Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Dunbrody Famine Ship

 The first stop on our day trip to Wexford was at the Dunbrody Famine Ship. To get there we passed through the town of Enniscorthy. Towering over the town was a large hill. It was on this hill in the 1600's that the English massacred the weakened Irish, men, women, and children.

The fateful hill

The River Slaney in Enniscorthy

Enniscorthy Castle
 We continued to New Ross where a remade famine ship is on display.
So many people during the "Great Hunger" sailed across the sea to the Americas and Canada that this globe had a burning flame within it to show how the Emigrants have created a "flame" around the world.

 In 1847 the potato crop failed entirely. This year was known as black '47. Blight struck the potato plants and when they were dug up from the ground the potatoes crumbled like black ash. For the Irish living in distant rural areas, this was a tragedy. For generations, all the people had ever eaten for all meals of the day was potatoes. They didn't even know about other types of food. Potatoes were all they could grow, so the poor in the rural areas that was all they had to eat.

For those living in the towns, life tended to be slightly better, and they did not starve because there were other foods that still grew which they could eat.

But as the famine continued for the next several years, the people grew emaciated. The English decided to do something about it so the imported Native American grain. But it was too little too late, and the Irish didn't know what to do with the grain if they could get it. Soup kitchens were opened in the towns, but they did not help most of the people who needed it most. Because they lived out in the country and were too weak from starvation and disease to make the long, long journey into town for a little soup, which was just flavored water and not very nutritious, these soup kitchens did not help the desperate people.

After the English came and pushed the indigenous Irish to the far corners of Ireland, being Catholic was outlawed. If you were Catholic, you were not allowed to own land, so your entire family grandparents through grandchildren and the generations beyond had to live in a tiny house on small plots of land that was rented. It was come to have over ten children, but most of them never lived to see adulthood. But the Irish had been faithful Catholics for over a thousand years, and they were not going to change because of these difficulties. Rather, they clung to their faith that God would see them through these troubles. Food was offered to them as a bribe to forsake their Catholic faith, and most would not risk their or their children's eternal destination for a bowl of soup.

Since the people were still dying, the English government told the landlords to "give assistance" to their tenants. However, it was easier and cheaper for most of the landlords to get rid of the dying Irish and use the land for grazing livestock. Many got the cheapest ticket they could find and offered it to the Irish. It was a ticket for a ship sailing to the new world, and it was the only way for them to survive so many of them were forced to take it.

These ships were just glorified cargo ships. The living quarters for these Irish passengers were atrocious. The inside of the ship was  showed what the living quarters for the people traveling on the ships would have looked like.
First class beds
 One family would have to fit on one of these bunk beds. But there were often over ten people in one bed. They also had to store any of their belongings with them on the bed, so they kept their food, pots and anything else with them.

For food, each family was brought up onto the deck of the ship where they had to back bread over a fire until it was rock hard because it needed to last them until the next time they had a chance to make more. To eat it, they took rainwater, dipped the bread in, to moisten it, crumbled it into a ball and fed it to themselves or their children while the sailors ate fresh fish or salted meat.
 This bed is a representation of the White family's living quarters. These are just two of the children. "Mrs. White" came to talk to us holding her newborn baby. (Women sometimes had to give birth in these dreadful conditions. Needless to say, she rarely survived.) She said that her husband was sick. (The ship was disease ridden with typhoid fever and various other diseases.) Three of her children had died over the winter. By being on the lower bunks, you were subject to the vomit and diarrhea from the sick people above you. The "mattresses" were only a pile of straw so that any liquid would drip down.
 This paper represents the names and number of people occupying the bunk.
 If you had no family, you had to sleep with complete strangers.
 Unfortunately, the conditions were so bad, and the voyage so long, many people died on these ships, which is why they became known as "Coffin" ships. But those who made it to the new world did very well. They worked hard, educated their children and made a much better life for themselves. John. F. Kennedy's ancestors came to America on one of these ships, and just a few generations later, he became the president.

The bell from the original ship.

JFK Memorial.

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