History

Cargo ship turned famine escape vessel

The original Jeanie Johnston was built in Quebec in Canada in 1847 by Scottish-born shipbuilder and master craftsman, John Munn. It was purchased by Kerry-based merchants, John Donovan and Sons. Originally intended as a cargo ship, she ended up carrying a very different kind of cargo – desperate men, women and children fleeing the Famine. She carried emigrants out to Canada and brought timber back.

She made her maiden voyage from Blennerville, Co. Kerry to Quebec, Canada in 1848 with 193 passengers on board. She transported 2,500 Irish emigrants on 16 transatlantic voyages to North America.

Re-creating the Jeanie Johnston

This ship is an authentic replica of the original Jeanie Johnston. The re-creation of the ship was one of the most ambitious maritime heritage projects ever undertaken in Ireland. Following extensive research in 1992, the ship was designed by Fred M. Walker, former Chief Naval Architect with the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England and the re-creation project was modelled closely on the restoration of the 17th century Dutch ship, the Batavia.

A fitting memorial to Ireland’s Famine victims

She was built at Blennerville, Co. Kerry, a project which took 6 years and was completed in 2002. Over 300 shipwrights and craftsmen were involved in the construction.

In order to be seaworthy, the ship had to comply with Irish and international maritime laws so she does incorporate some modern elements, like navigational technology and safety features, but, wherever possible, she has remained true to her original form.

Re-tracing the voyage

She enjoyed an illustrious sailing career from 2002 to 2008, retracing the Famine-era voyages from Blennerville to Qubec. She has sailed all around Ireland and Europe, as well as visiting several American ports like Washington DC, New York, Boston, Baltimore and Philadelphia and has even taken part in the Tall Ships Race in 2005. She has been moored at Custom House Quay since 2008.