You suddenly spot a rat amid the food in the galley. With a shiver you understand how grim conditions on vessels such as this, the disease and overcrowding, led to them being called Coffin Ships. You sense, too, the desperation that drove people to gamble their lives on a journey to an uncertain future abroad.

The Famine Timeline

The Famine Timeline
It’s circa 1849, blighted potato crops in Ireland have failed yet again and the Great Famine that will kill one million people in just seven years is well under way. 
Dunbrody ship docked
Dunbrody ship docked

On the quayside at New Ross poignant scenes of departure have unfolded, before you board the replica three-masted barque of The Dunbrody that once offered escape.

Left: Ropes on the famine ship. Middle: Original passenger list document. Right: Dunbrody famine ship deck
Some 1.5 million people emigrated from Ireland, many to North America.
It’s a month-long journey to New York and now costumed performers retell passengers’ distress. Those crammed in steerage are allowed on deck for fresh air for just an hour a day, they wash in seawater and use buckets for toilets. A fifth, or even half of passengers on a Coffin Ship died.
Top Left: Actor depicts a deckhand. Top Right: Reenactment of first class passenger on deck. Bottom Left: Actor plays a ship hand on deck. Bottom Right: Reenactment of steerage passenger below deck.
You follow in the footsteps of lucky survivors to the Arrivals Hall, to discover further struggles ahead for these new immigrants to North America. There are surprises.

For many forged successful lives and you find notable descendants in The Irish America Hall of Fame, the story of poverty-to-power rise epitomised by US President John F Kennedy: his great-grandfather sailed from New Ross in 1848 and The Kennedy Homestead is still nearby at Dunganstown.
Left: Photograph of President John F. Kennedy. Right: The Dunbrody Flame.

Proud descendants of people you have never heard of have also inscribed their ancestors’ names on the Irish Emigrant Wall of Honour beside The Dunbrody.

And The Emigrant Flame burns forever to remember all who were brave enough to hope and shape a better future.

Visit Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience

South Quay, New Ross , Wexford