New World, Savannah Georgia
In the mid- to late-nineteenth century the port city of Savannah in the southern United States became a destination for thousands of Irish emigrants, particularly emigrants from the South East of Ireland. Shipping companies like the Graves company of New Ross facilitated what amounts to a mass emigration from Wexford and parts of south Kilkenny to Georgia.
In 2013 the Wexford Savannah Axis was established, it’s a joint research project involving the John F. Kennedy Trust, WIT, Georgia Southern University and Georgia Historical Society. The Wexford Savannah Axis has since uncovered a fascinating treasure trove of information about the many voyages that occurred between New Ross and Wexford Town, and Savannah, from the late 1840’s to the early 1860’s.
In September 2019, the Dunbrody Visitor Centre opened a new exhibition, the “Savannah Landing Point” which brings the whole exit area to life for visitors. The Savannah Landing Point exhibit was part funded by major tourism related companies in Savannah, along with Wexford Local Development funding and depicts what Irish immigrants would have experienced when they arrived in Savannah Georgia in the 1800’s. Visitors are issued with their ticket to Savannah Georgia as they enter the tour. As visitors disembark the ship, a hand drawn map of the city in 1851 sets the scene for your arrival to the City and panels along the walkway wall from the ship into the Centre give details of the City’s growth as a thriving port for cotton and timber.
The exhibition features a flavour of Savannah life with bales of cotton straight from the sunny Georgia State city along with an interactive touch screen where visitors can read about 12 Wexford People who made significant contributions to life in Savannah. A stereoscopic shows 3D images of Savannah in the 1800’s and a video supplied by Visit Savannah showcases the city’s appeal.
Records show that emigrants were warmly received in cosmopolitan Savannah where many went on to make a telling mark. The Irish became Savannah’s business, trade union and political leaders, so much so that the city now hosts the second largest St Patrick’s Day festival in the world. The Savannah Irish have maintained not just their sense of national identity but also a strong feeling for their roots in the south eastern corner of Ireland.