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.
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 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."
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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 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
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
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
Chicago: One of the many ports of call
2nd November 2000 - Tralee Pledges Extra £400,000 to Jeanie Johnston
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...|
11th January 2001 - Department of Marine Releases Funds
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
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