Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (43): Barefoot & Pregnant? volume one, Introduction (a), pp.1-5

B&P?1 Introduction (a)

I’m still not convinced that this is the best thing to do. But Barefoot volume one is long out of print and for some people, difficult to find. Putting my introduction into the blog also gives me the opportunity to add some references, ‘virtual’ endnotes, as it were. Please remember the introduction was written some time ago and mainly addressed the documents which preceded the Register of Irish female orphans. Not exclusively so, I might add, although my major concern was to ask readers if they agreed with my suggesting the first boatload of Earl Grey orphans “were wrongly condemned from the outset”? It is still worth debating.

Richard Reid, Cheryl Mongan and Kay Caball, among others, have rightly drawn attention to the more positive side of the orphans’ story. I’ve tried to take their work into account in a number of places in my blog. See for example post 7(c)  on The Voyage http://wp.me/p4SlVj-7X

or where i talk about the independent spirit of the orphans, in post 22 on Cancelled Indentures, particularly the section towards the end entitled “Moreton Bay District”. See http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf

My own favourite ‘success’ story is of Bridget McMahon from Limerick. See http://wp.me/p4SlVj-PV

 Given the different backgrounds of the young women, that there were more than 4,000 of them, and that over time, they were scattered the length and breadth of rapidly changing societies in Eastern Australia, we should not be surprised to find their history is a mixed one. It is as complex as the human condition itself.

I’ll insert my 1991 introduction in stages. It will give the reader time to absorb what it says and i hope, respond to my interpretation.

Some may think I’m treating Surgeon Douglass too harshly, for example. Don’t be afraid to say your piece. You may wish to do some research on Surgeon Douglass yourself. He had both an illustrious and not so illustrious career. A google search may be the place to start. Here’s a link to an entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/douglass-henry-grattan-1987

But google won’t alert you to the latest reference I’ve found; Douglass’s xenophobic rant in the New South Wales Legislative Council in 1851. It’s reprinted in Mark Tedeschi’s Murder at Myall Creek, Simon & Schuster, 2016, pp.229-30. It first appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, 26 November 1851, p.2. See http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/12932367?searchTerm=sydney%20morning%20herald%20Douglass&searchLimits=dateFrom=1851-11-01|||dateTo=1851-11-30


Keats and Chapman were conversing one day on the street…there passed a certain character who was renowned far and wide for his piety, and was reputed to have already made his own coffin, erected it on trestles, and slept in it every night.

‘Did you see our friend?’ Keats said.

‘Yes’ said Chapman, wondering what was coming,

‘A terrible man for his bier’, the poet said“. (The Best of Myles, Myles na Gopaleen, Picador, 1977, p.187.)







That will do to start with. If you double click or pinch the pages above, they should become larger and easier to read. I’ll have a look for some references.

Tóg go bog é

Some references.

Page 0ne,

Dunmore Lang’s “dupes of an artful female Jesuit” appears in his letter to Earl Grey printed in the British Banner, 21 November 1849. The link appears in my post 21 towards the end http://wp.me/p4SlVj-q8

see page 34 of the link below

Click to access Letters_of_Dr_John_Dunmore_Lang_in_British_Banner_1953.PDF

Page two,

The best printed record of the various reports concerning the Earl Grey scandal is found in Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council of New South Wales, 1850, volume 1, pp. 394-436. Included there (pp. 407-28) is the report  from Irish Poor Law Commissioner C. G Otway, defending the selection process of the orphans. See also British Parliamentary Papers, 1000 volume Irish University Press edition, Colonies Australia, volume 11, Sessions 1849-50, pp. 510ff. which provides the names of the young women only identified by their initials in the Otway Report. SRNSW (State Records New South Wales) 9/6190 Immigration Correspondence, 12 October 1848, has the minutes of evidence of the Sydney Immigration Board re the Earl Grey. I’m unsure if the same numbering system is still in use.

Page two

R. B. Madgwick, Immigration into Eastern Australia 1788-1851, second impression, Sydney University Press, 1969, Chapter X;

Miriam Dixson, The Real Matilda Women and Identity in Australia 1788 to 1975, Penguin, 1976;

Oliver Mac Donagh, “Emigration during the Famine” in The Great Famine, eds., R.D. Edwards & T. D. Williams, Dublin, 1962, p.357.

Disagreement among practitioners is the ‘stuff’ of history. What I was intimating here is even good historians sometimes get it wrong.

