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The Jeanie Johnston under full sail

The replica of an Irish immigrant ship, the Jeanie Johnston made a return visit to St. Andrews 150 years after the original vessel arrived with close to 200 brave souls. In 1853, sailing from Tralee, Ireland the tall ship had been forced by relentless storms to change course from her original destination of Quebec City. In 2003, she crossed the ocean again and sailed up the coast from Florida and made the Town her first Canadian port of call.

The barque arrived at Market Wharf on Friday, August 15, 2003 amid a flotilla of local and visiting boats. The crowd listened to fiddle music while waiting to welcome her. After clearing customs the crew were piped into Market Square for opening ceremonies. There actors Robbie O’Neill and Michelle Daigle read excerpts from letters written concerning the 1853 emigrants whose descendants were on hand to welcome the ship's return.

Senator Michael Meighen, the Honourable Tony Huntjens and Mayor John Craig brought greetings on behalf of Canada, New Brunswick and the Town.

Fiddlers on Market Wharf welcome the Jeanie Johnston
Piper, voluntary RCMP escort, crew on Market Wharf

Father Brennan gave thanks for safe passages. Visiting dignitaries were introduced, gifts were given and songs were sung. The entertainment was just part of a Four Day Ceili celebrated at Market Square.

The crew were piped through the town to a barbecue to which all of the young people employed by local non-profit groups were also invited. It was hosted by Sheriff Andrews House and the Ross Memorial Museum.

The dignitaries attended a reception nearby at the Anglican Parish Church Hall. But for the cake provided by the Town, the food was contributed by all the local church women's groups. The New Brunswick Archives had set up an exhibit entitled, "In the Wake of Dark Passage", a very moving display on Irish immigration. Personnel from the local archives oversaw the wealth of genealogical material. Meanwhile, the Ceili continued until 10 pm that day, and for the next three.

First Mate accepting NB flag from Hon. Mr. Huntjens
Reception and display

While the barque was in the old seaport 2000 people paid to visit her. This and the sale of mementos were the only income for the tall ship while in St. Andrews. The Jeanie Johnston’s Irish organizers had counted on selling sail training cruises between ports, but it wasn’t until the ship reached Halifax that the Canadian Coast Guard gave permission for the sail training trips to commence. Other ports may have been able to sell evening receptions but the team for the St. Andrews visit had had no success doing so. Nonetheless, the Captain and crew were charming and gracious.

It was important for people to see the ship in museum mode. It was very moving to see the crowded bunks and the wax figures of the passengers and crew in the dark hold and to hear the sounds and voices of bye gone times.

Members of the local yacht club helped provide crowd control. Those businesses using the wharf restricted their activities to the early morning to permit safe foot traffic thereafter. A courtesy van, provided and driven by volunteers, helped those who found walking difficult.

Capt. Matthews with St. Andrews & Saint John Chairs
Visitors with wax figure of fiddler

While most activities during the four days were concentrated in and around Market Wharf and Market Square, one event of note was not. On Sunday a very moving ecumenical service was held at the Celtic Cross at Indian Point overlooking Hospital Island where, in the mid-1800's so many Irish immigrants died and were buried. All denominations and an aboriginal representative took part in the ceremony.

In fact the whole town and beyond was involved with and took part in celebrating the return of this unique vessel, the only Irish immigrant ship that never lost a soul at sea.

The purpose of the voyage itself was to celebrate Irish roots and to promote the good will between peoples. The rebuilding of the Jeanie Johnston was truly an all-Ireland project with funding from north and south and involving Protestant and Catholic volunteers. The owners of all the houses in St. Andrews that were in existence in 1853 welcomed the chance to display both green and orange ribbons. Similar but smaller ribbons were the insignia of the volunteer committee. Each local business and individual citizen did their utmost to celebrate the ship's return.

The Ceili within sight of the docked Jeanie Johnston sustained a wholesome atmosphere of joy throughout her four days in port. Gary Scott organized the entertainment and engaged dancers and musicians such as:

  • 39 Toes
  • Windjammer
  • The Mizzen men
  • Homemade Bread
  • Mara Powers
  • John Thompson
  • Matthew Haynes
  • Brad Trecartin
  • David Wells and Terry
Entertainers on the Ceili stage

Photo by Bill McMullon
St. Andrews JJ Committee - Chuck Schom missing from photo
Max Wolfe, Gary Scott, BB Chamberlain, Vaughn McIntyre
Faye McMullon, Mary Casement, Janet Toole
Ann Breault, Joan Jones, Carole Barton, Sheila Washburn

Gary also conducted free Irish dancing classes himself every morning. The enthusiasm, continual presence and work of Gary and all the committee contributed to the euphoria that everyone experienced.

