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Daniel in Dublin – Jeanie Johnston

Jeanie Johnson


Jeanie Johnson

I had an afternoon free last month and decided to use the time to do a new attraction. I’ve driven past the Jeanie Johnson many times but never braved boarding so I thought it was about time.

The Jeanie Johnston tells the story of the thousands of Irish people who left Ireland during the Great Hunger. The ship would bring people over to Canada, Baltimore & New York then bring timber from Canada back to Ireland. 

A ticket on the ship would have cost you 310 shillings at the time which works out as about €2,700 today.

It is estimated that approx. 100,000 people died on similar journeys aboard the ‘coffin ships’ which crossed the Atlantic Ocean. However, the Jeanie Johnston did not live up to that name. It never lost a single passenger or crew member and even gained one on the way. It must have been the only one with a negative death toll.

The ship’s first voyage started in 1848 in Co. Kerry. It left the island with 193 passengers headed to Quebec and arrived in the new world with an extra passenger.

a person sitting on a bed

A pregnant woman named Margaret Reilly had given birth during the voyage. Everyone pitched in and the crew even gave up some of their own rations to help the mother and baby.

Upon arrival in Canada she had to give a name for her child, she decided that he would be named after all the crew on board who had helped her son survive the crossing. 

His full name was: Nicholas, Richard, James, Thomas, William, John, Gabriel, Carls, Michael, John, Alexander, Trabaret, Archibald, Cornelius, Hugh, Arthur, Edward, Johnston Reilly

Life on the Jeanie Johnson was much nicer than it was on other ships making similar voyages at the time. Although it would have been crowded below deck it was nothing compared to what the reality was for other ships. There was a skilled physician on board to tend to the sick and all passengers were supplied with some rations for the journey.

Every Sunday the voyagers would put on their Sunday best and were brought up on deck to read from the bible.

a person sitting on a bench

In 1855 Nicholas Donovan sold the ship.

The man who bought it had no intention of using it as a transport ship and only wanted to bring wood back to Ireland. On a particularly faithful voyage he decided to bring the wife and kids along. On route the ship hit a storm and began to sink. . On the first day of the storm the lifeboats were lost and by the third most of the sails were gone.

The timber in the hull helped keep the ship buoyant but it was sinking slowly. After a few days there wasn’t much of the ship left above water. They gathered whatever provisions were left and tied themselves to the mast of the ship knowing it would be the last part of the boat to sink.

After 9 days a small vessel happened upon them after noticing something strange sticking out of the water in the distance, only to discover it was a people tied to a mast barely above water. The family were brought safely to New York and the original Jeanie Johnston now lies sunken at the bottom of the Atlantic ocean just off the coast of New York. 

a boat sitting on top of a building

After extensive research the ship was recreated. Completed in 2002 the project took 6 years but thanks to this we are able to appreciate that part of our history for many years to come. I had such a great time learning about it from our wonderful tour guide Noel. I highly recommend the experience for both adults and children alike!

Book online here. 

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