Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (45): B&P?, vol one, Introduction (c), pp. 12-17

B&P?1 Introduction (c)

“A way a lone a last a loved a long the” (James Joyce, Finnegan’s Wake)

Next instalment, this time of pages twelve to seventeen. I’ve used some of this material in my blog, and some has remained untouched for twenty-six or so years. Readers may have noticed I’m getting my jollies by adding missing references and notes. I do have heaps of stuff that could be added–i do love a substantive footnote–but I’ll give myself  ‘a restraining order’.

As before, more notes will be added a bit later. I hope you liked the ones in my previous post.

Click on the introduction text a couple of times, or pinch and widen, and the image will be larger.

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Some notes

As mentioned in the notes to the previous post, most of the extant Irish Workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers are held in the Public Record Office in Northern Ireland. That they survived at all was thanks to the foresight and skill of a former Deputy Director, Dr Brian Trainor. We are all deeply indebted to him.

As far as I’m aware, outside of Northern Irish Poor Law Unions, and apart from North and South Dublin and Rathdrum (?) in County Wicklow, no others have survived for the years we want. Even then, not all of the Northern Ireland ones have survived. But fortunately Armagh Workhouse Registers do.

So, top of page 12

Cathy Fox PRONI Armagh Indoor Register BG2/G/2 entry 1203

I explained my method of searching for the orphans in these records, in post 5 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-4X

Have a close look there, if you will.

Anne and Jane Hunter PRONI BG2/G/1 entry numbers 3827 and 3828

The Devlin family entries are numerous. For Margaret PRONI BG2/G/1 entry numbers, 608, 1324, 2396, 3700, 5660. BG2/G/2 1507. All of these references should be on the website at www.irishfaminememorial.org

Catherine Tomnay or Tamoney PRONI BG2/G/1 456,1166, 1475, 3967, 4356.

One of the advantages of these records is that they provide information about other family members, about their age, their religion, their occupation, their place of residence, and their condition when they entered the workhouse, and the date they left.

Thus for example, Sarah Ann Devlin was a 15 year old Roman Catholic single female, thinly clothed and hungry when she entered Armagh workhouse 24 April 1847. She left three months later 29 July 1847. But she reentered 16 November the same year, this time the townland of Rathcarby being noted as her place of residence. Six months later, 24 May 1848, she left the workhouse  with her sister Margaret on her way to Belfast to join the other orphans per ship Earl Grey.

page 13   par 2,  I hope this clarifies the use of the word orphan as applied to these young women. They were “to use a modern term, wards of the State”. In the vast majority of cases both parents were dead which is the more commonly held view of ‘orphan’.

page 14 For membership of the Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide Orphan Committees see my blog post 13 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-g4

pages 15-6 Towards the end of that same blog post there is  a copy of an apprenticeship agreement for 15 year-old Anne Smith of the Digby which details the obligations of both apprentice and employer, or Master and Servant. There is another example in SRNSW 9/6193 Particulars of Orphans’ monies No.6 , Apprenticeship Agreement between Ann Deely per Thomas Arbuthnot, “now about the age of fifteen years”, and Frederick Hudson of Ipswich/Moreton Bay, dated 24 April 1850.

page 17 Details of young Margaret Devlin‘s seduction by William Small can be found in Immigration Agent F.L.S Merewether’s  correspondence. [I am unsure if the numbering system at the Archives is still the same. Their staff will be all too willing to help]. See SRNSW 4/4637, 49/672, 17 Oct. 1849, pp.294-5. And 4/4638, 50/178, 14 Feb. 1850, p.66. And 50/190, 50/469,50/762, 50/764 and 50/901, with corresponding pages, pp.76-8 (re seduction), 182, 289-90 (letter to Thomas Small re his son William), 291-2, 331-2. There is more at 4/4639, 51/6, pp.6-7, and 51/225 ‘Would Mr Small make a lump sum of £50?‘, pp.66-7. For information about Mrs Small’s (sic) child at the Protestant Orphan institution, SRNSW 4/4639, 51/354, 10 September 1851, p.104.

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Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (44): Barefoot & Pregnant? vol.one, introduction (b) pp.6-11

B&P?1 Introduction (b)

Here is the next instalment of the 1991 introduction to my Barefoot & Pregnant? volume 1. It’s pages 6-11 this time.

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I’ll use the occasion to ‘dip my lid’ to the brilliant Jaki McCarrick. Her play “Belfast Girls” is soon to have its Canadian premiere in Vancouver in March this year, having had a wonderful run in London and Chicago already. There is a bit about it on the ‘Peninsula Productions’ facebook page, should you want to find out more.

As with the last couple of posts, I’ll try adding endnotes missing from the original a bit later, once i find the correct reference.

You can make the photographic image larger by clicking a couple of times or ‘pinching’.

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“…you’ll hear

parakeets and lorikeets

flutter round your head,

ancient tribes of the air

speaking a language your wild

colonial heart cannot comprehend” (Louis de Paor, Didjeridu)

SOME NOTES

Page six

The scandal surrounding the Subraon is not well known. However, if you take the trouble to read the very thorough enquiry of the Sydney Immigration Board you will understand more clearly how they would react to the furore associated with arrival of the first official Orphan vessel, the Earl Grey. Have a look at the extracts below.

The Minutes of the Sydney Immigration Board…re the irregularities aboard the Subraon, printed for the use of the Government only in 1848, comprises sixty pages, 75-80 lines per page, of small print. The Board consisted of Francis L.S. Merewether Esq., Agent for Immigration, A Savage Esq, RN Health Officer, and H.H. Browne Esq, Water Police Magistrate, names many readers of my blog will know. We even meet Thomas MaGrath, an immigrant who was schoolmaster on board the Subraon, (pp.15-17). We meet him again re Earl Grey orphan Mary Littlewood in my blog post 9 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-dQ

Page 2 of  the enquiry,

Charges affecting the First Mate

  1. That a young female named Dorcas Newman, who had been sent out from a Foundling Institution in Dublin, and who died on the third day after her arrival here, (whether of fever or excessive haemorrhage consequently on a miscarriage is doubtful,) was constantly in his cabin, and that, even if positive proof be wanting, there is no moral doubt of her having been seduced by him.”

page 20, 5 June 1848

Statement of Patrick Ferry

The girls who acted as servants to the officers spent the most of their time in the cabins of the Captain and Mates, from about seven o’clock in the morning to about eight or nine o’clock at night….Emma Smith was servant to the Captain, Dorcas Newman was servant to the Chief Mate, and Alicia Ashbridge to the second and Third Mates. Alicia Ashbridge was more frequently drunk than any of the girls.Dorcas Newman was improperly intimate withe Mate. I saw him on one occasion sitting with her on a chair kissing her, and putting his hand through the opening in the back of her clothes, and feeling her wherever he pleased…

page 35, 10 June 1848

Statement of Emma Smith,

I was an Immigrant by the ship Subraon. I was one of the twelve girls who came from the Orphan Institution, in Cork Street, in Dublin.”

page 39 10 June 1848

Mr Acret‘s further statement. (Acret was the Surgeon-Superintendent on the  Subraon) .

From the evidence which I have in the course of this enquiry respecting it, I am satisfied that Dorcas Newman had a miscarriage; had I been aware that such was the fact I should have treated her illness differently from what I have done…”.

Later that year, 26 October, the Subraon was wrecked at the entrance to Wellington Harbour. The Sydney authorities had successfully kept a lid on the scandal surrounding the vessel’s voyage to Port Jackson. Both ship’s officers and the Surgeon were in no position to object. It would be a very different matter when the Earl Grey and Surgeon Douglass arrived early in October 1858.

