Maine Irish Heritage Center to Join Irish National Commemoration of the Great Famine
Portland, April 27 – The Maine Irish Heritage Center (MIHC) will join the Irish national commemoration of the Great Famine with a talk by author Kathryn Miles entitled “Famine Ships and Famine Times” on Sunday, May 5 at 2 p.m.
Since 2009 the Irish government has observed a National Famine Commemoration in May with a week-long program of events, this year to be held in Kilrush, County Clare. The MIHC’s talk, part of its Dúchas (Heritage) series of public programs, marks the loss of fully one-quarter of the Irish population to starvation, disease and emigration in the years 1845-1852 in what has become known as The Great Hunger.
During those years more than 100,000 Irish men, women and children fleeing starvation perished at sea aboard what have come to be known as “coffin ships” bringing them to North America. Yet one ship, the Jeanie Johnston – built in Canada, sailing from County Kerry, traversing the Atlantic 16 times in seven years – never lost a single emigrant passenger to disease or to the sea.
How did the Jeanie Johnston keep its passengers safe? Kathryn, author of “All Standing: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, Ireland’s Legendary Famine Ship,” will tell its story. She weaves a history of the Great Hunger drawn from the “official sources” – archival material, newspaper accounts and legislative histories – with that of one family: descendants of a baby, Nicholas Reilly, born aboard the Jeanie Johnston the night before it set sail on its first voyage.
Kathryn will be joined by MIHC Board Member Ellen Murphy, who will show photographs of the replica of the Jeanie Johnston under construction in the shipyard in County Kerry, where she worked as a docent in 1999.
The program will open with a special message of greeting from Mairead O’Brien, the Mayor of Kilrush.
The Maine Irish Heritage Center is located on the corner of State and Danforth Streets in Portland. Admission to the program is free. For more information, call 207.780.0118, or visit http://www.maineirish.com.