Discover The New Ross Area

Things to do in the New Ross area

The hope is that JFK Dunbrody Festival participants come and stay for the entire three days.  There are plenty of hotel accommodations and lots to see and do, not only at the Festival but in the surrounding area.  These activities include sightseeing, museums, golf, horseback riding, hiking, camping, hang gliding from Mt. Leinster, bird watching, bar hopping, sailing and sun bathing.

These Wexford County attractions include:

On the Water Adventures:

Take the Fishing out on lake Oakland

Visit the New Ross Swimming Pool

 Stop by, spend some time at the Three Sisters Marina


Ross Adventure Play Barn

Shielbaggan Outdoor Education Centre

Dunmore East Adventure Centre


Mount Juliet Golf Club

New Ross Golf Club

Scarke Golf Course


Oldcourt Stables

Featured Surrounding Attractions

Bodega! Restaurant in Waterford

Faithlegg House Hotel and Golf Club

Grannagh Castle

Imagine Arts Festival in Waterford

Rock of Cashel, Tipperary

The National Ploughing Championships – taking place in mid to late September each year

Waterford Crystal Museum

Surrounding Scenic Drives

Blackwater Valley Drive

Dungarvan to Tramore Drive

East Waterford Coastal Drive

Gaeltacht & Galtacht Drive

Lismore & the Vee Drive

Other Local Attractions

Castle Archers Wexford

Champagne Restaurant

Loftus Hall

Richmond House

The Experience of the Irish Emigrant

The island of Ireland has been a story of constant migration – immigration and emigration.   A consistent flow of disparate people coming to Ireland to find a better life and they left their mark on the character and culture of the island.  But when the potato famine began in 1845, a gigantic outward flow began.

jfk-dunbrody-famine jfk-dunbrody-potato-famine

The inward flow settlers can be traced back to the Stone Age and then by the Iron Age Celtic groups.  The Viking traders created the first townships and missionaries constructed places of worship.   The Normans came from Wales and across the English Channel from France.  The populations then build stone castles to protect themselves and the European influence was cultivated in each town – style of buildings and market places.  At a later time, the Plantation of Ulster attracted settlers from neighboring Scotland and England.

As these groups arrived, departures were in a constant flow.  For at least fifteen hundred years, Irish Missionaries, Mercenaries and Exiles have traveled the globe far and wide.  These travels influenced Irish religion, culture and knowledge throughout the dark ages throughout Europe.  Irish were in combat in neighboring country wars and, on the other hand, they were oppressed from discrimination in France and Spain.

Beginning in the 19th century, the Irish way of life faced many difficulties.  Most of the people were oppressed and political conflict arose – inspiring a crusade for greater civil rights.  At the beginning of 1845, the potato crops failed and local farmers were devastated – poor and hungry.  This hardship accelerated the hostility toward the British politicians who controlled Ireland’s economy.  Without any British action to rescue Ireland from starvation, the famine continued for years.  In fact, from 1845 to 1852, more than a million of the poorest Irish people died and another 1-1/2 million, who could afford to leave, fled Ireland.   This emigration in mass continued for another 100 years

At the JFK Dunbrody Famine Ship, the Irish emigrant experience is told in detail, not only from the viewpoint of those who departed, but from those who remained to endure the hardship of near starvation or those who did not survive the terrible blight.  Those average citizens who boarded the Dunbrody, a 3 mast ship, for a month long voyage to America, chose to leave everything behind for a future which was unknown.

The JFK Dunbrody Tour at the port of New Ross is the site from which famine emigration boats departed.  During the guided tour, an explanation of the harsh nature of the trip is explained and, with the performers in costume, one might get a feeling of how the passengers felt – traveling toward unknown future.  The tours end provides a brief view of what awaited for those who survived the trip.  In fact, it required decades for American societies to accept and respect those in the hard working Irish communities around the US.

At the end of the tour, snacks and beverages are provide by our wonder full Irish and American sponsors.

History of the Dunbrody


Of course the Dunbrody Famine Ship at New Ross is a replica but the original was constructed by an expert Irish shipwright (builder) in 1845 in the province of Quebec and commissioned along with several other ships by a merchant marine group from New Ross.  The vessel, supervised by the first Master / Captain until 1848, was designed as a cargo ship and constructed on only six months.

Primarily, the ship carried timber (Canada), cotton (southern US states) and from Peru, guano.  Of course, in 1845, the ships first year in operation, the terrible potato famine struck Ireland and with a failing potato crop, food prices went through the roof.  The resulting starvation forced more than 1 million Irish residents to leave and passenger ships were overflowing.  Quick thinking business men, refitted their ships with bunk-beds to accommodate demand of passengers and this was the fate of the Dunbrody.  From 1945 to 1851, Dunbrody transported thousands of Irish men, women and children, 160 to 300 at a time,  to the Americas – north and south.

There were only two passenger classes – cabin and steerage.  For the average steerage farm worker passenger who earned only 1 pound per month, this amounted to 3 to 4 months of income.  This amount was beyond the means of many families, so they had to stay in Ireland and endure the hardship.  For the Cabin passengers, food was provided but the steerage passengers had to survive on the food they brought aboard the ship.