Page 9 There is a history of one of the “Belfast Girls’, Mary McConnell, at my blog posts 32 and 33. Here’s a link to post 33 which seems underused. http://wp.me/p4SlVj-LL

Notes pages 7 to 9

The major source for the documents surrounding the Earl Grey furore is the Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council of New South Wales (hereafter VPLCNSW) 1850, volume 1, pp.394-436. (Incidentally, information on the Subraon follows at pp.437-45).

The material in British Parliamentary Papers (BPP), Irish Universities edition, Colonies Australia, vol 11 Sessions 1849-50, pp.417-20 and pp. 510-40, will also provide the names of the ‘Belfast girls’ Douglass accused of bad behaviour. Pages 417-18  reprints Douglass’s letter of 7 October 1848.

I  provided the wrong date for the Sydney Morning Herald (SMH) editorial defending Douglass, and the neighbouring column mentioning his appeal to have land restored to him. It should be August 1850 not April 1850. See SMH 16 August 1850, page 2. http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/12920275?searchTerm=sydney%20morning%20herald%20orphan%20girls&searchLimits=dateFrom=1850-01-01|||dateTo=1850-12-31

Dr Douglass continued to petition the New South Wales Parliament for restoration of his land. See  SMH 7 September and 19 September 1852, page 2 in both instances.

Page 10

Many of the Workhouse Board of Guardian Minute Books have survived for the period we are interested in viz 1847-51. At present, they are held in the local Archives of each county. So, for instance,  if one wishes to view Donegal Board of Guardian Minute Books, a trip to the County Archives Office in Lifford is required. It is best always to get in touch beforehand and tell the archivist your particular interest. You have to arrange a prior appointment here. http://www.donegalcoco.ie/services/donegalarchives/maincolumncontent/researchroomservices/

Sadly very few of the Workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers have done so. Most of them are in the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) which is now housed in the Titanic Centre in Belfast. Unfortunately Belfast Workhouse Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers have not survived. Again, may I suggest getting in touch before you visit. https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni

If in doubt about what records have survived, your first call should be the wonderful website of Peter Higginbotham, www.workhouses.org

RE Mary Campbell Belfast Board of Guardian Minute Book B.G.7/A/7, p.159.


The Minute Books help us put the orphans into historical context. In this same volume, for example, page 27, 1 March 1848, we learn of the diet for able-bodied inmates.

“Breakfast 6 oz meal. One third of a quart of buttermilk

Dinner 1 quart soup 9 oz bread

three days in the week

Breakfast 6 oz meal a third of a quart of buttermilk

Dinner 6 oz rice one eighth quart buttermilk

Supper 4 oz meal one fifth qrt buttermilk

two days in the week

B’fast 6 oz meal one third qrt buttermilk

Dinner 8 oz meal one third qrt buttermilk

Supper 4 oz meal one third qrt buttermilk.

Indian and oat meal used in equal proportions.”  And this was one of the better off workhouses!

Re Sarah Butler, Magherafelt Board of Guardian Minute Book B. G. XXIII/A/2, page 370,
Sarah Butler one of the candidates for emigration to Australia has been rejected by Mr Senior on account of her being affected with itch‘.

Coleraine BG Minute Books B.G.X/A/6, p.165. The Medical Officer, Dr Babington was also asked to provide the emigrants with a medical certificate stating they were healthy. The same page also gives the names of twelve young women from Coleraine workhouse who would travel on the Roman Emperor to South Australia. It is always worth looking at the original sources.

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

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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.)

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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

https://ia902606.us.archive.org/25/items/LettersOfDr.JohnDumoreLangInBritishBanner/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.

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (42):Barefoot and pregnant? Volume one, Preface

B&P preface

I was wondering if i should scan my preface and introduction to volume one of Barefoot and Pregnant?

They first appeared in 1991, and again in 1999. The publisher’s interest was to keep costs down. Understandably, that is one reason there are no footnotes. I know I could, or should have provided references at the time. Whether I can do so now is another matter. But if anyone wants a particular reference, I promise to have a go at providing it.

Likewise, I wonder if nowadays I would still hold all the views i gave voice to then. It’s a moot point.

Anyway here’s the preface. Let me know if you think i should scan the intro too.

“Being Irish, he had an abiding sense of tragedy, which sustained him through temporary periods of joy” (W.B. Yeats)

T. McClaughlin,

T. McClaughlin, “Barefoot & Pregnant?…” Melbourne, 1991, preface

Just click on the image to make it larger.

“Barefoot & Pregnant?”, Melbourne, 1991, preface continued

I thought I’d have a quick look to see if i can find a reference or two which might be considered as endnotes.

On page one, the orphans to South Australia are  called ‘filthy and indelicate’. See British Parliamentary Papers Irish Universities 1000 volume edition, Colonies Australia, volume 13, Sessions 1851-52, Despatch from Governor Young to Earl Grey 8 March 1850, Enclosure 1 in Number 10 from M. Moorhouse at the Children’s Apprenticeship Board, p.255.

On the second page, George Hall was questioned at the South Australian parliamentary enquiry into excessive female immigration, 11 February 1856. Report of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council of South Australia into Excessive Female immigration  Minutes of Evidence, Adelaide, 1856, p.17, q.267. He was an opponent of the orphan scheme, having made known his views to Stephen Walcott, Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioner, in April 1854, when he visited England.

I’ll see if i can put together some other ‘endnotes’.

I’ve mislaid the exact references to Catherine Duffy‘s appearances in the Adelaide Police Court. She appears often in SRSA (State Records South Australia) GRG 65/1 the Adelaide Court Minute Book, should anyone have easy access. Otherwise a search online via Trove is always possible. See, for example,  http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/result?l-state=South+Australia&q=Catherine+Duffy&l-title=41

Susan Stewart per Pemberton is in PROV (Public Record Office of Victoria) VPRS 521 vol.1, 1853-57, Female Prisoners’ Personal Description Registers. Susan appears, for example, 13 November 1855 at entry number 1043 and in early 1856 at number 133. Some of this material may be searched online, I understand.   VPRS 516 is the Central Register of Female Prisoners in Melbourne gaol.

Despite what i say in the paragraph above, it would be good to know how many of the orphans made court appearances, and for what reasons.  Elsewhere in my blog I’ve mentioned some of the problems associated with this.

Here are a few names extracted from PROV VPRS 521; entry 129, October 1854, Amelia Nott who claimed to have arrived by the New Liverpool in 1849; entry 833, Mary Ann Tyrell per Roman Emperor, 1848; Mary Ann Seville (?) per Eliza Caroline, 1850, 1856, entry number 30. A number of entries in the Register name the ships that carried orphans but  not always providing the correct date of arrival. One would have to check the other dates when those ships arrived in Port Phillip.

And in Melbourne gaol records, PROV VPRS 516, we find Jane McGuire per Diadem, Catherine Ellis per Lady Kennaway, Mary McGill per Derwent, Ellen Brennan (Ellen Stewart) per Diadem, Margaret Baker per Eliza Caroline, Elizabeth Dunn per Lady Kennaway. Were these really Earl Grey orphans? What of those who assumed an alias or had taken their husband’s name? It’s not a research subject for the faint-hearted. But what an interesting comparison might be made of orphans in Melbourne gaol and those Julie Poulter has studied in Darlinghurst gaol in Sydney.

