JEANIE JOHNSTON is the replica of a three masted barque that was originally built in Quebec, Canada, in 1847 by the Scottish-born shipbuilder John Munn and she’s berthed at the Custom House Quay, Dublin, Ireland.
The original tall ship was bought by Tralee, Co. Kerry-based merchants John Donovan & Sons, as a cargo vessel and traded successfully between Tralee and North America for a number of years. The trading pattern was to bring emigrants from Ireland to North America, and then to bring timber back to Europe. Co. Kerry to Quebec on 24 April 1848, with 193 emigrants on board, as the effects of the Famine ravaged Ireland. Between 1848 and 1855, the JEANIE JOHNSTON made 16 voyages to North America, sailing to Quebec, Baltimore, and New York. On average, the length of the transatlantic journey was 47 days. The most passengers she ever carried was 254, from Tralee to Quebec on 17 April 1852. To put this number in perspective, the replica ship is only licensed to carry 40 people including crew. In 1855, the ship was sold to William Johnson of North Shields in England. In 1858, en route to Quebec from Hull with a cargo of timber, she became waterlogged.
During the late 80’s a project was conceived regarding building a replica but did not become a reality until November 1993 when a feasibility study was completed. In May 1995 The Jeanie Johnston (Ireland) Company Ltd was incorporated. The hull of the ship was built with larch planks on oak frames. The decks were constructed from iroko and Douglas fir, with Douglas fir masts and spars.
To comply with international maritime regulations , some concessions to modernity had to be made. She has two Caterpillar main engines, two Caterpillar generators, bow thruster for manoeuvrability in lakes and rivers and an emergency generator that is located above the waterline in the forward deckhouse. She is fully compliant to the highest standards of modern ocean-going passenger ships, with steel water-tight bulkheads, down-flooding valves, and fire-fighting equipment.
A wooden plaque is mounted on the foremast listing some of the many people involved in the physical building of the ship. Many people gave time, money and support to the project. The reconstruction efforts involved the labour of trainees from different religious and political backgrounds in Northern Ireland’s disadvantaged areas who were funded by the International Fund for Ireland . The aim of the fund being to promote economic and social advance and to encourage contact, dialogue and reconciliation between nationalists and unionists throughout Ireland. It was originally planned to launch the ship from her shipyard in Blennerville, but a 19th-century shipwreck was discovered by marine archaeologists while a channel was being dredged.[To preserve the find, on 19 April 2000 the hull of the JEANIE JOHNSTON was hauled to the shore and loaded onto a shallow-draft barge. There she was fitted with masts and sails, and on 4 May was transported to Fenit, a short distance away. On 6 May the barge was submerged and the JEANIE JOHNSTON took to the water for the first time. The next day she was officially christened by President of Ireland Mary McAleese.
In 2003 the replica sailed from Tralee to Canada and the United States visiting 32 US and Canadian cities and attracting over 100,000 visitors. She took part in the Tall Ships Race from Waterford to Cherbourg in 2005 and finished 60th out of 65 ships.
The replica is currently owned by the Dublin Docklands Development Authority who bought it in 2005 for a reported 2.7 million Euro, which were used to clear outstanding loans on the vessel guaranteed by Tralee Town Council and Kerry County Council. From 2006 to 2008 she was operated on their behalf by Rivercruise Ireland. During that time she carried approximately 980 sail trainees and over 2,500 passengers, making regular visits to ports around Britain and Ireland, and also undertaking several trips to Spain each summer, often carrying voyage crew who intended to join the Camino de Santiago. In between these voyages she would offer day-sails in Dublin Bay.
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Published – Wednesday 4th August ,2021