Saturday, March 20, 2010

Famine ship, New Ross, Co Wexford

I was here last year and got some lovely pictures of the Dunbrody famine ship docked in New Ross. It is a replica of a famine ship and is open to the public as a tourist attraction. 
This was built as a replica of an actual famine ship that used to travel from this area to the United States. It was  commissioned in 2001 by the Taoiseach (Prime Minister, pronounced tea-shock). The original was designed originally as a merchant ship, but with the outbreak of the great famine in the 1840's a lot of merchant ships were converted to passenger ships to deal with the growing numbers of Irish who were desperate to get to the 'New World'. A lot of the people boarding these ships were given the fare by their landlords, while in part an act of kindness was also a way of getting rid of them. The alternative for some of these people was to go to a poorhouse where they family separated and probably die from disease anyway.
Below was a first class passenger cabin which would house two adults and 2 kids and one piece of luggage, they also could put a trunk in the hold, for the sum of £25. As first class they got cooked food served with the captain, a toilet and their own stairway to go up on deck when they wished. They were divided from the steerage passengers  and as they had the ear of the captain they could suggest that steerage passengers remain below deck while they strolled the deck area, so as not to offend their eyes or noses. While it may appear cramped they had a toilet and had a door to close behind them as they slept.
If you have seen the film Titanic where the steerage passengers where a happy go lucky bunch playing music and dancing and seemingly having a great time, things were a lot different on a sailing ship. For the Steerage a whole family and their complete belongings and food had to fit into one of these cramped berths, what they could not fit had to stay behind. This was their lot for the 51 day journey for the sum of £5 which would have been a well paid workers yearly wage. If they were lucky they got to sleep on the top berth  because during the long trip and rough seas when they would be confined and sickness and disease was rampant everything flows downhill and the people on the bottom would be subject to all manners of disgusting things coming down on them. There could be 250 people confined to this area where they had to cook and toilets where just a bucket under the stairs, so diseases and death were common. 
This served as the toilet for the steerage passengers it was a bucket under the stairs and covered by a makeshift curtain that would get torn and disappear before the journeys end, when the weather was bad and people could not go up on deck to clean out, there might be a few days or weeks worth of buckets under these stairs
Not the most pleasant way of spending a vacation, but if you had ancestors that emigrated it might be interesting to see what they endured.

4 comments:

Leisha Camden said...

This is really just unbelievable when you think about it ... I don't think anyone today can imagine what it was like. 51 days of that. :-o I wonder how many would be generally expected to die during the voyage ... ?

Paz said...

Actually I meant to ask that during the tour, but they had a guide that told the story and then actors in period costume(which looked suspiciously like the tea lady from the cafe and the woman that took our money) told the exact same story in first person. This annoyed me and I forgot to ask!
with the sanitary and food conditions I would imagine there was a lot of burials at sea

The Ex Farmer's Wife said...

Thanks not just for the pictures but the history lesson.Have you ever been to the Wicklow gaol (jail). That's a worthwile history tour as well.
We're expecting frost tonight in Florida again...Cheers,

Paz said...

Thanks, I have never been unfortunately, this was about the 10th time this year I have been in New Ross and its the first time that I was able to go inside and only because I was on a short break, one thing about my job is that I get to travel to a lot of these places, and by the time I get finished work I dont get to see inside as they are shut :(