It was particularly for this portion of the celebration, the Ceili, that we needed financial assistance. We received private donations, we raffled a $250 sail training cruise and a $200 dinner (when the cruise was canceled we gave that winner $250) and we received $1000 from the Provincial Government. In the end we just broke even. Our financial statements and copies our program are attached.

The Jeanie Johnston’s visit to St. Andrews exceeded the expectations of the organizing committee. The excellent turnout was in no small part a result of the excellent press coverage from all media, including many interviews with Josephine McLaughlin, a descendent of the 1853 passengers. Everyone can be proud of the caliber of the activities, the friendliness of the captain and crew and the uniqueness of the Jeanie Johnston herself. Her voyage did create harmony and did help us celebrate not only our Irish roots, but our ship building heritage. It was a most successful and rewarding project. The ship sailed from St. Andrews on August 19, 2003, to other Canadian ports (Saint John, Halifax, Miramichi, Quebec, Montreal and St. John's) before returning to Ireland. She left a wealth of happy memories and good will in her wake.

Back in Ireland, November 2003


The Return of the Jeanie Johnston could not have taken place without a lot of support from the whole community. While the 2003 event was supremely successful, the project had not been all smooth sailing. The original plan was for the construction of the ship to be completed in 1999 and for the barque to sail from Ireland in 2000, and to that end the Jeanie Johnston committee raised funds in 1999-2000 for the St. Andrews visit, sending $3000 to Ireland to help with construction costs. When financial problems in Ireland delayed the voyage the Sir James Dunn Foundation, which had donated $2,500, fortunately did not ask for their money back. Nor did any of the small donors request refunds. A second sailing date in 2001 did not materialize either. The remaining $1624 was invested in GICís and the committee waited.

By the time the organizing team became absolutely sure that the third attempt would bring the ship to Canada we only had 10 weeks to mobilize. Here is what we raised and what we spent. Our financial report does not include any in-kind donations such as the Town's contribution of free dockage.

Saved from 2000
Province of NB 2003
BIA 2003
Kiwanis Club Note 1
Elizabeth Ross 2003
Poster sale
Ann Breault - piper
Irish-Canadian C Assn
Raffle ticket sales 2003
Harrison McCain



    Marketing costs
    Kiwanis Note 1
    2 Charities Note 2
    Bank charges
    Raffled netted




  1. The $1000 from the Kiwanis Club shows both as income and expense. The St. Andrews Club gave the funds to subsidize school children's visits to the ship on the final day, a Monday, which was likely to be a slower day for visitors. The Boys and Girls Club of St. Stephen also postponed their visit until Monday. On Sunday Captain Matthews decided that there would be no visits on Monday. He was very concerned about the angle of the ramp from the wharf to the deck at low tide and had restricted the visits onboard to a few hours either side of high tide. He was also quite alarmed by the currents and tides in the passages into Passamaquoddy Bay and decided to leave near high tide late Monday afternoon in bright sunlight, rather than at dawn Tuesday morning. On Sunday, the Captain gave 100 free passes to students and although an attempt was made to notify the young people who were delaying their visit until Monday, not all could be reached. The $1000 was returned to the Kiwanis Club.
  2. Members of the JJ Committee not only contributed personal funds in 1999, but they had expenses throughout the project for which they did not request reimbursement. At the end of the project, when there was almost $200 remaining in the bank, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans charged a $195 Marine Navigation Services Fee. We sent the bill to Ireland and it was paid by the Captain. But it was apparent from subsequent invoices that this was a monthly fee so we appealed for relief. Should the appeal prove successful, the committee decided not to reimburse their own personal expenses, but to split the residual between the Charlotte County Branch of the Irish-Canadian Cultural Association and St. Andrews' Pendleton Light-house project. The appeal was successful and in March,2004, DFO sent a cheque to the Committee who reimbursed the Jeanie Johnston. The amount remaining in the account, $192.47, has finally been disbursed as instructed. The bank account is closed and this report completes the project.

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Updated on March 26, 2006 and © copyright 2006 Sheila Washburn