Famine Irish who sailed on the ‘Dunbrody’

A SPECIAL REVIEW BY DAN WALSH.

Fresh from the printers is a splendid hardback publication called DUNBRODY – A Famine Odyssey that commemorates a brilliant tourism project that is the replica of the famine ship Dunbrody anchored on the historic quayside at New Ross as a fitting tribute as much to today’s people of New Ross as their 19th century forebears.

Book Cover featuring the Dunbrody at New Ross

The book tells the amazing story of an ambitious undertaking to raise millions and build a life-sized replica of a 485-tonne 19th century Famine ship whose masts, spurs and rigging tower above the quayside. The ship is called the Dunbrody, named after an original ship of similar features, that took thousands of people from New Ross to the ‘New World’ in the United States during the dreadful Famine years.

The author is Sean Reidy who was CEO of the JFK Trust in New Ross from 1991 to 2014 and the book is a personal account celebrating the historical legacy of JFK enriching the historical ancestral town of New Ross in conjunction with the ancestral home of President John F. Kennedy at Dunganstown, south of the town just a few fields away from the River Barrow. This is the story of a voyage.

The JFK (John Fitzgerald Kennedy) Trust was founded in 1988 against the backdrop of deep recession and high unemployment. President Kennedy’s famous visit to New Ross in the summer of 1963 was an inspiration and the subsequent power and support of the Kennedy family steered a dream into reality and early on a chilly February Sunday morning in 2001, 3,000 left their warm beds early to see the mighty Dunbrody glide into the icy Barrow for the first time. The New Ross history books began a new chapter that day.

Sean Reidy felt emotional that day. And he deserved to feel that way. He nostalgically recalls in the book; “There was nothing inevitable about Dunbrodys eventual triumph. How perilously close to the rocks she sailed on more than one occasion!” Behind Reidy’s calm confidence he reveals a litany of doubts and qualms and sleepless nights!

This book is teeming with endless pages of history in print and images – all great occasions that firmly placed the spotlight on New Ross and brought to life international tourism. It also records the stormy days when the rocks were in sight and the waves were high; but then like the 19th century Famine passengers embarking on the unknown amid poverty and hopelessness, determination, resolve and indomitable resilience will succeed against the odds.

Sean Reidy deserves worldwide sales for this first-hand account of an incredibly successful story that emanated from the Famine ships leaving New Ross in the 19th century, the flames of hope rekindled by the Kennedy visit in the 20th century, and the arrival of the Dunbrody Famine ship replica in the first 400 days of the 21st century, not forgetting the teams that laboured in an ancient trade to convert timber into a floating tourism treasure and a nautical public attraction.

AUDIO ADDITION; Author SEAN REIDY talks about what inspired him to write the book Dunbrody – A Famine Odyssey.

DUNBRODY A Famine Odyssey; How JFKs Roots Helped Revive an Irish Town, by Sean Reidy. Hardback, 123 pages, heavily illustrated. ISBN 978-1-5272-7230-9

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