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14th July 2001 - Open Weekend A Resounding Success ......26th June 2001 - Voyage Abandoned for 2001 ................. 4th June 2001 - Sea Trials and Voyage Delayed Again - But For How Long? ........ 17th January 2001 - More Funds Arrive to allow ship to be completed - Hopes in sight for March Launch

The Chronicle of the Jeanie Johnston!

The Jeanie Johnston Update

The finishing touches were being put to the Jeanie Johnston ship on Wed 19th April 2000 at her home for the past two years - the purpose-built shipyard in Blennerville, just two miles outside Tralee.

The Jeanie Johnston on Tuesday 18th April 2000 - the day before her first trip outside the shipyard in Tralee.

The Jeanie Johnston on Tuesday 18th April 2000 - the day before her first trip outside the shipyard in Tralee.

Thousands of excited and enthusiastic supporters turned out on Tuesday (18th April) to see the final hours of the ship's presence at the shipyard before being transported to Fenit, where the masts and sails were due to be fitted over the coming weeks.

The barge photographed early on Tuesday morning (18th April), awaiting Jeanie's arrival.
The barge photographed early on Tuesday morning (18th April), awaiting Jeanie's arrival.

Some of the huge crowd that turned out to see the historic launch The Jeanie Johnston after being transferred to the barge in Blennerville on Wednesday afternoon (19th April)
Some of the huge crowd that turned out to see the historic launch. The Jeanie Johnston after being transferred to the barge in Blennerville on Wednesday afternoon (19th April).

The Jeanie Johnston ship was successfully transferred onto a barge in Blennerville on Wednesday afternoon, 19th April, in an extremely complex and difficult job which started at 1:30pm and was completed at 3:04pm. The awaiting crowd cheered as the great ship which weighs over 400 tonnes began to move at a snail's pace over the 40 metre distance from the shipyard to the huge barge resting in Tralee Bay. It was a truly historic and memorable occasion for those lucky to be present. From there she was expected to be transported to Fenit at high-tide on the next day - a journey which was expected to take at least 4 hours.

However at lunch-time on Thursday news broke that gales and a heavy swell had hampered plans to transfer to Fenit and it was expected that it would now be at least two weeks before the ship could continue her long-awaited journey.

Project Leader, Mr. John Griffin, stated "There will certainly be a delay in the transfer to Fenit due to the bad weather conditions and for safety reasons but we don't think that there will be any significant effect on our plans. We still intend sailing (to the US and Canada) towards the end of May."

Pictured early on Wednesday, the day before departing for Fenit
Pictured early on Wednesday, the day before departing for Fenit

Work has already started (27th April) on the ship in Blennerville to erect the masts (made from Irish douglas fir) and sails in preparation for the transfer to Fenit on Thursday or Friday, 4th or 5th May. The work is progressing at a steady pace and, if current conditions continue, it is expected that the Jeanie Johnston will be equipped with masts and sails within a couple of days (instead of the original 2 weeks planned for this work). In the meantime people are continuing to visit Blennerville to see the work in progress, as the great ship is being built in preparation for her maiden voyage to North America later this month or early June from Fenit.

On Wednesday afternoon (3rd May) all seems set for the transfer from Blennerville to Fenit, which is due to take place on Thursday, 4th May, between 5pm and 6pm. The second mast is now being erected . There will be a sufficiently high tide (after the full moon) to allow the relatively short (but nevertheless potentially problematic) journey across Tralee Bay. However contingency plans are in place in the event of any difficulties that may arise. There will only be approximately 2 feet of water between the bottom of the barge (on which the Jeanie Johnston is travelling) and the sea bed - so there will be little enough room for comfort!

At 7:10am on Thursday morning all was deceptively peaceful and still in Blennerville. A handful of press and other curious photographers moved respectfully around capturing the last shots of the ship in the brilliant early morning sun. The three masts have now been put in place and Jeanie was looking like a true majestic lady as she awaited the fluster of activity this evening for the move to Fenit.

