emigrated in the hopes of a better life than what Ireland could offer.
Can you imagine the thoughts and emotions that would have gone into making such a decision? On the one hand your family was literally starving so, if you could manage to scrape together enough money, you could sail to North America or Australia with the chance for a healthier and more prosperous life. But on the other hand was the sadness of knowing you were leaving friends and family behind, not likely to ever see them again. And very few people ever did return to their homeland.
The Dunbrody Irish Emigrant Experience gave us the opportunity to learn about these hard decisions and the SS Dunbrody’s role in them.
Interestingly the Dunbrody was actually built in a Quebec shipyard by an Irish emigrant shipbuilder who received the order from a New Ross shipping firm. The three-masted ship took less than six months to build and was launched from Quebec the summer of 1845 on the first Atlantic voyage of its long career- just in time to see the potatos struck by disease and farmers in that area losing about a third of their crop. The impact on the people was immediate.
Those with skills and money saw a better future abroad and left. But not all of the Dunbrody’s passengers had a choice about their journey. Some were paid to emigrate by landlords who wanted rid of them, and others were sent abroad to ease overcrowding in workhouses. These stories, and lots more information, provides the first part of the Emigrant Experience as you wander through a path filled with information, a movie, and a guide who tells more of the story and answers questions. We were fortunate and somehow ended up between two tour groups so we got our own private tour and all our questions answered.
The final stop of the tour is on the ship itself. The guide showed us all around the outside of the ship, explaining which parts were original (like the bell that you are free to give a ring), and which were reconstructed and how. We then made our way below deck for a feel of how the passengers lived on those rough crossings, and more of their stories-both from our guide, and also from two talented ladies who portrayed passengers. One lady told us her story as a steerage passenger making her way to America with her husband and children, and the other lady was wealthy and had a very different experience on her crossing. Both did a great job and even got L and I into the story.
If you’d like to learn about this, albeit sad, period of Ireland’s history we’d definitely recommend making time on your trip to Ireland to take part in this experience.
The Emigrant Flame
Just outside the SS Dunbrody is the Emigrant Flame with ties to the United States. Its first lighting was from fire taken from the Eternal Flame at the graveside of President John F Kennedy in Arlington Cemetery in Virginia. It traveled 3700 miles by land, sea, and air to New Ross to light the Emigrant Flame on June 22, 2013- 50 years after JFK’s visit to the town of his forefathers.
Today the flame burns permanently to remember all emigrants throughout the world. Alongside the flame you’ll find this poem-
As Slow Our Ship
As slow our ship her foamy track
Against the wind was cleaving,
Her trembling pennant still look’d back
To the dear Isle ’twas leaving.
So loath we part from all we love,
From all the links that bind us;
So turn our hearts as on we rove,
To those we’ve left behind us.
~ Thomas Moore(1779-1852)
Open seven days a week from 0900 to 1800 || First tour is at 0945 and last tour is at 1700
Admission Prices: Adults €10/ Children €6 with family combo tickets that will save you money. You’re also going to love their tickets- a very unique memento of your tour.
Address: Moored quayside in New Ross, County Wexford.
Parking: Public pay-and-display parking is available right next to the SS Dunbrody.
There are toilet facilities, a cafe, and a gift shop on-site.
Full visitor information can be found here.
To read more about our adventures on our Ireland Road Trip, please feel free to check out these posts:
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