Historical Information

Dunbrody Famine Ship

The Dunbrody Famine Ship was one of eight cargo vessels that the Graves Family commissioned from the expert shipwright Thomas Hamilton Oliver.

She was built in Quebec and launched in 1845, the year that a major Potato Blight struck Ireland. In the ensuing famine more than a million people would flee the country.

So many people wanted to leave Ireland that there were not enough passenger vessels to carry them all. To cope with the demand, merchants like the Graves family outfitted their cargo ships with bunks and sold tickets for passage across the ocean.

How Many People Died on The Dunbrody?

The Dunbrody could carry anywhere from 160 to 300 people. She brought thousands of famine emigrants to North America, mostly 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.

The Great Famine

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.

New Ross

The town of New Ross was founded in 1207 by the Norman Knight William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke and Lord of Leinster.

He founded the town to be the Norman gateway to Ireland and the only inland seaport on the island.

New Ross soon became very prosperous and remained a major port right through to the time of the Great Famine and into the 20th Century.

The John F. Kennedy Connection

In 1849 Patrick Kennedy 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.

Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience Overview

The Dunbrody Famine Ship is one of the premier tourist attractions in the South East of Ireland. Centred on an authentic reproduction of an 1840’s emigrant vessel, it provides a world-class interpretation of the famine emigrant experience.