The mass exodus from Ireland began in 1847, after 3 years of failing the potato crops.  When the 1847 spring arrived and it was safe to travel on sea, the new arrivals in Quebec simply overwhelmed the cities ability to handle such a large influx of people.  As a result, may passengers had to wait on their respective ships for weeks, with no food or fresh water and many died with many corpses thrown overboard into the St. Lawrence River where the boats waited.

Even though the Dunbrody was delayed many times, due to a humane Captain and crew, their passenger mortality rate was quite low, compared to the average.  In fact, many letters from passengers were later sent, complementing and thanking the Captain and crew for their compassionate treatment.

Until 1869, The William Graves Family operated the Dunbrody and at that time, she was sold.  In 1874, the new owners, navigating on the St. Lawrence, did not wait for channel guidance from the pilot and the ship promptly ran aground.  The Dunbrody ship was then purchased by a salvage company, repaired and re-sold.  But, in 1875, while carrying a timber cargo from Liverpool, heavy winds blew the ship was blown off course and Dunbrody suffered another grounding on the shore of Labrador.  This time though, it is presumed, due to her aging hull, the damage was beyond repair and the ship was left to be broken up on the reef, rotting away to nothing.

Thus, the end of the story, until the reconstruction of the current JFK Dunbrody Famine Ship now on display in New Ross.

JFK Dunbrody Festival Highlights

As a three day event, the JFK Dunbrody Festival draws locals and tourists in large numbers.  In fact, each summer, up to 20 to 30 thousand people attend the New Ross event.  This attendance and the resulting attention has increased the international standing of the town and the surrounding area, resulting in solid, long lasting economic benefits to the local communities.

Each year, the event is organized by the JFK Trust and includes fun zones, food markets, and live music each evening.  Local residents say the event has become the highlight of the summer.

Festival highlights include:

1) The Dunbrody Famine Ship:                               jfk-dunbrdy-1

Beginning in February 2001, the primary festival highlight, the Dunbrody Famine Ship, has been moored at the Quayside in New Ross. This ship is the Festival Focal Point and provides first class, in fact, a world-class tourist experience.  The exhibits on the Dunbrody ship both educates and entertains at the same time.

The ship is an authentic, 1840’s emigrant vessle replica and guided tours along wiht costumed actors  focus on famine emigrant experience.

2) Ross food and craft fest:                                      jfk-dunbrody-food-crafts

Located at New Ross  Quayside and sponsored by local businesses, the ‘Ross Food and Craft Fest’ is a daily event.  This display of foods and crafts is similar to a farmers market where event attendees, both local and tourists, can experience the taste of local fruits, vegetables and other cooked food along with many, specialty crafts, specific to New Ross and surrounding areas..

Related to “food”, several additional entertaining events are offered throughout the town over the entire three day festival.  These include a Carnival, called Funfair, at the towns central park, a Chilli cook-off and a Pie eating contest.   The three days is lots of fun!

3) The South Street Al Fresco puppet theater:           jfk-al-fresco

For 2017, arrive early for seating because the, always enjoyable, South Street Al Fresco, string puppet marionette show, will be back.   The two lead puppet characters, Moon and Sixpence will present a witty version of Huckelberry Finn.  One of the cast of puppet characters urges children to be stewards of the earth and pick up the surrounding trash and place all of it in the nearby trash barrels.  With accompanying music and sound effects, the puppets encourage lots of participation from both young and old members of the audience.  Yep, it’s real fun stuff!

Also, for your enjoyment, there will be plenty of snacks and beverages from the local food markets, cafés and Irish pubs.

4) Picnic in the Park:                                              jfk-picnic-in-park1

The fantastic ‘Picnic in the Park’ is on Sunday of the event, usually beginning at 2pm.  The entire family is welcome.  There are plenty of games as well as other local entertainment.  On the food side, there are very healthy, organic food offerings if you don’t bring your own food.

In addition, there are clubs / groups / organizations that be displaying their goods and services as well as groups offering entertainment and activities for the kids.  There will also be a modern dance demonstration, Irish dancing, line dancing for your participation and enjoyment.

There is also a broadcast from a local radio station and giveaways – provided by our local Irish and Irish American sponsors.

5) The Pirate Festival.                                            jfk-dunbrody-pirate-fest

At the Hook Lighthouse there is pirate themed fun.  This is great fun for the kids with games and costumes and guest appearances by some famed pirates – Captain Hook, who will provide a cooking demonstration.

Welcome to the JFK Dunbrody Festival Blog!

Welcome to the JFK Dunbrody Festival Blog.   The festival is a multifaceted celebration of the Irish culture, with live open air music, markets, arts and crafts which demonstrates the Irish international historical ties and which provides a show case for the work of national and international Irish artists.  The primary objectives are 1) to provide a lively, event filled celebration fro the public as well as 2) to bring home the local Irish population who have scattered throughout the world for this special weekend.

Founded in 2001, each year during the first weekend of July, The JFK Dunbrody Festival celebrates 1) the “icon” tourist attractions of the New Ross area, 2) The Dunbrody Famine Ship and 3) the ancestral home of President John F. Kennedy.

As a focal point of the festival, the Dunbrody Famine Ship, and the surrounding area, have international appeal.  Also featured is the Guinness Pub Music Trail where a variety of musical styles are demonstrated.  In addition, there are a wide variety of other other activities and events over the weekend celebration.


Location:  Green:  New Ross County, Co. Wexford, Ireland

We intend to provide valuable, supplemental information about the festival and about Irish American culture in general and hope you enjoy the content.