It would be interesting to extend this project to include Earl Grey orphans who died in Asylums or other institutions. Here are a few examples; Mary Kelly per Maria who died in Newington Asylum in 1904; Mary A. Weatherall per Lady Peel buried at Dunwich 1914; Margaret Geraghty per Panama died Rockhampton of chronic alcoholism and neglect, 1891; Emma Kelly per Earl Grey died Woogaroo, 1879; Ellen Brodie per Pemberton died Ararat 1883; Eliza Martin per Roman Emperor died Adelaide Destitute Asylum, 1905; Ellen Fitzgerald from Skibbereen per Eliza Caroline died of malnutrition in Waterloo 1881.  I know of others but it is sometimes difficult to confirm an inmate’s orphan status in these institutions.

Not that this changes anything I’ve said in my preface.

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (40):”Excessive ” female immigration to South Australia 

ADDENDUM

In my last post, I asked researchers in South Australia to consider making an in-depth study of the four thousand or so ‘Irish Famine women‘  who arrived there in the mid 1850s. If i may be allowed to explain myself further, or at least assure myself I wasn’t talking codswallop, I’d like to suggest some first steps for research into this topic. Here are a few basic questions.

  1. How do we know there were as many as 4,000 Irish females? When did they come, and on which ships? Where did they come from, even if our records only tell us their county of origin? Did they come alone or with other family members?
  2. What problems did the influx of such a relatively large number of female immigrants pose for South Australian authorities? How were the women received? (Some excellent secondary sources have broached this subject already. See for example Eric Richards, “The importance of being Irish in Colonial South Australia”, in The Irish Emigrant Experience in Australia, John O’Brien and Pauric Travers eds., Poolbeg Press, Dublin, 1991 and Marie Steiner, Servants depots in South Australia, Wakefield press, Adelaide, 2009, to mention but two.)
  3. What became of these Irish women both in the short term and during their life in Australia?

To address number one above, South Australian Parliamentary Proceedings 1858, Paper 16, allows us to extract the number of single Irish females who arrived in the mid 1850s. There were 251 in 1853, 1044 in 1854 and 2978 in 1855. That makes 4273, i.e. about the same number of Earl Grey Irish Famine orphans.

If we turn to the Reports of the Select Committee of the Legislative Council of South Australia appointed to inquire into the Excessive Female Immigration; together with minutes of evidence and appendix, Adelaide, 1856, South Australia Legislative Council, Votes and Proceedings, First Session, 1855-56, Vol.II, No.137, we discover which ships carried most single Irish female immigrants.

The following table is from the appendix and relates to 1855 arrivals. Apologies, my copy is not the best. Which ships would you pick out? Coromandel, Rodney, Northern Light, Flora? Europa, Nashwauk, Grand Trianon, Seapark, Velocity, Constantine, Octavia, South Sea, Aliquis, Admiral Boxer, Thomas Arbuthnot, Warren Hastings, Bucephalus,? Others too? Double click or pinch the image to make it larger and more legible.

blogsaexcessIt would be a time consuming, yet necessary, task to go through the shipping records for all the vessels that arrived in Port Adelaide from the UK in these years. Some information is available online but it does not cover all the years we want or provide all the details that are available. See for example, http://www.archives.sa.gov.au/content/official-passenger-lists#overlay-context=user

It is a work in progress.

And unfortunately, some websites do not name which county the young women came from; see for example, http://passengersinhistory.sa.gov.au/ship-search

Indeed, not every shipping list names the county of origin of these young women. When you turn up in person, you will need to rely on the goodwill and assistance of the wonderful people in the State Library and the South Australian State Archives for direction.

I’m hoping the records contain enough information to compare the origins of these young women with Irish women who arrived elsewhere. Did most of them come from Munster, from Clare, Cork, and Tipperary, for example?  Rachel Boardman on the Telegraph was from Antrim; Norry Nelson on the Flora was from Clare as was Sarah Bouchier; Catherine Condon and Anastasia Keane on the Northern Light were from Limerick. On the Grand Trianon, Mary Kewson (Kenson?) was from Cork, Ann Quinlivan from Clare, Jane Stack from Kerry, and Ellen Shanley from Westmeath.

Shipping lists do give the age of the women when they arrived, and thus we know how old they were when the Famine struck. A better knowledge of these women is possible, I’m sure of it.

I hope too that there will be some way of finding if these women came with other family members, with  their brothers, other sisters or ‘friends’.  Or did they travel alone? Fingers crossed this can be done.

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The questions at number 2 and 3 above, I hope you will find interesting.

Was this deluge (the word is Professor Richards’) of Irish females to South Australia easily and quickly absorbed; “…the most remarkable aspect of the crisis was its brevity and swift evaporation” (Richards, p.79)?

Yet were the women forced to work long hours in the South Australian sun for miserable wages,

“some walking 16 miles in the heat of the day, barefoot, to go to a situation; others returning to depot sun-burnt, blistered, overworked and cast out after harvest was finished; some found crying, disappointed, despondent and depressed at their prospects”?

That was how I put it in my previous post. See,

https://tintean.org.au/2016/09/06/trevor-mcclaughlins-latest-challenge/

Eric Richards, in his essay mentioned above, provides a sympathetic treatment of his subject. He stresses the hardships of their early days and their eventual absorption and acculturation. “The girls”, he says, “were sometimes humiliated by their employers and insulted by offers of employment at wages one-third…of the normal servant rates. Some of the girls who went to Gawler weren’t even provided with mattresses and were expected to sleep on straw, just like pigs, according to one of their outraged countrymen. At Willunga they became mutinous, apparently out of fear of the bush and snakes, refusing to travel the rough country tracks, complaining bitterly about the lack of letters from home, poor wages, and about being dispersed and thereby isolated from their friends.” The matron at Willunga defended the women against their critics, “I can assure you, Gentlemen, that what I state is nothing but the truth: three of the poor girls walked yesterday, barefooted, about sixteen miles, between the hours of ten and four, to get a situation. Mary Cain will leave today, at five shillings per week—and the other two expect to be sent for this week. Catherine Uninn was hired, yesterday, at two shillings and sixpence per week. My husband gave Mary Cain an old pair of boots to go to her situation.” (cited in Uphill all the way. A documentary history of women in Australia, compiled and introduced by Kay Daniels and Mary Murnane, University of Queensland Press, 1980). Other women returned to Adelaide their hands and their feet painfully raw from the work they were expected to do.

We might try approaching things from the Government’s point of view (for which lots of sources exist) and then try viewing what happened, from the perspective of the female immigrants themselves. Were they so easily and so quickly absorbed? How many became dependent on government for relief? Is there evidence that their Famine experience had an impact on their life? What trials did these young immigrants face in their new country? How many left South Australia? How many fell on hard times? Did our individual Irish Famine female become fatalistic, too easily accepting the constraints of her new surroundings? Did she abnegate, sacrifice her own hopes and ambitions for the sake of her children? What happened to her? You might like to think about these questions.

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Encounter Bay c. 1846 GF Angas courtesy State Library South Australia

Encounter Bay c. 1846 GF Angas courtesy State Library South Australia

Let me direct you to some of the sources.

For a clear and balanced exposition of the way the South Australian Colonial Government dealt with the “excessive female immigration” of the mid 1850s, have a read of Marie Steiner‘s book Servants Depots in colonial South Australia, Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 2009. There’s a good bibliography at the end, and two interesting appendices; one using the work of Janet Callen, on the ‘Servant girl passengers’ on the shipwreck, Nashwauk, the other enumerating how many young women were sent from the  Adelaide immigrant depot to country depots by the end of January 1856. There were 121 sent to the Clare depot, 61 to Willunga, 80 to Guichen Bay (incl. Penola and Mount Gambier), 91 to Encounter Bay, 129 to Gawler and 246 to Mount Barker. Twelve more went to Morphett Vale and 17 to Yankallilla, though these districts did not have immigrant depots.

Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell photograph c.1860 courtesy State Library of South Australia

Sir Richard Graves MacDonnell photograph c.1860 courtesy State Library of South Australia. He was Governor of South Australia from mid 1855 to 1862, one of the many Irishmen who held high office in the British Empire.

SOUTH AUSTRALIAN ARCHIVES

As I’m sure many of you agree, there is nothing quite like getting hold of  primary sources themselves. For this little project they are basically the same as for the Earl Grey Famine orphans viz. records in the Archives, for example, SAA (South Australian Archives) GRG 24/6 Colonial Secretary Letters received (look for the appropriate year(s)),

SAA GRG 24/4 Colonial Secretary Letters sent; SAA GRG 35/43 Immigration Agent incoming correspondence; GRG35/47 Health Officer Port Adelaide; GRG 35/48 Ships Papers, or even GRG35/301 Irish female immigrants expenditure in Adelaide and country depots 1855-6 with similar returns for the Aborigines. Expenditure at the Adelaide depot was £2730.4.1 for the period December 1855 to November 1856, and £2285.12.10 for the country depots. When there is a demand upon the public purse, politicians are usually quick to act.

As you may have deduced already from the title of Marie Steiner’s book, one practical step authorities took was to distribute immigrants throughout the interior. But first the Colonial Secretary asked local councils if they would be willing to take them.

Thus GRG 24/6 2153 6 July 1855 from Brixton Laurie JP at Port Elliott, “There us a demand in the district of Encounter Bay for about thirty female domestics and farm servants in equal proportion…I have also to remark that the District Councils have suggested the propriety of employing the unoccupied females in the destruction of thistles under proper superintendence“.

And from John Hope who was Irish, at Clare, one of the most welcoming districts, (2155) They can take about 30 farm and 5 domestic servants and adds “…any assistance in my power will be given in carrying out the Colonial secretary’s wishes”.

By contrast, from Evandale, the hundred of North Rhine, (2227) “…the proportion of English settlers is small compared with that of Germans…there are some Irish families and I think a few Irish females might find employment as farm servants”. As domestic servants, “some have already obtained situations but their conduct in many cases has been such as to induce their employers to determine that they will not take  into their houses persons whose habits, education and religion are frequently the source of much inconvenience and annoyance”.

And from Charles Brewer, Government Resident at Robe 1 Sept. 1855 (2969), “One of the girls Bridget Henessy has been so insubordinate that I have been under the necessity of expelling her from the Depot. She in the first instance having been named one of the party for Penola, refused to go…she was afterwards selected for Mount Gambier, but on the morning the party left, she hid herself away and did not make her appearance until night…”. See Marie Steiner, page 61 where she is described as Bridget Mahey(?)

Or see SAA GRG 35/43 Immigration Agent incoming correspondence where there are  letters from relatives enquiring about individual immigrants. There are letters from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and New Zealand, from Thomas Smith of Melbourne asking about his sister Elizabeth Cassidy –“we have many Elizabeth Cassidys on our books”; Mrs Theresa Sheehan in Wellington New Zealand asking about her daughter Mary Ann who arrived by the Isle of Thanet; Mary Donovan from Kilkee, County Clare asking about her daughter Johanna per Northern Light; letters about Mary Ann Lynch from Dublin, Frances or Fanny McDowal from Dublin, and Bridget McCausland from Sharn, ManorCunningham, County Donegal.

There are letters of desperation, “And I beg of you if there is any humanity in your country to relieve a broken hearted parent from the chains of sorrow and anxiety of mind for neither night nor day do I know one peaceful hour. This is the tenth letter I have written to you and never got any answer to any of them…” (7 April 1857); “I am very much depressed in  mind since I parted with a sister of mine. I understand she arrived to the colony as there have been letters from many who went out in the same ship” (18 May 1857). And as late as 24 February 1859 a letter from James (shoemaker) and Elizabeth Orr, Lurgan, Armagh asking about Mary Jane Orr per Victoria Regina (arr.11/55) “…we her parents never received any word from herself although she could read and write well”.

There’s even one dated 16 July 1855, enquiring about an Earl Grey orphan, Bridget Mahony per Elgin,  from her mother Margaret Mahoney, widow, No 5 Alley Coppingers Lane, off Popesquay Cork, Ireland. Matthew Moorhouse replied 23rd October that she was hired from the depot on the 3rd October 1839(sic) to Mr Walker shopkeeper Hindmarsh, “I know nothing of her since then”.

The best of luck working with these.

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NEWSPAPERS

Nowadays it is a lot easier to gain access to contemporary newspapers, for instance, the Adelaide Observer or the Adelaide Times or the South Australian Register. You can do so via www.trove.nla.gov.au

Here is a link to a few of relevant newspaper articles http://www.slsa.sa.gov.au/manning/sa/immigra/irish.htm

And here is my order for copies of newspaper articles which the South Australia State Library kindly provided back in the 1980s.

Lots of them relate to the Earl Grey orphans, especially on this first page

blogsapapers

blogsapapers1Click or pinch these to make them larger.

These newspapers entries are not difficult to find. Thus, see the Adelaide Times 29 June 1855 page 2 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/207025989

Or the Register 10 March 1856 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/49749655?browse=ndp%3Abrowse%2Ftitle%2FS%2Ftitle%2F41%2F1856%2F03%2F10%2Fpage%2F4143289%2Farticle%2F49749655

It’s worth looking for more. There’s a large number of editorials in the Register condemning the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners in the second half of 1855, for instance.

We hope that Sir Richard McDonnell, in the course of his peregrinations through the various public establishments, will not omit to look in at the Female Immigrants’ Depot on North Terrace. There is something to be seen there which requires his instant attention. He will find there between 300 and 400 strong healthy girls, all with vigorous appetites, living idly at public expense. They have been sent to this colony at an expense of nearly £20 per head by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners. By a fiction in which these Commissioners are fond of indulging, they are called “domestic servants”, and have been ostensibly shipped to these shores for the purpose of occupying that position in the social scale, and in answer to a demand for a supply of female immigrants of that description. But they are not “domestic servants”, and never have been.” (The South Australian Register, Tuesday, June 19, 1855)

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SOUTH AUSTRALIAN PARLIAMENTARY PAPERS

In addition to the Report mentioned at the beginning of this post, there are other South Australian parliamentary papers worth perusing, for example, South Australia, Correspondence on Emigration No 54, ordered to be printed by the Legislative Council, November 23, 1855, Despatches on Emigration No 54, ordered to be printed December 18, 1855 and two more, all numbered 54, February 6 and February 12 1856. These comprise correspondence between the Secretary of State, and Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners in London, and Richard Graves McDonnell, newly appointed Governor of South Australia.

McDonnell asked why such a disproportionate number of single Irish females were being sent, and the London Commissioners gave the familiar reply, ‘it is impossible to obtain the proper proportion of English and Scotch for their emigrant ships…they have been obliged…to draw largely on Ireland, especially for females…’ (54**).

But McDonnell would have none of it. Just arrived at Government House in Adelaide, he writes to Lord John Russell in England, “It is my duty…to state to Her Majesty’s Government the great evil springing up here in consequence of the Emigration Commissioners sending to this Colony so many single Irish women, of a class, generally speaking, unfitted for Colonial employment, and whose probable future destiny it is painful to contemplate”. (25 June 1855) The reply from W. Molesworth, Secretary for the Colonies, dated 12 September 1855, is swift,“I have instructed the Emigration Commissioners to cease sending any unmarried female emigrants from Ireland to South Australia, excepting only such unmarried females as may form part of any families who are sent out …”.