Pictured on Thursday in Blennerville, with her three masts in place
Pictured on Thursday in Blennerville, with her three masts in place

It was just four minutes before 5:00pm when the barge moved out of it's mooring in Blennerville to take the great ship on it's three mile journey to Fenit. Thousands gathered along the shore-line along Blennerville, the Lock Gates and Cockleshell Road towards the Spa to watch the spectacle of Jeanie's departure from her residence for the past two years. The move attracted a huge interest from both local, national and international well-wishers as the ship moved slowly at first and then at a steady pace towards the port of Fenit where the 200-foot barge will be flooded and she will float on her own for the first time. Tugs, speed-boats, the Lifeguard and a myriad of other seacraft created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the gathered crowds to witness such a display in the brilliant May sunshine. The Jeanie Johnston duly arrived in Fenit after an uneventful crossing at 7:44pm. Sea-trials to test her sea-worthiness will be undertaken there and finishing works to the inside of the ship will be carried out before departing on her Millennium Voyage at the end of the month under Captain Mike Forwood.

After arriving in Fenit at 7:44pm under the watchful eye 
of the Naval Vessel, the L.E. Ciara
After arriving in Fenit at 7:44pm under the watchful eye of the Naval Vessel, the L.E. Ciara

The ship which is lying in Fenit Harbour at present under the watchful eye of the Irish Naval vessel, the L.E. Ciara, started the process of entering the water for the first time on Saturday morning, 6th May. It took about 4 hours for the barge to be submerged and the famine ship to float on her own. A huge cheer was raised by the assembled onlookers in Fenit as the keel of the ship touched the water for the very first time at 1:11pm this afternoon. It will probably be the last time that anyone will see that part of the ship again!! It was a truly momentous occasion as a piece of history was being created before our eyes.

The moment at which the Jeanie Johnston touched water on Saturday, 
as the barge on which she rested, was sunk under her
The moment at which the Jeanie Johnston touched water on Saturday,
as the barge on which she rested, was sunk under her

A closer look as the ship is lowered slowly into the water on Saturday for the first time.
A closer look as the ship is lowered slowly into the water on Saturday for the first time.

The President, Mary McAleese, arrived in Fenit on Sunday, 7th May to perform the official naming of the ship at 4:45pm. The ship was also blessed on the day. Huge crowds were expected and they turned out in great numbers - approx. 10,000 watched the ceremony. Representatives from all of the project's sponsors and supporters sat in the reserved area behind the podium as the President spoke in glowing terms of the commitment and enthusiasm of all concerned and paid special tribute to the project's instigator, John Griffin, without whom there would be no Jeanie Johnston.

President Mary McAleese officially naming the Jeanie Johnston on Sunday 7th May in Fenit, with the L.E. Ciara in the background
President Mary McAleese officially naming the Jeanie Johnston on Sunday 7th May in Fenit,
with the L.E. Ciara in the background
(Note: this exclusive picture was taken from on board the Jeanie Johnston ship © Ted Carroll)



Some of the invited VIP's waiting patiently for the arrival of President McAleese on Sunday
Some of the invited VIP's waiting patiently for the arrival of President McAleese on Sunday



Familiar faces in the crowd included Minister Síle de Valera, Ogie Moran, Shannon Development and Martin Nolan, Kerry County Manager
Familiar faces in the crowd included Minister Síle de Valera, Ogie Moran, Shannon Development and Martin Nolan, Kerry County Manager



Before that, at 12 noon, in Siamsa Tíre, Tralee, the US Ambassador, Michael J. Sullivan and the Canadian Ambassador, Ron Irwin, jointly unveiled the Jeanie Johnston Commemorative Quilt, which has been designed and created by four local ladies, Kitty Palmer and Mary Codd (from Tralee), Eily Kennedy (from Annascaul) and Wendy Sharpe (from Firies). Approximately 2,000 hours of work went into the creation of this masterpiece and all present remarked at the intricacy of the beautiful design.