Page Five

British Parliamentary Papers, IUP edition, Colonies Australiavolume 11, Sessions 1849-50, Papers Relative to Emigration, New South Wales, Fitzroy to Earl Grey, 16 May 1848, Enclosure 1, pp.131-3. In May 1848, Merewether reported on the Hyderabad (arrived 19 February) the Surgeon was ‘unequal to the office and should not be again employed in this service’; ‘the immigrants as a body failed to give satisfaction to the public’; ‘the single females…proved to be utterly ignorant of the business undertaken by them’; ‘several…did not go into service..or very shortly left…for the purpose of going upon the streets’ (p.131).

Re the Fairlie (arrived 7 August) ibid., pp.145-7, ‘a third of the female immigrants arrived in an advanced stage of pregnancy’ (p.145); ‘filthy songs‘ (p.147).

Re the Subraon (arrived 12 April), ibid, pp.147-51.  I have a copy of the Minutes and Proceedings of the Immigration Board at Sydney respecting certain irregularities which occurred on board the ship “Subraon” Printed for the use of the Government only, 1848. The Board met between May and July 1848. It is a ‘negative’ copy i.e. white text on a dark background which makes me think it was printed from a microfilm. My unreliable memory tells me i got it from what was then the Archives Office of NSW. But for the life of me I cannot find the exact reference. Was it at AONSW 9/6197, pp. 147-61? we’ll need to check.

10 thoughts on “Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (43): Barefoot & Pregnant? volume one, Introduction (a), pp.1-5

  1. Hi Trevor, it’s been fascinating reading your blog and research, what a mammoth undertaking! I recently discovered that my GGGGrandmother Mary Flanagan was a passenger on the William & Mary at age 18 (she ended up marrying and living in Carcoar NSW, I’m descended from their daughter Martha). I haven’t been able to find a copy of Barefoot & Pregnant to buy online so would hugely appreciate any info you might be able to give me regarding Mary, the Rathdrum workhouse (she was from Wicklow), and the William & Mary voyage. It’s disturbing to read that the crew were deemed to have mistreated their charges. Poor Mary!!
    All the best with your continuing research.
    Many thanks,

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Kirra,
      Lovely to hear from you and sorry I cannot give you the attention I’d like to just now–a couple of medical matters to attend to. May I suggest you contact Perry at http://www.irishfaminememorial.org I’m sure she’d love to hear from you. She may even have seen the Rathdrum workhouse records. What’s in Barefoot should be copied on to the database at that site. And Peter Higginbotham’s workhouse website should tell you more.
      best wishes


  2. I am a New Zealand descendant of one of the Orphans from the Downpatrick Workhouse. Fanny Sheridan/Carson/Walsham, who was on the Derwent, was my Great Great Great Grandmother. I am still researching her life in Australia before her and her husband and 5 children came to NZ. Thanks for these excerpts from Barefoot and Pregnant. I have made many requests for the book here in NZ to no avail. It furthers my knowledge of those amazing young girls.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Keep up the good work, Trevor. I sent Perry my further research on Jane Hogan, expanding on the entry in your book. She told me that it would be passed on to you. Still disappointed that her name is not recorded on the memorial especially as my name is recorded as a donor.


  4. Great to still have contributions and historical updates and comments from you Trevor. I’m working all the time on updating the irishfaminememorial website you started all those years ago and always pleased to have email discussions with descendants as we work on all their life stories. Recent work on the Adelaide girls needs confirmation from documents by descendants to Perry mcintyre via contact@irishfaminememorial.org


  5. Hi Trevor

    Thanks for including me. I regret I cannot reply or study every time. Life here is “like Pitt St” some days and predicatably notable lethargy for us both the next. Like today.

    One recurring Q in my mind is still “Whatever happened to that missing ? in your recent “B&P1 Introduction (a)” ?

    I think you once used it in the “Barefoot and Pregnant ?” title and thought it important.,

    I’m hoping to get back to your (36) soon with some comment . I will also value any new refs you may add.

    Cheers for 2017, Eleanor Dawson (gggd of Bridget McMahon on Maria 1850)

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s lovely to hear from you Eleanor. May i wish you both all the best for 2017?
      That question mark is very much still there and i hope open to all sorts of interpretations. I did reply to someone on an online forum one time, in faded memory, suggesting a few interpretations, including for example, did the orphans come into a male dominated society in Australia, and that ‘barefoot & pregnant’, to use the old women’s lib phrase, would be their lot? But it immediately came out of Surgeon Douglass’s condemnation of the ‘Belfasters’ and the question mark was to ask if he was right in condemning them so: there was also a song i was listening to at the time, late 80s. What was it now? It’s not only my eyesight playing up. warmest best wishes,


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