Ulster American Folk Park

Ship and Dockside Gallery

Old World – building number 26

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The Ship and Dockside Gallery is where the journey to America begins. Here you can imagine what it was like for Irish emigrants as they boarded the ship to the New World.

Lying in the dock is a reconstruction of an early 1800s ‘brig’. It is a reconstruction of the Brig Union which carried older members of the Mellon family to Baltimore in 1816. Two years later, Thomas Mellon and his parents emigrated. Fares varied, usually about £4 in 1800-1850, although there are references to fares of £10 and over.

The brig was a two-masted square-rigged sailing vessel measuring approximately 100 feet (30.5 metres) long. At the mercy of winds and weather, she could take anything from six to 12 weeks to reach the east coast of North America. The emigrant quarters and deck are actual size

This life-size scaled ship gives a grim interpretation of the conditions aboard which were far from comfortable. As many as 200 people and their belongings were squeezed into the “tween decks’ area as steerage passengers.

Much of the atmosphere of the ship’s interior has been re-created - the sounds of creaking timbers, the roughly-constructed berths, and the sparse cooking facilities.

The building facing the ship stood in Great Georges Street, Belfast, next to Ritchie’s dock, now Corporation Square. It dates from the 1800s. The building from the 1700s beside the ship is from Bridge Street, Londonderry, on the west bank of the River Foyle. Both were rebuilt at the Ulster American Folk Park in 1988.

Climb the stairs to the upper deck. Look at the galley or caboose on the upper deck of the ship. This is where main meals are cooked. Have a look for the ship’s wheel on the poop deck and the windlass for winding in the anchor.