Letter from .... BRENNERVILLE, Ireland; Slipway Monument to Famine and Peace

Article excerpt

Amid the noise of band saws and the smell of larch and oak, an international crew is resurrecting a lost monument to the Great Famine, the most profound and appalling event in Ireland's modern history.

Inspired by peacemaking efforts in the north, American shipwrights and apprentices from all parts of Ireland have spent three years building a replica of the Jeanie Johnston, a fabled ship that once ferried famine victims across the Atlantic.

"Jeanie has brought together Irish people - Catholics from the south and Protestants and Catholics from the north - to build a living memorial to the terrible past they share," said project organiser Henry Lyons, donning a hard hat to survey the work in progress.

From its arrival in 1848 until the famine's ebbing in 1854, the original Jeanie carried an annual cargo of emigrants from this remote south-west Irish port in County Kerry to Baltimore, New York and Quebec.

The Canadian-built ship was one of hundreds that saved an estimated two-million people from the wave of starvation and disease that claimed a million lives, a direct result of widespread potato blight on the crop much of the nation relied on for food and profit.

Unlike most of the other vessels involved, dubbed "coffin ships" because of the wretched conditions aboard, the Jeanie had a doctor and decent standards of food and hygiene.

The new Jeanie, though an identical 150ft long, is designed to carry just 40 passengers instead of the original 200. …