Jeanie Johnston Journal
An Irish Famine Ship Revisits Canada and Grosse Île in the 21st Century
by Catherine McKenna
About the Book
In 2003, the Irish emigrant ship replica, the Jeanie Johnston, set sail from Fenit, Ireland, on her maiden voyage to visit some 20 North American ports on the Eastern seabord. The culmination of this odyssey would be her return to her spiritual home at Grosse-Île, Québec, where she would moor with the purpose of paying homage to the 5,424 Irish emigrants who fled their homeland to Québec during the Potato Famine, and survived their arduous voyage only to die on its shores. The Jeanie Johnston project was also a gesture of thanks to the clergy and medical staff of Québec, who warmly welcomed them and risked — and often lost — their lives ministering to them.
Following the good fortune of winning an essay contest that earned the author a berth as a sail-trainee on this magnificent three-masted ship, sailing from Montréal to Grosse-Île and back to Québec City, she decided to keep notes in a personal journal of her experiences on board the Jeanie Johnston.
The book opens with a forward by J. Peter Shea, (Montréal Irishman of the Year in 2001), who also sailed on a different leg of the voyage. A brief history of the ship is given, along with some background on its reconstruction. Although considered one of the "coffin ships" of the Famine era, the Jeanie Johnston was unique in that she never lost a single passenger, not even when she sank in 1858 while traveling from Québec to Hull, England, with a cargo of timber.
In addition, the now historic speeches delivered at the ceremonies on Grosse-Île are documented here. They include facts and figures about the Great Famine and emigration and offer insight as to why it is only now, some 150 years later, that Ireland is able to look back at one of the worst such disasters ever recorded.
About the Author
Catherine McKenna lives and works in her native Québec City as a full-time ESL teacher, after many years in Canada and abroad working in a variety of professions, including exercise rider of thoroughbred racehorses, pari-mutuel clerk, artists' model, letter carrier, health food retail worker, and researcher/fundraiser for Canadian environmental organizations. She is actively involved in Irish Heritage Quebec, which works to preserve Irish heritage and culture in Québec City. This is her first book.
Jeanie Johnston Journal