For this week’s exploration of the ‘101 things to do...’ we are going to take a short road trip and take a look at one of New Ross’s most popular tourist attractions, the Dunbrody Famine Ship and visitor centre. The reconstructed famine ship is testament to a cornerstone of Irish history; the 1845- 1852 Irish Potato Famine. During this period, the Irish population was heavily depleted from 8 million to under 2 million people through death and emigration. For instance, it can be argued that the Irish Potato Famine is one the primary reason for the large numbers of Irish Diasporas around the world; especially in America.
The Dunbrody Famine Ship brings to life all the facets of the emigrant experience. The interactive experience allows you to travel back in time to 1849; place you at the heart of the experience. Approaching the ticket office, the visual presentations creates a sense of a country in crisis. For instance, with potato crops failing and food prices soaring, more than a million people are forced to leave their homes for an uncertain future abroad. As you await your departure you will overhear the conversations of fellow emigrants, such as a couple quarreling over what to pack and a young man reading aloud a letter from his brother in Detroit. Adding to the earry experience before you board the ship, the audio-visual further documents the agony of brave and desperate emigrants.
All this atmospheric tension of the emergent experience leads to visitors experiencing the voyage these scared and displaced people would have made to ‘the new world’ on the famine ship; often referred to as a ‘coffin ship’ due to high mortality rates. With the journey to the new world lasting up to six weeks, the Atlantic crossing was a terrible trial for those who were forced to leave lives in Ireland. In extremely overcrowded quarters, the steerage passengers barely saw the light of day. Most were only allowed on deck for only one hour a day, where they would gather around open stoves to cook. When their time was up, it was back down into the dark, dank hold. Notoriously poor hygiene standards aboard most ships was the leading contributor to the high mortality rates. With nothing more than buckets for toilets, and only sea-water to wash with, disease was rampant. As a result, a large majority of the deaths were as a result of Cholera and Typhus and those who died were buried at sea. With death rates commonly reaching 20%, and horror stories of 50% dying, these vessels soon became known as ‘Coffin Ships’.
For those who were physical strong enough to survive the long and disease ridden journey, Irish emigrants arrived in North America. While many were filthy, penniless, and often illiterate; most Irish emigrants remained determined and carved out extremely successful lives for themselves and their descendants in the United States. For instance, the Irish America Hall of Fame celebrates the critical contribution of Irish men and women to US history, as well as acknowledging the continuing contribution of contemporary Irish-Americans. Famous historical figures, such as the Ford motor-company founder Henry Ford (pictured below) and former U.S President, John F. Kennedy, are remembered with short biographical videos.
Since 2001, the JFK Trust have began gathering a comprehensive database of Irish emigration to the United States, in conjunction with severely institutions based in New York and Philadelphia. The database compiles records from Irish, English, Scottish, and Welsh immigrants who arrived at major shipping ports in the United States. Records for the New York port between the years 1846-1890 and the ports of New Orleans, Philadelphia and Balitmore between the famine years; 1846-1851. To search this free database, please click on the following link...http://www.dunbrody.com/get-involved/irish-emigration-database/
So whether your are a history buff or wish to discover your heritage, The Dubroday Famine Ship is a must see attraction. If you a planning a trip to Waterford Castle Hotel, why not view our ‘101 things to do’, which contains a variety of activities which can be enjoyed during your trip. To view the list, please visit www.waterfordcastle.com . Additionally, if you are planning to visit Waterford Castle Hotel & Golf Resort or if you have recently stayed with us, why not visit our Tripadvisor page http://www.tripadvisor.ie/Hotel_Review-g186638-d212907-Reviews-Waterford_Castle_Hotel-Waterford_County_Waterford.html .