TRALEE SHIP CANAL – THE HUMAN STORY

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Tralee Ship Canal, with a view of Blennerville Windmill

Some of you may be aware that I have previously posted photos of Tralee Canal, one of my regular walking and photography routes and in this post I would like to mention just a little snippet about the history in which this canal played a part.

This canal has a rich history. It was built to bring trade to the Tralee area around 1830. But my interest often focuses more on the human side of the story. It was from here that many people set sail for America in the original Jeanie Johnston tall ship during the Famine years of the 1840s to escape hunger and even death, with dreams of a new life in a faraway country, about which they knew very little. This was a dreadful time in the history of Ireland, and its repercussions still resound in the minds and hearts of the people here.

The Jeanie Johnston was a three masted barque that was originally built in Quebec, Canada, in 1847. It was purchased by a Tralee business man who used it to ship emigrants to North America and timbers back to Europe. It was particularly notable because nobody died on the emigrants voyages, unlike on other similar ships of the time, dubbed ‘coffin ships’. From 1848 – 1855 she made 16 voyages to Quebec, Baltimore and New York, taking around 47 days and carrying about 200 people on board. One can only imagine the challenges of this long and arduous journey, on the wild Atlantic Ocean.

When I walk by the canal down to the coast, I contemplate the beautiful view over Tralee Bay and the Sliabh Mish Mountains of the lovely Dingle Peninsula, and sometimes try to imagine what it must have felt like for those thousands of people who left their home country with dreams of a better life, and saw the shores of their beautiful homeland for the last time. I look at the sights they saw as they sailed out to sea, to an unknown fate, and think of their fears and hopes as they knew this might be the last time they would see their beautiful but desperate home country.

In spite of the challenges that confronted them, many achieved their dreams, and many of their descendants have become high achievers in many fields,  some even reaching the highest office of the US.  

Check out this link for a list of 20 US Presidents with Irish connections: 

http://homepage.eircom.net/~seanjmurphy/dir/pres.htm

The Jeanie Johnston is remembered as a ship of great importance to the Irish people. A replica ship was built in Blennerville, Tralee, 1998 – 2000, in a boatyard adjacent to the Blennerville Windmill. It was an ambitious project that cost nearly 14 million euro – way over budget and was sold to The Dublin Docklands Development Authority in 2005, for less than 3 million euro. Unfortunately it did not remain in Kerry, where many stakeholders incurred huge financial losses. It can now be seen moored off Custom House Quay, in Dublin. I have no photos of my own of the current Jeanie Johnston, but here’s one you can see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jeanie_Johnston.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Jeanie_Johnston.jpg

Read more about the Jeanie Johnston on: http://www.jeaniejohnston.ie

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The canal now provides a wonderful amenity to local people who enjoy the beautiful walk along the towpath

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A rainbow seen from the canal

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Wetlands border the sides of the canal, on its route to the sea

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The emigrants may have been glad to leave the uncertain and swiftly changing Irish weather – though it has a beauty of its own

 

 

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Through the lock gates and out into Tralee Bay

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A last look up the canal after exiting the lock

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The last few yards of the canal before entering the calm waters of Tralee Bay

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Keeping the Sliabh Mish Mountains on the left, thousands of emigrants sailed out towards the wild and rough waters of the Atlantic Ocean, to reach America in approximately 47 days

 

Please take a look at my website on the Tralee Canal Category: http://helene-brennan.com/c112-tralee-canal–county-kerry–photos.

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