Moville and the emigrant ships

As in so many other counties in Ireland, emigration has been a way of life for people in Donegal. Their main point of embarkation for America was through the post of Derry, where by the time of the famine, the shipping firm of J J Cooke had built up a small fleet if ships suitable for the trade. Emigrants were transported on the outward passage, timber and flaxseed on the return journey. The Cooke Line made 20 sailings to North America in 1847 alone, chartering ships from Glasgow, Liverpool and America. The fastest voyage to Philadelphia lasted 23 days, and the average fare was 3. Sickness and shipwreck were two hazards faced by the passengers. On the last voyage to Philadelphia in 1853, the "Envoy" was forced back to Lough Foyle by heavy weather when 63 of her passengers drowned. Glasgow steamships started taking on passengers at Moville from 1860. From 1851, the "Mohongo" served twenty years in the passenger trade. The "Minnehaha", built in Canada was known as the "Green yacht from Derry".

From 1873 onwards emigrants leaving through the port of Derry were carried down the Foyle by paddle tenders to Moville to join the Allen and Anchor steamship lines. The liners could be seen by the people of the area as they passed along the coastline en route to America. If there was a local person emigrating, it was customary to light a bonfire on O'Donnell's Hill so that it was visible to the passing ship.


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