Do have a look at this correspondence. McDonnell lets his Imperial masters know how misguided he thinks their emigration policy is; how expensive it is for the colony to provide lodging and rations for such a large number of immigrants; to provide welfare for the sick and the destitute and unemployed single Irish women; that as many as one fifth of the arrivals did not want to come to South Australia in the first place but had wanted to go to Melbourne or Sydney; that twenty five had arrived under assumed names; and what arrangements were being made to distribute the women throughout the colony. As early as 27 June 1855 circulars were sent to District Councils asking them to reply to the following questions,

  1. What demand exists in the District of         for female domestics or female farm servants…?
  2. Would any, and what, advantages attend the establishment of a Depot for female immigrants, and for what number of such immigrants in the District of       or its neighbourhood; those immigrants being boarded and lodged in such Depot whilst waiting employment?
  3. Supposing the establishment of such Depot expedient, what facilities does the District of      afford for its erection and maintenance, and what would be the probable cost per diem of rationing each female immigrant?
  4. Are there any, and what, buildings to be hired in the said District suitable to the purposes of such Depot and at what rate? and
  5. Are there any and what parties in the District willing to contact for the maintenance in the said Depot of the females who might be sent there.

In time, the position of McDonnell and the colonial government would be supported by the South Australian Legislative Council’s inquiry into “Excessive Female Immigration”. The full title is at the beginning of this post. There should be a copy in the South Australian Parliamentary Library or the Mortlock Library. If you know of others, please let us know. Do try and have a look at it, especially its Minutes of evidence and Appendix.

It is in the minutes of evidence we hear the young women speak for themselves, at least through the intermediary of a clerk, as well as the voices of people such as Mr Moorhouse and Mrs Ross, Superintendent of the Female Immigrant’s Depot, and Matron of the Female Immigrant Depot respectively, among others. The evidence of the young women is particularly useful. In addition to what they tell us about historical context, they give the name of their ship, often (but not always) their county of origin in Ireland, and most interestingly, their reasons for coming.

Thus, 15 February 1856, Margaret Hanlon was called in and examined. She had arrived by the Admiral Boxer and was originally from Naas in county Kildare. She had what she called ‘the evil in my arms’. Her sister Bridget Odon had assisted her and her daughter’s passage. Frances McDowell had arrived from Dublin twelve months ago by the Rodney; Jane O’Hara from county Antrim was three months in the colony and had wanted to go to Sydney; Ellen Door but a week in the colony was from the City of Cork; Honor Kennedy had come by the Northern Light; Jane Higgins was from ‘the County Kildare’; Ellen Neal from the City of Cork; Mary Fitzgerald had wanted to go to Melbourne as did Mary Ring, Bridget Broderick, Elisabeth Cagney, Margaret Duggan and Ellen Downey but were sent to Adelaide instead. So too was the case with Anastasia Collins from county Kilkenny, Margaret Fitzgerald, and Elisabeth Williams. Miss Williams and her sister applied through Mr Ellis of Marlborough Street in Dublin for a passage to Melbourne but on arrival in Birkenhead ‘were told we must go where we were sent’. Mary Connolly, Jane Carolly and Sarah Keogh were from Dublin, Mary Riley came from county Cork, Mary Ann O’Brien from Clare, Bridget Keogh from Gort in county Galway, Mary Fohey also from county Galway and Harriet Hunt from Tuam in the same county. All were questioned about their experience as servants. Harriet Hunt had been ‘greatly petted and indulged by her friends’. Young Jane Carolly, from Dublin city where her father was an engineer on the Dublin and Drogheda railway, had never been in service before but had hoped to be employed as a nursery governess.

Even official sources such as this one can be misleading. Note the difference between some of the names as they appear in the minutes of evidence, and as they appear in the ‘Proceedings of Select Committee’ that precedes the minutes. Honor Kennedy was recorded in the ‘Proceedings’ as Honor Kermoody, Mary Ring as Mary King, Elisabeth Cagney as Elizabeth Kagney, Elisabeth Williams as Elizabeth Fitzwilliams and Jane Carolly as Jane Connolly!

Appended to the report is a list of those women known to have travelled to other colonies.McDonnell estimated that upward of a fifth of the immigrants did so. Appended also is a list of which young women were sent to South Australia, despite their having asked for other destinations.

Here are these two appendices.

Appendix to minutes of evidence

Appendix to minutes of evidence

blogsa1856applics2

And here are some who left for Sydney, Melbourne and Geelong.  My apologies I failed to align the next two pages.

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WHAT BECAME OF THEM?

And what became of all these young Irish Famine women, the Lord only knows. Our best bet for finding more about their life history will be the valiant work of family historians. South Australian researchers have made a start on this already. Here are two pages from Marie Steiner’s lovely little book. She has used the work of Janet Callen for her appendix on the women who arrived by the shipwrecked, Nashwauk.

blogsteiner

This appendix will also be useful in researching the women sent to the Clare Depot, on the main route to the north of the colony. Clare had a strong Irish community and welcomed the young females who arrived there. If I remember correctly, in 1964, Cherry Parkin  in her BA Hons thesis at the University of Adelaide identified some the women who made the three day trek over rough roads to Clare in 1855.

SAA GRG 24/6 2431 25 July 1855 names them as the following, (best to look yourself. My hurried transcription may have misread what was written. I’ve followed one of the basic rules of historians. Don’t change the original document!)

Brigit O’Brian, Brigit Flavity, Johanna Rian, Margaret Henasey or Hanassy, Bridget Redling or Rodling, Mary Cathale, Ann? Jones, Hannah McCarthy, Margaret Green or Gavin, Cathrin Carthy, Cathrin? Kneal?,Cathrin Tracey, Ellen Lubin, Mary Brian, Mary Rian, Nancy Slattery, Mary sexton, Elen Collings, Susan Callagin, Bridget Wite, Ellen Barney or Bonney, Brigit Minihan, Kate Downer, [Bridget Steven, Bridget O’Leary or is it Bridget Horan or Kearn and Judy Sheary?], Elen McDowale, Elen More, Catherine Corpey, Mary Coppinger, Mary Fogarty, Ann Fogarty, Susy Donnovan, Elen Dalton. Elen Wood, Bessy Donnovan, Mary Carse or Kearse, Johanna Fitchgarld, Margaret Fitchgarld, Mary Lakeman or Lokesnan, Hannah Steal, Elen Carmody, Bridget Callagin, Bridget Wite, Bridget Rian.

Some of these appear in the St Aloysius College, Sevenhill marriage register at Clare. For example, an Ellen Moor married John McKenzie 20 January 1857; Elizabeth Donovan married John Hearn 21 March 1857; Johannah Fitzgerald married Joseph Tilgner 4 October 1857 at Kooringa and Catherine Ryan was a witness; Hanna Fitzgerald married Thomas J Everett 7 November 1857; and a Mary Coppenger married John Langton 15 November 1857 at Kooringa.

I’m sure many of the women who appear in that Register from 1856-7 onwards are part of that ‘deluge’ of mid 1850s Irish immigrant women.  There are excellent South Australian researchers and family historians, (I know of a couple, Stephanie James, Simon O’Reilley and Ann Herraman, for example) who will be able to identify these women in marriage registers. Researchers like these have the skills to compile a database of these young Irish women.

St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Adelaide, Lithograph, c. 1850 courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

St Francis Xavier Cathedral, Adelaide, Lithograph, c. 1850 courtesy of the State Library of South Australia

Maybe one day we will recognize them as Irish Famine women. We will place the 1850s South Australian immigrants alongside the Earl Grey workhouse orphans, and the  convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land, 1846-53, as refugees from that terrible calamity, the Great Irish Famine.

