On board the Dunbrody Famine Ship
Once on board The Dunbrody, your tour-guide will reveal to you the realities of life on the notorious ‘Coffin Ships’.
Lasting up to six weeks, the Atlantic crossing was a terrible trial for those brave, or desperate, enough to attempt it. Packed cheek by jowl below decks, the steerage passengers barely saw the light of day. Allowed up on deck for no more than one hour a day, in small groups, they would gather around open stoves to cook. When their time was up, it was back down into the dark, dank hold. During the regular storms the hatches were battened down, and the passengers would subsist on hard-tack biscuits.
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. Those who died were buried at sea. With death rates commonly reaching 20%, and horror stories of 50% dying, these vessels soon became known as ‘Coffin Ships’.
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.