Dunbrody Famine Ship is one of the premier tourist attractions in the South East of Ireland. Centred on an authentic reproduction of an 1840’s emigrant vessel, it provides a world-class interpretation of the famine emigrant experience.
Incorporating guided tour, costumed performers and themed exhibitions of the highest quality, ‘The Dunbrody’ provides a unique insight into the bravery and fortitude with which Irish people faced up to a desperate situation.
The attraction is located in New Ross, County Wexford. Central to the South East, New Ross is conveniently close to the towns of Wexford, Kilkenny, Waterford and Enniscorthy.
As such the Dunbrody is perfectly placed stop on any tour of the region. View Dunbrody Famine Ship & Irish Emigrant Experience Visitor info.
The Dunbrody Irish Emigrant Experience
The story of Ireland is, in many ways, a story of continuous migration. Many disparate groups came to Ireland over the millennia, each one leaving their mark on the character of the island. Early Stone-age settlers came, and were followed by the Iron-age Celts. Viking traders founded the first towns in Ireland. Christian missionaries built the first monasteries. The Normans came from France via England and Wales. They built stone castles and European style market towns. Later the Plantation of Ulster brought Scottish and English settlers.
These were the arrivals, but the departures are equally notable. For more than fifteen hundred years the Irish have traveled far and wide, as Missionaries, Mercenaries, and Exiles. The Irish spread religion and learning in dark-age Europe. They fought in continental wars, and they sought refuge from political repression in Spain and France.
The 19th century brought much hardship and strife to Ireland. The oppression of a disenfranchised majority inspired political conflict, and a burgeoning civil rights movement. In 1845 potato blight killed the staple crop of the Irish tenant farmers. This economic blow was exacerbated by the disinterest, and outright hostility, towards Ireland of British politicians. Due to the inaction of Westminster famine ensued. Within seven years, 1 million people had died and 1.5 million had emigrated. A new pattern of mass emigration was in place, and would continue for a century and a half.
Dunbrody Famine Ship
Stepping back in time, you will make your way towards the Quay in New Ross circa 1849. Approaching the ‘William Graves & Son’ ticket office, our visual presentations will set the scene of a country in crisis. 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: a couple quarreling over what to pack, a young man reading aloud a letter from his brother in Detroit.
Before boarding, our audio-visual will further dramatise the plight of these brave and desperate travelers.
On board the Dunbrody Famine Ship
Once on board The Dunbrody, your tour-guide will reveal to you the realities of life on the notorious ‘Coffin Ships’.
Lasting up to six weeks, the Atlantic crossing was a terrible trial for those brave, or desperate, enough to attempt it. Packed cheek by jowl below decks, the steerage passengers barely saw the light of day. Allowed up on deck for no more than one hour a day, in small groups, they would gather around open stoves to cook. When their time was up, it was back down into the dark, dank hold. During the regular storms the hatches were battened down, and the passengers would subsist on hard-tack biscuits.
Hygiene was notoriously poor aboard most ships. With nothing more than buckets for toilets, and only sea-water to wash with, disease was rampant. Cholera and Typhus accounted for a great many deaths. 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’.
After weeks cooped up in these terrible conditions, Irish emigrants arrived in North America. Many were filthy, penniless, and often illiterate; making their subsequent successes all the more remarkable.
Arrival in the New World
After the guided tour you can take a closer look around the ship at your leisure. As you exit you will pass through the Arrivals Hall. This exhibit shows the experience of newly arrived immigrants to North America. How they struggled to make their way in a strange new land, and how they would eventually prosper.
Free from the tyranny of hunger, Irish immigrants went on to become one of the great success stories of America and Canada. Their achievements, both historic and modern, are commemorated in the Irish America Hall of Fame.
The Irish America Hall of Fame
The most notable historical figures, such as Henry Ford and JFK, are remembered with short biographical videos.
Every year contemporary Irish-Americans are honoured for their achievements, with induction into the Hall of Fame. The most recent inductees include: Donald Keough, former Chairman of Coca-Cola; Michael Flately, world famous choreographer; and the actress Maureen O’Hara.