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Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (39): Irish Famine women, a challenge or three

IRISH FAMINE WOMEN; a challenge or three+

Some people may have read the centre-piece of this post already. It is the talk I gave at the International Irish Famine commemoration in Sydney in 2013. Tinteán published an edited version sometime later.

Today, I want to ask other labourers in the vineyard if they would take up some of my ‘challenges’. Is it true that Van Diemen’s Land bore the brunt of Ireland’s Famine misery? What do we know about the 4-5,000 single Irish women who arrived in South Australia c. 1855-56? Who were they? Where in Ireland did they come from? What happened to them? Over fifty years ago Cherry Parkin included them in her Honours thesis. As far as I know little has been done since.

There are no pretty or informative illustrations in this post. I’ve omitted them because i wanted to emphasize the importance of ‘words’. I hope you will ponder them. Note, too, there is one more example added to the end of my talk. I hope it tells you why i think this is important.

 

page 1 Irish Famine Women; a challenge or three

a chairde

Sul a gcuirfidh mé tús leis an léach seo, ba maith liom a chur in iúl an meas mór atá agam ar muintir na Cadigal don náisiún Eora, agus na shinsear a thánaig rompu a bhí i bhfeighil an dúthaigh seo. (Thank you Tom and Sinead and Síle)

One of the most striking achievements in Irish scholarship during the last eighteen years or so is the sheer range and depth of works on the Great Irish Famine. After years of relative neglect the sesquicentenary of that tragic event seems to have opened the scholarly floodgates. Yet surprisingly, there seems to be no major study of women during the famine. It’s as if a big piece of the jigsaw is missing. There are a number of excellent small pieces but no comprehensive study of Irish Famine women. An exemplary work, the closest yet to what I have in mind, is in fact a work in comparative literature; Margaret Kelleher’s The Feminization of Famine: Expressions of the inexpressible.(1997)

Professor Kelleher claims that “where the individual spectacle of a hungry body is created, this occurs predominantly (tho’ not exclusively) through images of women” [8]. [or Lysaght, 99] Think about that for a moment. If I say “Famine” to you, what mental image comes to mind?…..

For me, it’s an image of Sudanese and Somali women who appeared on our television screens last year. Victims of famine and drought, those women decided to take their hungry and sick children and walk for miles and miles in search of help.

It is an image that is echoed in the very moving stream of consciousness essay by Connell Foley at the end of that brilliant Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, [Cork Up, 2012, p. 678]

…and if you are a woman subsistence farmer in a remote part of the congo

or niger and you have five extra mouths to feed because your brother died

2 of hiv and you are looking at the sky and you are looking at your land

and you are calculating if there will be too little rain too late or too much

so that your basic crop will be ruined and you do not know how you will feed

your children or pay for some medicines but you get up every day

and you do what you can… [Beckett] You must go on…I can’t go on…I’ll go on.

And for the Irish Famine, it’s James Mahony’s London Illustrated News images of women. You probably know “A Woman Begging at Clonakilty”, for money to bury her dead child (Feb ’47), or “Bridget O’Donnell and her children” recently evicted from their holding near Kilrush. (Dec. ’49).

Yet looking thru/over my own research notes, what struck me is not women’s victimisation –but their agency, their stoicism and determination in the face of catastrophe –and the variety of their coping strategies. Women were the leaders in workhouse riots and protests in Cork, Limerick and Tipperary [BGMB records] asserting their entitlement to better treatment and better food. In 1848, 600 women rose en masse in Cork workhouse and attacked the visiting Poor Law Inspector, “having armed themselves with stones, tins and bottles”. In Nenagh, women were the leading characters…dashing saucepans, tins and pints of stirabout to the ground and smashing windows”. In Limerick, [in April 1849,] there was a riot of women screaming and throwing pints of ale at workhouse officers. These women were probably in the second of Professor Lawrence Geary ‘s three famine phases, the protracted period of “resistance’ which came after the initial “Alarm” phase and before the final phase he calls “Exhaustion”. The second phase, according to Professor Geary, saw the slow disappearance of community generosity and focus shifting away from ‘family’ to personal survival.[Mike Murphy lecture]

Women have always been given due/proper attention by historical demographers. Women’s age at marriage, their marital fertility rate and their mortality rate are crucial to any study of famine demography.

Of particular interest here is that more men than women perished during the famine. Women had what Kate McIntyre calls “a female mortality advantage”. An interesting twist to this is David Fitzpatrick’s suggestion, that –since women were in effect the principal guardians of comfort and succour, the primary suppliers of care and affection, they became the holders of the only entitlement, love, that may have been inflated by famine [67]. The mere thought of trying to examine the history of affection during the famine will no doubt be the stuff of nightmares for traditional historians.

If the evidence collected by the Irish Folklore Commission is to be valued,— [there is some debate about the reliability of that evidence, since it was collected long after the event itself. However, it’s too easy to dismiss/Nonetheless, I think we should learn to appreciate the skills of oral historians and the sophisticated ways they assess their source material. Such evidence can tell us something of what it was like to have been there. [O’Grada, Black ’47](Why were women in the oral tradition perceived as suffering the worst of consequences?) ] If the folklore evidence is to believed, women during the famine had a good reputation as providers of charity. The renowned Peig Sayers recounted to the Commissioners the story of a Kerry woman, Bridie Shehan, who tied her dead daughter to her back with ropes, and carried her to the local graveyard where two men helped her bury her daughter. When Bridie made her way back home, her neighbour, Nora Landers, called her in and gave her seven of her own precious seed potatoes. [ O’Grada’s Black ’47, 200-01]

A female outsider, an American visitor, Asenath Nicholson, a widow, who wrote about her travels through Ireland, also has a well deserved reputation for charitable good works. It is from her that we learn of an Irish Famine woman’s task of closing the door on her family’s grave. If I may quote from her work, (Annals of the Famine in Ireland)

A cabin was seen closed one day…when a man had the curiosity

to open it, and in a dark corner he found a family of the father, mother

4 and two children, lying in close compact. The father was considerably

decomposed; the mother, it appeared, had died last, and probably

fastened the door, which was always the custom when all hope

was extinguished, to get in to the darkest corner and die, where passers- by could not see them.

Such family scenes were quite common, and the cabin was generally pulled down upon them for a grave.[ Kelleher, 85]

Clearly then women were very much present in famine times. They were there in the workhouse [in Limerick, Cork, Nenagh (or wherever,)] rioting against their treatment and poor quality food. They were there inside the cottier’s cottage, their domestic domain, when the pile of potatoes on the table grew smaller and smaller and decisions had to be taken as to who got what, and how much. They were there around the family hearth when the decision was made to send their sons and daughters abroad, or to decide if the whole family should emigrate. And women were most likely there, at the very end when they could still close the door to their cottage, their family grave.

This then is our first challenge: a full blown study of Irish women’s role during the famine.

What part did women play in Irish society and economy? What work did they do in the fields, at sowing or at harvest time? Did they help dig ditches, gather sticks, dig turf, feed cattle, pigs and poultry or groom horses by lantern, late on a winter’s night? Was their work confined to a kitchen garden, washing, weaving, cooking, sweeping the yard and cleaning the house? How did all this differ from class to class or region to region before, during and after the Famine?

What exactly was women’s role in family life? Were women the chief providers of affection? What was their sense of moral value? Were they protectors and promoters of religious belief? Did they act as guardians of oral tradition and transmitters of language and culture? Did the Famine overturn traditional family structures and throw traditional mores into disarray? Did women have to find and procure food for themselves and their desperately hungry children by whatever means, travelling miles, begging, and stealing if needs be. [These are some of the questions that spring to my mind. I’m sure you will think of others.]

Without an understanding of women’s role, may I suggest to you, our knowledge of the famine will always remain incomplete?

