Irish America Hall of Fame Opens at Dunbrody Famine Ship

The official cake cutting at the new Dunbrody centre in New Ross, Co. Wexford. From left: Sean Riedy, CEO Dunbrody Trust; Michael Flatley; Patricia Quinn; Patricia Harty, Editor in Chief of Irish America magazine; joined by the Flatley family and members of the Dunbrody board. / Photo by Mary Browne

By Patricia Harty, Editor-in-Chief
August / September 2011

Celebrated with the opening of the new Dunbrody Visitor Center on July 8th

On July 8, the Dunbrody Visitor Center in New Ross, Co. Wexford was celebrated as a new home for Ireland’s emigration history. The Dunbrody is a three-masted replica of a sailing ship that brought many emigrants from Ireland to North America during and after the Great Famine. The connected center has been extensively expanded to four times the size of the original.

The experience begins quayside with an authentic recreation of the New Ross town of the 1840s. Inside the Dunbrody Famine Ship, various audio and visual displays capture the experience of a passenger setting sail for the New World, America in the 1840s. Upon leaving the ship the visitor arrives in the North America part of the exhibition, which explores the impact Irish emigrants have had on American life and culture.

The centerpiece of this part of the visitors center is the Irish America Hall of Fame, which was developed in collaboration with Irish America magazine, and celebrates the lives, works and achievements of noted Irish individuals such as President Bill Clinton and Michael Flatley. The Hall of Fame is an effort to bring home the stories of those who relunctantly left a tattered home and made their own success in a new land. Inductee Michael Flatley spoke at the opening, expressing the emotional significance of the Dunbrody, of the tears shed there as mothers and children separated for what they knew would be forever. Now they are in many ways reunited at the exhibition.

Commenting on the opening, Sean Reidy, chief executive of the Dunbrody Famine Ship, said, “Over ten years ago, we built a replica of a 19th century Famine ship. Since then, over 750,000 people have enjoyed our Quayside experience, and we found from our research a need to develop our project further to reinforce the emotional journey that so many people took during that important time in our nation’s history. We are delighted to be unveiling this world class visitor experience. The Irish America Hall of Fame illustrates the passion and drive of the Irish to succeed in difficult circumstances.”

Funding provided by the Irish Department of Arts, Sports and Tourism will be used for additional exhibitions and functions, including  a recreated New York street-scape, a showcase of Ireland during the Famine, and a genealogy facility.

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