The Voyage

On Board the Dunbrody Famine Ship

Once on board, your tour-guide will show you the realities of life on the notorious ‘Coffin Ships’. The voyages left a wake of sorrow, faith and courage in the history of Ireland and the Irish diaspora emigration.

Lasting up to six weeks, the Atlantic crossing was a nightmare for those brave, or desperate, enough to attempt it. Packed tightly below decks, steerage passengers barely saw sunlight. They were allowed up on deck for no more than one hour a day. Here they would gather in small groups around open stoves to cook.


When their brief spell on deck was over, the emigrants were forced back down into the darkness of the hold. During the many storms, the hatches were battened down and people would subsist on hard-tack biscuits.

Coffin Ships

Not every vessel was as safe and well cared for as the Dunbrody. Hygiene was notoriously poor aboard most ships. With nothing more than buckets for toilets and only sea-water to wash with, disease was rampant. Cholera and Typhus accounted for a great many deaths.

With death rates commonly reaching 20%, and horror stories of 50% dying, these vessels soon became known as ‘Coffin Ships’. Those who died were buried at sea.

After weeks cooped up in these terrible conditions, Irish emigrants arrived in North America. Many were filthy, penniless and often illiterate, making their subsequent successes all the more remarkable

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.