Miles launches ‘All Standing’ at Bellabooks

Jan 03, 2013
Kathryn Miles

Belfast — Local author Kathryn Miles will launch her new book “All Standing: The Remarkable Story of the Jeanie Johnston, The Legendary Irish Famine Ship” Tuesday, Jan. 8 at 7 p.m. at Bellabooks, 135 High St. The evening will celebrate the official release of Miles’ book and guests at the event will receive the first copies. Refreshments including local wine and cheese will be available.

“All Standing” recounts the dramatic tale of a legendary ship, the Jeanie Johnston, which ran between Ireland and North America during the height of the Irish Famine. During this time, the people of Ireland emigrated to North America in search of job opportunities and a better life, crowding onto aptly named coffin ships, whose gruesome conditions rivaled those of slave transports.

Unlike every other coffin ship, the Jeanie Johnston never lost a passenger. While more than 100,000 people died aboard other coffin ships, the combined efforts of the Jeanie Johnston’s crew allowed thousands of individuals to find safety and fortune throughout the United States and Canada.  Ultimately, what these men — and their ship — accomplished over the course of their 11 voyages to North America was the stuff of legend. So much so, in fact, that when Ireland decided to recreate one of these infamous coffin ships to commemorate the new millennium, it settled upon the Jeanie Johnston.

Over the course of four years and at a cost of more than 20 million pounds, carpenters and shipwrights from across Europe and North America painstakingly brought the Jeanie back to life. Its recreation — one of the world’s most well-known (and controversial) tall ships — is now based in Dublin and brings the famine to light for thousands of visitors and tourists every year. Like the original vessel upon which it is based, the Jeanie Johnston is a testament to the stories of all those who waged their lives on the chance to experience the American Dream.

“All Standing” follows the life of Nicholas Reilly, the baby boy born on the ship’s maiden voyage; his fellow passengers; and the heroic crew members who transported them to safety. Using newspaper accounts, rare archival documents and her own experience sailing as an apprentice aboard the recently recreated Jeanie Johnston, Miles tells the story of these remarkable people and the revolutionary milieu in which they set sail. Against the backdrop of one of history’s greatest atrocities, Miles weaves a thrilling, intimate narrative of the immigrant experience, while chronicling how one Irish family found a place for itself in the United States.

Miles is a professor of environmental writing and editor-in-chief of Hawk & Handsaw at Unity College. Her courses include narrative nonfiction, creative writing, environmental journalism and writing for publication. She also is the author of "Adventures with Ari" and dozens of articles that have appeared in publications including Alimentum, Best American Essays, Ecotone, Flyway, Meatpaper and Terrain. She lives, and sails, in Belfast.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115 or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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