The Jeanie Johnston Commemorative Quilt unveiled by US Ambassador, Michael J. Sullivan and Canadian Ambassador, Ron Irwin in Siamsa on Sunday
The Jeanie Johnston Commemorative Quilt unveiled by US Ambassador, Michael J. Sullivan and Canadian Ambassador, Ron Irwin in Siamsa on Sunday

The four happy designers of the Commemorative Quilt: Kitty Palmer (Tralee), Eily Kennedy (Annascaul), Wendy Sharpe (Firies) and Mary Codd (Tralee) accepting their accolades at the unveiling in Siamsa Tíre, Tralee on Sunday 7th May
The four happy designers of the Commemorative Quilt:
Kitty Palmer (Tralee), Eily Kennedy (Annascaul), Wendy Sharpe (Firies) and Mary Codd (Tralee) accepting their accolades at the unveiling in Siamsa Tíre, Tralee on Sunday 7th May

Cllr. Ted Fitzgerald, Sean Farren, US Ambassador Michael J. Sullivan, Capt. Mike Forwood, Cllr. Norma Foley, Canadian Ambassador Ron Irwin  and David Irvine at the Quilt Launch on Sunday
Cllr. Ted Fitzgerald, Sean Farren, US Ambassador Michael J. Sullivan, Capt. Mike Forwood, Cllr. Norma Foley, Canadian Ambassador Ron Irwin and David Irvine at the Quilt Launch on Sunday



The original Jeanie Johnston (1847-58) was built in Quebec in 1847 by the Canadian shipbuilder John Munn and bought shortly afterwards by the Donovan family of Tralee. She was a triple-masted barque, constructed of oak and pine, and carried a full complement of 200 passengers and a crew of 17.

The newly-built replica will sail over 13,000 miles from Tralee to the US and Canada, visiting over 20 cities during her Millennium Voyage and will carry a total of 40 passengers and crew.

The Jeanie Johnston is due in Washington DC in early June where President Clinton is due to greet her.

An Post has issued a special Jeanie Johnston stamp to commemorate the rebuilding of the ship and her Millennium Voyage to America. The stamp, which was designed by Vincent Killowrey from County Clare, is based on the architect's drawing of the replica ship. It was officially launched at the Blennerville Shipyard on 9th March by Minister Mary O'Rourke and has gone on sale in Ireland. One million 30p denomination stamps have been issued.

The special Jeanie Johnston stamp issued by An Post to commemorate the rebuilding of the ship and her Millennium Voyage to America

Millennium Voyage
The Jeanie Johnston ship is due to depart Tralee Bay on her year-long Millennium Voyage in early July. The transatlantic leg will take between four and five weeks to complete. The voyage will commemorate the history of its time and remember all those who once sailed on all Irish Emigrant ships. It will also celebrate the great contribution of the Irish to all spheres of American and Canadian life. The Jeanie Johnston plans to visit over 20 US and Canadian cities during her voyage.

When the Jeanie Johnston visits each port, she will have a high profile berth. The ship will be open to visitors during certain hours and, during these times will be in 'museum mode'. In this way all who board her can see what it would have been like to have lived and sailed in those times. A small visit fee will apply. Outside of the 'museum' times there will be opportunities for private or business interests to utilise the ship for receptions and business functions.


3rd June 2000: Delays Hamper Travel Plans
As the old saying goes: "When God made time, He made plenty of it!". That's probably what the Jeanie Johnston Project Team have been saying to themselves over the past number of weeks as the ship remains docked in Fenit. Delays have thwarted plans to set sail in May and it now looks likely to be the end of June or early July before the Millennium Voyage begins. The schedule now is just to finish off kitting out the interior of the ship - all the equipment is in Fenit and the work will involve the actual fitting of the pieces into place. This work is expected to take several weeks to complete.

When that is finished, the tests in Tralee Bay will be run, which should only take three or four days, all going well. Then the ship will be taken on a short journey to either Galway or Cork to test her sailing ability and then she will finally set sail, taking the Southern route, as this is the safest route for a new vessel. The winds should be favourable in early July for the trip. The route will take the ship along by the Azores and up towards Boston, through the Great Lakes and into Quebec. It is expected that this will take about a month. Apart from the sails which have been fitted for some weeks now, Jeanie has powerful engines fitted which will only be used if required. The intention is to arrive in Quebec on 5th August. Project Leader, John Griffin, has been praising the workers and crew as well as Brian Sweeney, Senior Engineer with Kerry County Council, who has been co-ordinating the work for the last few weeks.


30th June 2000: US Voyage Postponed Until 2001
The Jeanie Johnston will not make her Millennium Voyage this year. Following a meeting of the project's Board, a decision has been taken to postpone the ship's Transatlantic voyage to North America.

