The original Jeanie
Johnston was bought by Tralee, Co.Kerry-based merchants John
Donovan & Sons, as a cargo vessel and traded successfully
between Tralee and North America for a number of years. The
trading pattern was to bring emigrants from Ireland to North
America, and then to bring timber back to Europe.
She made her maiden emigrant voyage from Blennerville, Co. Kerry
to Quebec on April 24, 1848, with 193 emigrants on board, as the
effects of the Famine ravaged Ireland. Between 1848 and 1855,
the Jeanie Johnston made 16 voyages to North America, sailing to
Quebec, Baltimore, and New York. On average, the length of the
transatlantic journey was 47 days. The most passengers she ever
carried was 254, from Tralee to Quebec on April 17, 1852. To put
this number in perspective, the replica ship is only licensed to
carry 40 people.
Despite the number of passengers, and the long voyage, no crew
or passenger lives were ever lost on board the Jeanie Johnston.
This is generally attributed to the captain, James Attridge, not
overloading the ship, and the presence of a qualified doctor,
Richard Blennerhassett, on board for the passengers.
In 1855, the ship was sold to William Johnson of North Shields
in England. In 1858, en route to Quebec from Hull with a cargo
of timber, she became waterlogged. The crew climbed into the
rigging, and after nine days clinging to their slowly-sinking
ship, they were rescued by a Dutch ship, the Sophie Elizabeth.
Even in her loss, she maintained her perfect safety record.
The building of the replica ship began with in-depth research in
1993, and culminated in the completion of the vessel in 2002. An
international team of young people, linking Ireland North and
South, the United States, Canada and many other countries, built
the replica under the supervision of experienced shipwrights.
The ship was designed by Fred Walker former Chief Naval
Architect with the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich,
England. The recreation project was modelled closely on that of
the 17th century ship, the Batavia.
The ship is built with larch planks on oak frames. To comply
with current international maritime regulations, some
concessions to modernity had to be made. She has two Caterpillar
main engines, two Caterpillar generators, and an emergency
generator that is located above the waterline in the forward
deckhouse. She is fully compliant to the highest standards of
modern ocean-going passenger ships, with steel water-tight
bulkheads, down-flooding valves, and fire-fighting equipment.
In 2002 the replica Jeanie Johnston sailed from Tralee to Canada
and the USA. She has taken part in the Tall Ships Race and is
currently operating as a sail training ship.
Other notable Irish tall ships or sail training ships are the
Asgard II, the Dunbrody, the Lord Rank(N.I.) and the
List of Persons involved in Building
A wooden plaque is mounted on the foremast listing some of the
many people involved in the physical building of the ship. Below
are listed these and others from behind the scenes;
Dr. Henry Lyons, Chairman of Board John Griffin, Project
Motivator Brendan Dineen Senior Administrator/ Accountant Ms.
Abbey Secretary to Administrator Mike Boyle, Managing Shipwright
Ciaran O' Regan, Foreman Shipwright Peter O' Regan,
Shipwright/Mechanic Capt. Mike Forward, Master Mariner Tom
Hilliard. Draughtsman David Buttimer, Harbour Master, Tralee &
Fenit Captain John Master Mariner / Rigging Master
This list will be extended as time permits.
Many, many more people gave time, money and support to this
project, whose names have not been listed anywhere, but without
whose goodwill, the project would not have been completed.