NEW ROSS squats besides the River Barrow, 12km north of the arboretum, its quayside marred by poor redevelopment and heavy traffic, but there’s still life in the old place, especially in the lanes behind the frontage. The river provided access to the upstream countryside of Wexford and Kilkenny, and the town’s importance beyond being a local embarkation point is emphasized by the quayside presence of the Dunbrody Emigrant Ship. Though this is a reconstruction of one of the nineteenth-century vessels that conveyed Irish emigrants to North America, particularly during the height of the Famine, it is actually a fully operable craft and occasionally takes part in tall ship races. Following a brief scene-setting video, the half-hour guided tour of the ship, complete with costumed actors role-playing passengers and crew, shows the conditions on board, stressing the variance between those who travelled steerage and first class. In the visitor centre, which houses a café, you can access a database of virtually everyone who emigrated to North America between 1846 and 1886.
The town’s tourist office is housed in the ship’s visitor centre. Ask here about the Ros Tapestry (www.rostapestry.com), an ambitious, ten-year project to embroider the history of New Ross in fifteen colourful panels – it’s nearing completion and will probably be hung in St Mary’s Church on Mary Street.