The Immigrant ship


Page compiled by Joe Kenny -

Notes from "Surplus People" , by Jim Rees

The Dunbrody Immigrant ship was one of many that hauled Irish immigrants to Canada, and New York. Many of the passengers were from the Lord Fitzwilliam's Wicklow estates and Viscount de Vesci's Portlaoise estates.   I visited this replica that is permanently harbored in New Ross, County Wexford.  Below are pictures and  links that will explain the project much better than I can.  It really put things in perspective of how bad the conditions were aboard these immigrant ships for our Irish ancestors. 

The immigrant ships were to leave New Ross, County Wexford in April and each family was to try to sell everything they had.  They were allowed one large chest per family that they were to cram anything they wanted to take into it.  The journey to New Ross was done on foot, 60 miles away.  Friends and relatives would haul the chests and the elderly on wagons.  This usually took 2 days if all went well.  

Once on the ship, they were directed immediately to the lower deck, where there were bunk style sleeping and living quarters. A family of 4 would be expected to live on one of these bunks that was about 6' x 6'.  If you were unfortunate enough to be assigned a lower bunk, any bodily fluids from sea sickness or other bodily accidents would drain through the boards on to the lower bunk.  Each ship was allowed to carry about 300 people.  To compound the sardine effect, a child under the age of 14 was considered a half of an adult. Provisions for each passenger was entitled 3 quarts of water each day and 7 pounds of bread, biscuit flour, oats or rice per week. Part of their provisions was tea.  Many of the passengers did not know what this was.  Their usual drink would have been buttermilk.

 You can only imagine what they were thinking once they were aboard this ship, as the ship was leaving their homeland, for good.  The passengers were allowed in many cases to stay on the upper deck while the ship was in tow, 4  miles down the river towards the sea.  Once out at sea, they were to remain under deck for the most of the journey.  At times the passengers would be allowed on top for small allotments each. Below deck, the air would be filled with the stench of sea sickness and excrement.  Chamber pots were available on the lower decks, but there were not enough of them.  The main toilets were on the upper deck, but they were denied access when weather was bad. Many families would loose loved ones due to illness and disease.  After 40 days of travel across the Atlantic, land would come into view.  Here, they would leave the Atlantic and head down the St. Lawrence River to be what will become the most terrifying  part of their trip.  The quarantine station called Grosse Ile, was designed to keep out diseases but with so many Immigrants coming in all at once, the facility couldn't manage properly.  The average quarantine time was 8-16 days.  Many people coming were quarantined for the purpose of not spreading disease into Canada, but many got sick at these areas and died. 

Joe Kenny

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#1 & 2  Upper deck,  #3 steps to lower deck, #4, 5 & 7 typical living area for a family,  #6 typical ration allotment, #8 & 9 Dundrody,  #10 a ship manifest.