Category: Archive

Famine ship now tied up until spring

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Ray O’Hanlon

Christopher Columbus had problems crossing the Atlantic. A lack of funds was one of them, but with a little governmental help, he eventually made it to his new world.

The backers of the Jeanie Johnston Famine-era replica sailing ship are also this week turning to the powers-that-be in an effort to keep the troubled Jeanie Johnston project on an even keel.

The ship, which is still nearing completion in Fenit, Co. Kerry, was due to have begun a roughly 30-city North American tour last June. But that plan was scrapped.

Sea trials for the ship were then expected to start in August and this was to be followed by a voyage around the Irish coast during which the future transAtlantic crew would be broken in.

However, due to continued completion delays and cost overruns, the trials and maiden voyage have now been long-fingered once again. It now looks as if it will be the spring of 2001 before the ship leaves port for trials and a shakedown voyage.

Sign up to The Irish Echo Newsletter

The cost of the Jeanie Johnston project is now estimated at £10 million and counting.

According to an Irish Times report, a special meeting of Tralee Urban District Council last week voted to give the Jeanie Johnston a £400,000 short-term loan at zero interest "to bail the project out of immediate trouble."

Against this backdrop, an earlier £2 million grant from the Irish government’s Department of the Marine has not yet been fully paid over. The department is sitting on the remaining money until a full and detailed rescue plan for the Jeanie Johnston is drawn up.

Dr. Henry Lyons, chairman of the Jeanie Johnston Board, told the Tralee council members that the delay in the ship’s voyage to North America was at the heart of the present financial problems.

The visits to ports in the U.S. and Canada were expected to be big income earners. Instead, he pointed out, £100,000 was now being spent every month as the ship neared final completion.

Dr. Lyons told the council that efforts to launch the ship this year and undertake the voyage to North America had been "far too ambitious."

However, he said that interest in the North American voyage remains "very strong" despite the delays.

The ship is 95-percent finished, Lyons said, and there were various plans to raise income through possibly using the Jeanie Johnston after the North American tour as a museum, a sail-training vessel, a venue for corporate entertainment or as a 19th century ship in films.

The Times report stated that the board of the Jeanie Johnston is in the process of being restructured and that leaders of the various North American host committees would be taking part in a series of detailed planning meetings in the coming days.

Other Articles You Might Like

Sign up to our Daily Newsletter

Click to access the login or register cheese