The Famine Irish migration from Newry to Canada in 1849: Documentaries about the Hannah


There was a substantial famine migration from Newry to British North America in 1849, symbolized by the ill fated voyage of the Hannah which was shipwrecked on an iceberg, though many of its passengers were miraculously rescued.  The voyage of the Hannah has been reconstructed in two closely related Northern Irish and Canadian documentaries: 1) Ice Emigrants, and 2) Famine and Shipwreck: An Irish Odyssey.

1) Title: Ice Emigrants

Independent Production: Hardy Pictures (Northern Ireland)

Narrated by John Lynch, Ice Emigrants is a co-production with Canada’s Galafilms.  Canadian title: Famine and Shipwreck, an Irish Odyssey.

Time/Date: BBC 1 NI 21st February 2011.

In 1849 a famine-ravaged Armagh community made a choice – to stay and die of starvation – or spend all they had sailing for Canada in search of a better life.

Those who sailed across the Atlantic endured scarcely imaginable hardship – none more terrifying than the iceberg which sank their ship in the Gulf of St Lawrence. A century and a half later, on an extraordinary and emotional journey, a young family from Armagh retrace their ancestors’ steps and piece together a moving and inspiring story of emigration and survival.

Production Company/Key crew:

Director: Andrea McCartney, Brian McKenna

Producer:  Andrea McCartney

The program received accolades on Irish diaspora websites such as  In fact, the documentary was first inspired by a posting on this website.

This documentary specializes in the genre of family history and is quite absorbing in merging a genealogical storyline of a County Armagh family tracing its routes with a historical reconstruction of the tragic journey of the brig Hannah which broke up on the pack ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in 1849, from where many were miraculously rescued.

2) Title: Famine and Shipwreck, an Irish Odyssey.

Independent Production: Galafilm Productions

Famine and Shipwreck, an Irish Odyssey is a coproduction with Northern Ireland’s Hardy Film’s documentary Ice Emigrants.  It reconstructs the famine voyage of the brig Hannah from the perspective of different descendants of its original passengers than in Ice Emigrants with more emphasis on the Canadian story.  It is an entirely separate production.

Time/Date: Broadcast on CBC March 17 2011.

Famine and Shipwreck, an Irish Odyssey was shot in Ireland, Quebec, Ontario and off the coast of Prince Edward Island, in 2010.  It never would have been possible without the incredible efforts of Paddy Murphy from Ontario, who traced his genealogy back to his Irish roots in South Armagh, Ireland.

Famine and Shipwreck, an Irish Odyssey is [an independent company] Galafilm production, produced in association with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Radio-Canada, with the financial participation of the Canadian Media Fund, the Quebec tax credit and the Federal tax credit, and developed with the financial participation of the SODEC.

Production Company/Key crew:

Director: Brian McKenna

Producer: Nathalie Dubois

This documentary was critically acclaimed and extensively promoted on a variety of Irish-Canadian academic and cultural listservs and web sites including that of the Ireland Canada University Foundation (  It is a fast paced documentary that makes effective use of CGI an animation for the purposes of historical reconstruction interspersed with on location scenes in rural Ireland and on ice flows in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

It can be viewed (only in Canada) at the following link:

Famine and Shipwreck: An Irish Odyssey