Thursday, 21 September 2017

The Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience

I think one of the first times I ever visited the Dunbrody was when I was about 10/11 in primary school, when our big yearly school trip was to New Ross. My second trip to the Dunbrody was when I was probably around the same age and had convinced my parents to take me back and well my 101 trip (possible slight exaggeration) happened just the other day at the age of 22 and for me it was still as special as it was all those years ago. 
At the risk of sounding 'uncool' history is one of my biggest passions in life hence why The Dunbrody has always been one of my favourite attractions in the sunny south east so when my friend Karen told me she had never been it was pedal to the floor as we headed for one of my all time favourite places on earth.

For those of you like Karen and living under a rock, The Dunbrody was a ship built way
back in 1845 for the merchant family the  'Graves' of New Ross, Co.Wexford, built as a cargo ship it happened to launch the same year the Famine struck Ireland. With the potato crop failing and food prices soaring it drove millions of starving Irish across the Atlantic in search of a better life in America. With so many people leaving and demand high 'William Graves & Son' used their entrepreneurial skills and decided to deck the ship out with bunks to meet the demand of passengers and for six years between 1845 - 1851 she carried thousands of emigrants to a better life in America.
  Life on board the ship was treacherous, with up to 300 people on board disease was rampant and death wasn't unlikely it wasn't long before the Dunbrody became known as a 'coffin ship'.
The Great Famine or An gorta mor, in Irish was one of the most tragic and traumatic events to ever happen in Irish history and if you can walk onto that ship, hear the stories, meet the people and not get shivers... then you've a heart of coal.

Now onto the actual tour and experience, I travelled up from Waterford so it's literally a straight road and took about half an hour. Traffic can be mental coming from Waterford to New Ross so make sure to give yourself plenty of time and it can be even worse coming from New Ross to Waterford so brace yourself.We arrived for the 3.45 tour but tours run from 9.45am to 5pm daily. Admission is €10 for an adult and €6 for a child/student which is a great price and well worth it.One of my favourite things about the Dunbrody experience is the ticket you get on arrival, it's an actual replica of the ticket passengers would have received when they booked their one way ticket to America. The attention to detail is outstanding and it gets you thinking about what it must have been like holding that ticket ready to leave your family and home behind.  The first part of the tour is self guided as you pass through a museum of history, reading actual letters written by passengers, seeing what they had to eat just stepping back in time before we watched a little video, it almost transports you back to 1845 and as the shutters are opened and you're facing the Dunbrody it's almost impossible not to get a little lump at the back of your throat. 
 Our tour guide was a man named Mark and from the word go I couldn't fault him, one of the most informative tours I've ever been on, it was a pleasure to listen to him and straight away you felt comfortable and relaxed, able to ask any question you want without a bother. Big props to him!!

The next part of the tour is actually boarding the replica ship and being showed around the deck. It's pure madness!!! I couldn't explain it to you but seeing how small the area is and hearing the stories of what went on on board..CRAZY!!
Then you move downstairs into the cabin area, you get to see where Steerage and first class stayed and believe you and me it was anything but glamorous. When you think of what those poor people went through it would break your heart. The next, and probably best part of the tour is when you get to go back in time and meet two passengers who are still on board the Dunbrody. One steerage and one first class, you get to hear their stories and see their life and the actors who play these women are incredible. It was a different lady playing Ann White this time around but I loved it.
 The last and final part of the tour is when you're left alone to explore and take pictures on the ship, you can see which passenger slept where, go into the first class quarters and just really see how these people lived, it's a mystery how any survived!!

And so there you have it, my review on The Dunbrody Famine Ship Experience. I've loved this ship since I was a child and I guarantee you will love it too. Irish History is something I feel should be celebrated so much more and where better to start than with the Famine.
 Whilst down in this part of the country there's so much more you can do especially if you're like me and love being a tourist for the day. If you're heading back towards Waterford then take a tour of the Waterford Crystal factory and then head out for a walk on Tramore beach. However if you're heading the other way then head down to one of my favourite parts of the country, the Hook Peninsula. There you can visit Hook Head lighthouse or my personal favourite Loftus Hall, which you can read my experience about here..
 I really hope you enjoyed this post and let me know what you think too.

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