Our second challenge then is a full-scale, comprehensive study of Irish-Australian Famine women. The important thing, as before, is that we view these women through the lens of the Famine.

When I was preparing Barefoot & Pregnant? in the 1980s I was concerned about identifying people who knew an driochsheal, people who had first hand experience of the ‘bad life’, the ‘bitter time’ of the Famine. The young women who came here as part of the Earl Grey scheme were exactly what I was looking for. These young women obviously are essential to any study of Irish-Australian famine women.

But I think it is now time to cast the net more widely –to include, perhaps, some of the landlord assisted immigrants from the Monteagle estates in Limerick or the Shirley estate in Monaghan, for example– Or at least, the young women who came from workhouses in Clare and Cork to Hobart on the Beulah and Calcutta in 1851 –Or to Sydney, on the Lady Kennaway from Cork workhouses in 1854. These last, I’m sure you know, were the occasion of a fascinating political brouhaha here in NSW from the mid to late 1850s.

6

Let me give three examples to show what can be done—first, Irish female convicts transported to Tasmania, second, government assisted family migrants to NSW and Victoria, and thirdly, the immigration of c. 4-5000 Single females to South Australia in the 1850s.

At the beginning of the 1840s, about 1,000 Irish convicts were transported to Van Diemen’s Land each year. By the famine years, the annual intake had risen to 3,000. The transportation of female convicts, unlike that of males, did not stop during those years. “Tasmania thus bore the brunt of Irish famine misery ”, says Professor Richard Davis [9]. Not everyone would agree. Rena Lohan, a postgraduate student, in her study of Grangegorman, the women’s prison in Dublin, for example, found that most of the prisoners were already hardened criminals. Any link between Irish female convicts and the famine is tenuous, she argued. As always, the issue is complex and open to debate.

Were Irish judges more lenient in their sentencing during the famine? Knowing the difficult circumstances people were in, were they more prepared to accept as a defense, that crimes were committed “on grounds of want”? One such was the Exchequer Baron, John Richards who was willing to send convicts to Tasmania especially when he learned they had nowhere to go and would be without support when their prison term expired. Needless to say, not all judges and juries agreed on this matter. There was no consistent policy.

Did more women commit more crimes in order to be transported? Can we establish a strong link between the famine and the types of crimes they committed? Among the crimes recorded against the names of Irish women arriving in 1849 and 1850, for example, we note, “stealing a turkey’, ‘stealing a sheep’, ‘stealing a cow’, ‘stealing fowls’, ‘killed her child by a bandage, a little girl one month old’, ‘house burning’, which in itself carried a life sentence. Do we really need to distinguish between 7’intention’ and crimes born of desperation? Yet what of those women with criminal records stretching before the famine years?

Assuming we can identify female Famine convicts, what became of them in Tasmania? Were they different from other convicts? Were they less likely to re-offend? Were they less likely to be rebellious or to ‘resist’ the convict system, more likely to be ‘accommodationist’, and willing to accept their lot? Or did Australian conditions rather than their Irish famine background determine what became of them? The issues are complex are they not? Yet Tasmanian convict records are so rich it should be possible to answer many of these questions.

A second category of Irish-Australian famine women might include those who came here as part of their family’s emigration strategy. Richard Reid’s excellent work, Farewell my Children [Anchor, 2011], draws attention to the quite elaborate ways families in Ireland used Government assisted schemes to come to Australia during the famine years and the years immediately after. Manoeuvering the intricacies of bureaucratic regulations, filling out forms, collecting the required references from householders, from their local priest or magistrate or doctor, waiting for notification and arranging to join a ship in England, required skill, patience and detailed planning. Working the system, bending the rules, required a different kind of skill.

As family members discussed their emigration prospects around the hearth, in the domestic sphere, I am sure Irish women made their voice heard. One can surmise how influential women’s strength and determination and emotional clout was, in deciding how the family’s emigration strategy would be played out. Strikingly, Irish emigration to Australia in the 19th century was to achieve a gender balance. But in the famine, and years immediately following, many more women than men arrived as government assisted immigrants.

Dr Reid emphasises that it is a mistake to think of these young women, or the young 8sons and daughters in a family, being thrust into the unknown. They were often supported by an extensive and intricate network of family, friends and neighbours, sometimes stretching back to earlier convict days or bounty emigration schemes, sometimes needing a network to be established anew, set-up from scratch. We might ask did daughters play as important a role as sons in establishing these networks, not just for their own nuclear family but for their extended family and other members of their local community as well? Or were they less likely than men to nominate family and friends or manipulate Remittance regulations to their own advantage?

If I might illustrate the complications of this family emigration planning further, with an example form the work of an excellent family historian in Victoria, Anne Tosolini. I’ve used this example before in an article published in Descent in September 1999, [137].

Siblings and cousins (sons and daughters) of the Frehan and Gorman families came here from the parish of Lorrha in Tipperary between 1849 and 1854, some of them to Port Jackson and some to Port Phillip. They were to regroup in Melbourne during those years, the men renting and purchasing properties in neighbouring streets in Richmond, close to people who had been their neighbours in Lorrha. The women, however, settled some distance away, in Geelong. When they married, and their husbands later selected land, they were scattered throughout different parts of Victoria, –their strong bonds of kinship thus becoming slowly and perhaps more easily weakened. Was there a ‘gendered’ difference in the colonial experience of the first generation of migrants? Did the women adapt more readily? Were women more willingly acculturated? Were they more independent in their choice of marriage partners? Was the regrouping of their family more likely to be ‘transitional’ than that of Irish men? These are questions about women’s role in their family emigration strategy that can, and still need to be addressed.

My third example of Irish-Australian Famine women is the circa 4-5 thousand young women who sailed into Port Adelaide in 1854, 1855 and 1856. Boatload after 9boatload of young single Irish females—by the Europa, the Grand Trianon, the Nashwauk, Aliquis and Admiral Boxer, for example,—came to South Australia in the mid 1850s as part of what I would call ‘ their flight from famine and its aftermath’. The Famine had opened the floodgates. Like the Earl Grey female orphans, they too might be considered famine refugees.

So many came in such a short time, so many were allegedly ill-suited to the work required of them, so many demanded food and accommodation in immigrant depots, and so many had been sent to Adelaide under false pretences (they had been told in London they could easily walk to Melbourne and Sydney) that South Australian government authorities established a government enquiry into what they called “Excessive Female Immigration”. Lucky for us they did so. In the minutes of evidence to their report we hear the voice of some of the young women themselves. The women called before the enquiry were asked why they came here. Their answers were what we would expect;–ambitious, independent, hopeful, banal.

[“February 15th 1855 Frances McDowell called in and examined, 32]

What induced you to come out here?—I do not know.

Had you received letters from friends? –I have no friends in Australia.

Did you think you would benefit yourself by coming to this Colony?–I was induced by the published statements to think that I might do well here.”

Some of these women were part of a network already here, and soon left South Australia to join their family and friends in Sydney and Melbourne. But my general impression is that the majority did not belong to such a network. ..Still, until there is an in-depth and thorough study of these women, our conclusions should remain tentative. This surely is a tempting research project for someone living in Adelaide.

Some excellent work has already been done on aspects of this so-called “Excessive” female immigration, –by Cherry Parkin, Eric Richards,Ann Herraman, Stephanie James, Marie Steiner to name a few. After acknowledging the initial troubles these young women had, –some walking 16 miles in the heat of the day, barefoot, to go to a situation, others returning to depot sunburnt, blistered, overworked and cast out after harvest was finished, some found crying, disappointed, despondent and depressed at their prospects—the view of most Australian writers is that these Irish women were generally well cared for and absorbed successfully into South Australian society. Areas of thickest Irish settlement …such as Paddy Gleeson’s Clare Valley were the first to accept and absorb them. The Seven Hills marriage registers demonstrate just how quickly they were accepted.

