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Ship Restoration Project Commences In Ireland

Between 1845-1850, the Great Potato Famine created a mass exodus from Ireland, forcing two million citizens to board ships in search of better lives in the U.S. Jeanie Johnston was perhaps the most famous of these ships that sailed away from the emerald isle and now a major effort is underway to restore the ship to its original glory. The ship was built in Quebec City in 1847 by the Canadian shipbuilder John Munn (1788-1859) for the Donovan family of Tralee. Constructed of oak and pine, the Jeanie Johnston was a 408-ton triple-masted barque. The vessel served a transporter of passengers and supplies. During its return voyages to Ireland, Jeanie Johnston brought with it badly-needed famine relief. A typical cargo load consisted of 360 tons of Indian corn, 1,000 barrels of flour, 1,100 bags of yellow meal and 30 tons of wheat seed. The crew of Jeanie Johnston possessed a rich history of the Irish emigration. Almost all of the ship's crew list survived, providing valuable information on the conditions for sailors on the North Atlantic route. The ship's crew typically consisted of 17 members, along with two apprentices.

They came from all parts of Ireland, U.K., Continental Europe, Canada, the U.S. and South America. The master of the ship was Capt. James Attridge, a member of the famous seafaring family from Castletownsend in Co. Cork. The ship's doctor was the respected Dr. Richard Blennerhasset, a product of the famous Edinburgh University Medical School.

Tragedy came to Jeanie Johnston two years after the vessel was sold to William Johnson in 1856. On October 31, 1858, the ship became waterlogged in the Mid-Atlantic and sank slowly. Fortunately, there was adequate time for the crew to be picked up by the Dutch ship, Sophie Elizabeth, which was en route to New York. During its Jeanie Johnston, many voyages, unlike many other similarly tasked ships, Jeanie Johnston never lost a passenger to disease or the sea. One-hundred and fifty years later after the original vessel left Tralee on its maiden voyage to North America in 1848, the Jeanie Johnston is schedule to be re-built. A full-sized replica of the 150 ft. (45.7 m) long ship is currently being constructed in Ireland, under the supervision of experienced shipwrights drawn from Ireland, U.K., the U.S. and Canada. The work is being done in the village of Blennerville near Tralee, County Kerry in South-West Ireland. A visitorfriendly shipyard, Jeanie Johnston, has been set up and visitors can view the shipbuilding work in progress. The original ship was built of Quebec Oak and Oregan pine. The replica is being built of Irish Oak, Larch and Oregan Pine (Douglas Fir) supplied by Coiltethe Irish Forestry Board-from its state forests in Ireland. Oak for the keel came from Counties Monaghan, Wicklow and Cork.

On May 1998, Irish President Mary McAleese laid the ceremonial keel of the new ship. The project's expected time of completion will be two years at a total cost of $6.5 million. The Jeanie Johnston replica project is being supported by the Irish Government, European Union, the International Fund for Ireland, and Friends of Ireland. Major corporate sponsors include the pharmaceutical company Elan Corp. pic, the Kerry Group pic, the Brandon Hotel, Garvey SuperValu Group, Lee Strand Creamery and many other smaller sponsors in County Kerry and Ireland.

The Jeanie Johnston replica ship is scheduled to make its Millennium Voyage in April 2000, retracing the route followed by the Irish emigrant ships. It will spend two years visiting ports along the Eastern seaboard of North America. The vessel is then expected to return to Ireland in the Fall of 2001. After its final voyage, the vessel will be berth at Blennerville ^ ^ ^ m Quay, the old Port of Tralee, as a floating muse- A TLANTlm um exhibit and visitor attraction.

 
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