She had originally been scheduled to sail in April of this year but has been hampered by a number of delays in recent months. To date the capital cost of the project is approx. 6.5m, although the original cost was estimated at 4.5m. The Board now say that the ship will sail to America early in 2001.

Chief Executive, John Griffin, said that the Jeanie Johnston will now undertake a Farewell Tour of Ireland, visiting major ports including Limerick, Galway, Derry, Dublin, Cork and Waterford. He said that the Company had considered sailing the ship to the US later this year and wintering her in New York, but decided against this because of weather and visitor considerations. He said that one of the challenges of the project had been trying to build an historic replica, while at the same time, complying with modern maritime regulations. Because of this, the fit-out had taken considerably longer than expected and it would not be completed in time to avoid the hurricane season in the Atlantic in October.


7th July 2000: Government Agrees Additional 2m Support
Mr. John O'Donoghue, Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform, has announced that Exchequer funding of 2m has been secured for the Jeanie Johnston project. This will ensure that the ship will sail under the revised schedule. Announcing the funding, the Minister said "The Jeanie Johnston project is a fitting tribute to the many thousands of Irish people who left their native land during the Great Famine. The project has brought together people from North and South in a unique process which will, as well as remembering past generations, provide a sail training ship and a floating museum while in port. The Government is proud to support this very worthwhile project."


Chicago: One of the many ports of call
Chicago is capital of the Mid West and home to over a million Irish Americans, including Mayor Richard Daley. The Jeanie Johnston will berth at Navy Pier some time next year. The full schedule of ports of call are not yet finalised but should be available before the end of 2000. Chicago has presented the sextant to the ship and pipe fitters from the Windy City travelled to Tralee to help complete her.


2nd November 2000 - Tralee Pledges Extra 400,000 to Jeanie Johnston
The Jeanie Johnston Project was given a boost on Thursday 2nd November when Kerry County Manager, Martin Nolan, recommended to Tralee Urban Councillors that a short-term loan of 400,000 be made available to the Ship Company to enable them to continue their work without interruption and his recommendation was unanimously approved.

The Council agreed that the Project was a very worthwhile one and, on completion, would be of enormous benefit not only to Tralee but to the whole of the county. The Council, according to Vice-Chairman, Councillor Johnny Wall, had the ultimate confidence in the Project and the leaders, John Griffin and Dr. Henry Lyons. |More...|


The Jeanie Johnston berthed in Fenit on 11th January 2001 awaiting completion

11th January 2001 - Department of Marine Releases Funds
Part of the grant which was promised to the Jeanie Johnston Project in July of 2000 has been forwarded to the Project team by the Department of the Marine. The sum of 150,000 out of the balance of 1.3m to be released was being made available at this stage to the team to enable the work to be completed. The remainder of the grant will be released when the 'Rescue Package' has been approved by the Department.

In the meantime work is ongoing on completing the ship and preparing her for sea trials and the North American Voyage. Mr. Jim Finucane, spokesman for the Project, said that no dates had yet been fixed for the ship's sailing until everything could be 'stood over'. It is hoped to take the ship to Cork during its sea trials and give the crew the experience of dealing with large numbers of visitors. The all-clear for departure on the much-awaited voyage will rest with the Department of the Marine.


17th January 2001 - March Launch Date Likely
It is now expected that the delayed Jeanie Johnston will set sail for the US towards the end of March, approximately one year after the original date marked for the journey.

An actual sailing date has not yet been set, but the final work on the ship at Fenit is expected to take six weeks, with another four weeks set aside for sea trials, according to Ann Martin, PR manager for the Project.

The Jeanie Johnston will begin her six-week journey to Washington DC sometime in the Spring. She will definitely be in New York for 4th July, American Independence Day. It is expected that, once in the States, she will visit as many ports as possible and she could be away from Irish shores for up to two years.


26th June 2001 - Voyage Abandoned for 2001
The ship was not sufficiently complete in order to allow the deadline for sailing to the US and Canada in 2001 to be met, according to the Projects Board who met in Tralee today. Consequently the planned voyage would not be going ahead this year ....
More...

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