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During the Great Famine of Ireland in the mid-19th century, tens of thousands of starving Irish families fled the country and emigrated to Canada and the United States. Most of the ships that sailed during the famine years were overcrowded and poorly built and had a horrible reputation of unseaworthiness.

“Lasting up to six weeks, the Atlantic crossing was a terrible trial for those brave, or desperate, enough to attempt it,” says the website of the Dunbrody Famine Ship museum in New Ross, Ireland. “Packed cheek by jowl below decks, the steerage passengers barely saw the light of day. Allowed up on deck for no more than one hour a day, in small groups, they would gather around open stoves to cook. When their time was up, it was back down into the dark, dank hold. During the regular storms the hatches were battened down, and the passengers would subsist on hard-tack biscuits.”


Painting by Rodney Charman, Irish Coffin Ship, Below Deck, 1970

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© Amusing Planet, 2017.


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