Marco Polo Project Saint John New Brunswick

Jeanie Johnston Stamp sheet

by David Williams

A tall ship returns
Irish vessel featured on stamp will visit N.B.

   SHE'S a triple-masted barque, 37.5 metres in overall length, and she's one of the most famous of the 19th-century Irish emigrant vessels. She's the Jeanie Johnston, and a full-scale replica of the tall ship will call at two ports in New Brunswick this summer.
    But before she does, collectors can get an early sighting of the vessel on a 30-pence stamp issued last Thursday by An Post, the Irish post office.
    Those who had hoped to see the replica itself - which is being built at a visitor shipyard at Blennerville, near Tarlee, County Kerry - will be disappointed; the stamp shows only a plain, side-view drawing. The colours, are subdued and the overall appearance is of an outline of a ship model, not a tall ship replica.
    Turns out there are few photographs of the ship under construction, at least not that I could find on the many Web pages on the Internet. In fact, the project's official Web site is under construction itself and offers little information. This may be because of delays that have been experienced. The replica was to have made its historic, high-profile trans-Atlantic voyage to North America last autumn. The launching is now set for April 18, The latest word is that the ship will set sail May 7, arriving in Washington, DC on June 7. Altogether it will visit more than 20 ports in the United States and Canada.
    Fittingly enough, this country's first incorporated and most Irish city Saint John - will be her first port of call in Canada, from July 20 to 25. The tall ship will then visit St. Andrews on July 25 and 26.
    There's a reason that St. Andrews has been added to the list. While both Saint John and St. Andrews received thousands of Irish refugees from various vessels during the famine years, a storm forced the Jeanie Johnston to make an unplanned visit to St. Andrews on Nov. 2, 1853. A total of 195 immigrants disembarked and some stayed to work on the railroad.
    The visit of the tall ship will be of special interest in Saint John, the home of the Marco Polo Project. Unlike the Jeanie Johnson, the latest plan is to build a non-sailing, land-based Marco Polo replica. Saint John's most famous vessel, of course, was featured on a popular 45-cent stamp issued a year ago today. Most first day covers of the stamp and souvenir sheet sold out quickly.
    If you want more information on the Jeanie Johnston stamp or other stamps from Ireland, write An Post, P.O. Box 1991, G.P.O., Dublin 1, Ireland. Their Web site is
    And while there don't seem to be any good photographs of the replica of the famous Irish famine ship under construction, there is a nice watercolour painting of her on the Jeanie Johnston Visits New Brunswick Web site at, which is also a good place to keep up to date on the upcoming visit of the ship.

The story below was taken from the Times Globe April 18/00 a local newspaper in Saint John, N.B.

Jeanie Johnston

Jeanie Johnston Sets Sail
A replica of one of the busiest vessels of the Irish Famine
period is almost ready for its Atlantic crossing and a stop in Saint John

by Erin Dwyer
Times Globe staff writer

    The launch of the emigrant ship Jeanie Johnston was to take place today at the Blennerville shipyard in Ireland, marking the first step in its voyage to North America.
    It is expected to arrive July 20 in Saint John.
    Capt. Alwyn Soppitt, president and CEO of the Saint John Port Authority, who co-chairs the local co-ordinating committee with Dr. Daniel Britt, says a major welcome is being organized.
    "We're looking forward to her visit," he said yesterday.
    Work began 2 1/2-years ago to build a detailed replica of the Jeanie Johnston, one of the busiest vessels of the Irish Famine period.
    The triple-masted oak and steel beam replica craft will be retracing the dramatic Atlantic crossing which brought many Irish refugees to North America 150 years ago. Saint John will be her first Canadian port of call, followed by St. Andrews.
    She is also visiting 13 ports in the United States as well as seven more in Canada.
    Today, depending on the weather, the ship was to be moved by barge from its dry dock home at Blennerville to Fenit, Ireland.
    The short journey across Tralee Bay will mark the first step of the historic Millennium Voyage, which the ship will undertake in May to North America.
    In Fenit, its masts and spars will be fitted. Eighteen sails, made from more than 1,700 metres of synthetic canvas, and 1,000 metres of rope will go into her rigging. This will take about two weeks to complete.
    Capt. Mike Forwood will command the ship on its sail to North America.
    Capt. Soppitt can only imagine what those aboard will experience as she travels over the Atlantic.
    "I don't imagine it will be a carnival," he said.
    "But there are a number of people who have paid passage for the experience.
    "I'm sure they will be much better fed than the immigrants and have little better quarters, though still cramped. "
    The replica Jeanie Johnston will be in Saint John from July 20 to 25 and in St. Andrews July 25 and 26. Full details of the New Brunswick visit of this voyage will be released next month.
    For more information, visit the Jeanie Johnston Web site a