The club sponsored a long awaited trip to visit the replica ship which carried so many
Irish emigrants to the North East United States and Canada.





Stark choice… emigrate or starve

When disease hit the potato crop – the staple diet of the Irish people – during consecutive seasons from 1845 to 1848, disaster struck. Every family in the country was touched in one way or another.

For many people, it came down to a stark choice between risking the fearful transatlantic voyage on an emigrant ship or remaining in Ireland to starve.

This is where the famed Jeanie Johnston entered the picture to dramatic effect. A square-sterned, three-masted barque, constructed of Quebec oak and pine, the 408 tonne ship was built in Quebec, Canada by noted Scottish-born shipbuilder, John Munn in 1847.

A year later, the prominent Tralee, Co. Kerry hardware merchant, Nicholas Donovan, purchased the ship in Liverpool and originally intended to use it on the North Atlantic route as a cargo vessel.

New beginning for over 2,500 people
The dire circumstances of the starving Irish soon altered his plans and the ship made its maiden voyage to Quebec on April 24, 1848, with 193 emigrants on board who were searching for a new life as the effects of the Famine ravaged the land.

Over the next seven years, the sturdy wooden sailing vessel made 16 heroic voyages in all to North America, sailing to Quebec, Baltimore and New York. From 1848 – 1855, the ship carried over 2,500 Irish people across the Atlantic on the first step in a brave new adventure.

In the process, the Jeanie Johnston accomplished a remarkable feat. Under the direction of its kind-hearted owner, Nicholas Donovan, its caring captain, Captain James Attridge and a highly experienced resident medical doctor, Dr. Richard Blennerhassett, no lives were lost on board.


   The "Jeanie Johnston" sailed triumphantly into Fenit Harbour, under the command of 
Captain Tom McCarthy, at lunchtime on Thursday, two weeks after leaving St Johns, 
Newfoundland and after enduring some very severe weather conditions on the way. Since leaving 
Ireland in February the replica famine ship has travelled 12,000 miles, visited 21 ports in 
North America, and received over 90,000 visitors. The success of the trip has led to optimistic 
comments about the vessel's future. Hugh Friel, chairman of the Jeanie Johnston company, is 
confident that new structures can be put in place to ensure the ship remains in Irish hands, 
with a North-South dimension, providing sail training and promoting tourism.


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