The Dunbrody Famine Ship is one of the premier tourist attractions in the Southeast of Ireland. Centred on an authentic reproduction of an 1840’s emigrant vessel, it provides a world class interpretation of the famine emigrant experience.
The Dunbrody Famine Ship was built in Quebec and launched in 1845, the year that a major Potato Blight struck Ireland. Also known as the Great Hunger (an Gorta Mór in Irish), the famine was perhaps the most traumatic period in Irish History. While there were many factors involved, the famine was mostly caused by a total failure of the potato crop in 1845, due to potato blight. This led to steeply rising food prices and then to widespread starvation. About one million people died. By 1852, another million and a half had emigrated, mostly to North America. To cope with the demand, merchants like the Graves family outfitted their cargo ships, one of which was the Dunbrody) with bunks, and sold tickets for passage across the ocean. The Dunbrody could carry anywhere from 160 to 300 people. She brought thousands of famine emigrants to Quebec but also to New York. Despite the bad reputation of such ships at the time, she had an exceptionally good record, and we know that very few people died on the Dunbrody, with much of the credit going to her highly respected Captain, John Williams. In 1849 Patrick Kennedy also left New Ross for Boston. 112 years later his great-grandson John Fitzgerald Kennedy was elected President of the United States of America. In 1963 he became the first serving US President to visit Ireland. During this four-day trip, he visited New Ross and the Kennedy’s Ancestral Home in Dunganstown. The Dunbrody Famine Ship is moored on the quayside in the town of New Ross, County Wexford. Alongside the ship is the Dunbrody Visitor Centre, which houses the Savannah Landing Point Exhibition, the Irish America Hall of Fame and the Captain’s Table Restaurant. It is open seven days a week, with tours running daily every hour.