Southern New England
The Jeanie Johnston
Replica Famine Ship
During the summer of 2003, the replica of the famine ship Jeanie Johnston left Ireland and sailed across the Atlantic to the United States. From June to August the Jeanie Johnston stops in ports along the Atlantic seaboard, offering tours and a glimpse of what the voyage might have been for those Irish emigrants fleeing the horror of the Great Famine in their homeland.
The original Jeanie Johnston was a 408 ton ship built in Quebec in 1847, and sold to the merchant company John Donovan & Sons of Tralee, County Kerry as a cargo ship. However, between 1848 and 1855 she was used to carry Irish emigrants across the Atlantic to Canada and the United States. The ship could hold up to 250 passengers on a voyage, with an average of just under 200, and took about 8 weeks to cross the Atlantic. The fare to Quebec on the Jeanie Johnston was £3.10 shillings, which represented close to half a year's wages for the average Irish laborer at the time. Between 1848 and 1855, the Jeanie Johnston made 16 voyages to North America, sailing to Quebec, Baltimore and New York, and carried over 2,500 Irish emigrants to a new life. Unlike most of the 19th century emigrant ships, no crew or passenger lives were ever lost on board the Jeanie Johnston, a remarkable record.
The current Jeanie Johnston is a replica of the original ship. The decision to rebuild the ship was taken in a conscious effort to remember and honor Irish Famine emigrants. The Jeanie Johnston Company opted to produce an ocean-going vessel capable of retracing the voyage of its illustrious predecessor, to serve as a tangible link with the past while also celebrating the close ties between Ireland and the United States. You can learn more about the ship at the website www.jeaniejohnston.ie
The photos below were from our tour of the Jeanie Johnston during her visit to Providence RI on 19 July 2003.
Inside the Ship
Generally, a whole family would share a single 6 foot square berth. Those traveling alone shared with three others, often total strangers, and sometimes not even of the same sex. These quarters were cramped with berths lining both walls, and a narrow table in the walkway between them. It was close quarters even during our tour, and fitting 200 or more people in this space seems incredible.
Music played an important part in keeping up the spirits of the passengers, and there was often a fiddler among the passengers.