Other writers, outside Australia, are less upbeat. To quote from two, “The young women settled in badly and most left as soon as they could”. “Those sent into the outback as agricultural labourers barely survived”. (Akenson)

Who exactly were these young women? Which parts of Ireland did they come from? Where did their confidence, –or desperation, come from? What became of them? Were they being realistic in their expectations? Were they disillusioned? In fact, the same sort of questions may be asked of all of our Irish-Australian famine women, whether family emigrants, workhouse women, foundling orphans, convicts or convict families.

Is it possible to view them through the lens of their famine experience? Or at least try to view them from their own perspective? Look at their history through their own eyes, follow in their footsteps? This is my third challenge.

It’s not an easy thing to do. Finding out about the famine in our subject’s locality and even surmising the impact it might have had on our subject’s psyche, and subsequent life, are approaches we may need to take. It especially means our not accepting official sources at face value. They provide only a limited and slanted view of things –which is not that of the women themselves. Dig deeper. Read the sources “against the grain” [perhaps in the same manner as postcolonial Indian historians of the 1980s.] If necessary, rearrange the mental furniture we normally use in studying the past.

In the end, our sources may never allow us to get ‘inside the head’ of individual women. We may never get close enough to know them ‘in the round’–except perhaps through intelligent creative fiction. Which is why I’m very much looking forward to reading Evelyn Conlon’s Not the same sky [Wakefield Press, 2013]which is being launched later this afternoon.

Finally, our challenge is also about taking care with the language we use. Language is a loaded gun. If I may explain this by means of a few phrases, [–‘the Atlantic slave trade‘, the ‘Holocaust‘ and ‘pauper immigration‘.]

My first full-paid university appointment in the 1960s was in the West Indies. For me, a phrase such as “the Atlantic Slave trade” is a Pandora’s box, full of memories and meanings. But at its core is the 12 million people bought and sold like chattel, bought and sold like pieces of farm machinery or livestock, people denied their humanity.

One of the last courses I taught at Macquarie University before I retired included the Holocaust, the industrial mass murder of 6 million Jewish people. It was a subject that troubled me greatly. I found myself insisting upon saying Jewish people as a means of recognising the victims’ humanity. Without that recognition of our common humanity, it can happen again and again, as it did in Cambodia, in Rwanda and in the former Yugoslavia.

Even a seemingly innocuous/straightforward phrase such as “pauper immigration”, [still current in some quarters when writing about the Earl Grey famine orphans,] –has different layers of meaning. It carries a class interpretation. It implies that some immigrants are of less value than others, and hence, as human beings. Many of the young famine orphan girls who came here were bilingual, especially those from the west of Ireland. They spoke both Irish and English. The Irish word “bochtán” –‘poor person’– contains within it recognition of the poor person’s humanity in a way that the phrase, “pauper immigration” [Madgwick, chpt.X] does not. As those young women accommodated themselves to their new Australian circumstances they lost that language, and that world view; they lost that way of looking at the world. [There is a v. interesting essay, on this very subject by Mairead Nic Craith, Legacy and Loss, towards the end of that brilliant work, Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. p.580]

Today, I wish to add a third phrase, “the Irish potato famine” which is gaining currency these days. It is a phrase which many Irish people find insulting. Why is that? What’s wrong with those words?

Sure, failure of the potato crop is a very important part of what happened but as I said in post no.4 http://wp.me/p4SlVj-3I

famine is always about more than shortage of food and starvation. In that post I mentioned the work of Amartya Sen. Do search for him on google and for his colleague with whom he wrote about famine and poverty, Jean Drèze. I see one can even download the whole of Sen’s Poverty and Famines: an essay on entitlements and deprivation from more than one place. Even if you do not agree with his theory of entitlements applied to the Irish case you will realize how complex famines are. Poverty, over-crowding, a vicious land system, poor housing, underemployment, hoarding, thieving, price gouging, gombeen men, ‘culpable’ neglect on the part of government, the quarter acre clause, betrayal of one’s neighbours, and the unstoppable march of disease, are all in the mix. A phrase such as ‘the Irish potato famine’ misdirects our attention and fails to understand the complexities involved. “The Irish Potato Famine”–no; “The Great Irish Famine”–yes.

Let me put this another way. I’ll use the final words of David Nally in his Human Encumbrances.

“How are catastrophic famines to be prevented? One possible answer is provided by those who resisted famine policies in the 1840s: stop creating them”. (231)

Do please think about the words you want to use  before uttering them.

Is minic a ghearr teanga  duine a scornach (it’s often a person’s tongue/language cuts his throat)
My thanks to Tom Power, and  Tom and Sinead McCloughlin for this saying.

Careful as you go. Mind your language.

Trevor McClaughlin 24 August 2013

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (37):can we create interactive digital maps?

DIGITAL MAPS?

I’ve long had an interest in historical geography and historical atlases in particular. I remember well the impact a good map had upon my uni students in Jamaica. A map of the Atlantic Slave Trade and one showing the spread of Jesuit colleges in Europe during the Counter/Catholic Reformation were two of my favourites. Maybe that’s why I admire the work of cartographer, Mike Murphy, in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, Cork, 2012.

These days, living in a ‘Computer Age’, the creative possibilities are exciting. The map below shows the location of some of the Irish Famine orphans in 1861, that is, according to the birth registration of their children.

Irish Famine orphans in Eastern Australia in 1861

Irish Famine orphans in Eastern Australia in 1861

I wonder how difficult it would be to create an interactive map? If we were really ambitious we should try something like the projects at Stanford University, http://web.stanford.edu/group/spatialhistory/cgi-bin/site/projects.php

But maybe that’s too ambitious for the uninitiated. Could we do something simpler instead, such as clicking on the dots in the map above to bring up all the information we have about the orphan who resided there at that particular time?

We may be lucky enough to have a photograph.

Rose Sherry per John Knox

Rose Sherry per John Knox

Rose was living in Clare Terrace, off William Street, in Double Bay, Sydney, in 1861.

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Or a record of her marriage. This is Jane Troy‘s, in Portland,

Jane Troy marries George Smith, Portland, Victoria

Jane Troy marries George Smith, Portland, Victoria

You may remember Jane from an earlier post http://wp.me/p4SlVj-Di

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Maybe there are some probate records. I wonder how common it was for an orphan or her husband to make a will. I’d be surprised if even 30% of them did so. Here are a couple of examples, extracts only I’m afraid. I’m unsure about permission to reproduce such things. These are from Victorian records.

Re the family of an orphan from Leitrim

Re the family of an orphan from Leitrim

That was a sad story. The orphan, Jane Liddy, from Leitrim, married well but she and her husband died at a young age. Their considerable estate vanished in the maintenance and medical care of their nine children.

Another one,

Interesting effects

Interesting effects

The man knew his livestock, even by name, Boxer and Diamond and Fagan and Dandy.

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Let me demonstrate how this map business might work. Here is a map of the orphans in Queensland c. 1861. I’ve entered a few numbers. If we had an interactive map, what might appear if we clicked on numbers 1 and 2, at Ipswich?

blogqldorp61

It may only be a family reconstitution, no other material being available. If you click on the images you can make them larger.

So, number 1 is for Cicely Moran per Thomas Arbuthnot,

Cicely Moran from Galway

Cicely Moran from Galway

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Number 2 is for Mary Casey per Digby

Mary Casey from Longford

Mary Casey from Longford

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Can you find numbers 3 & 4 on the map?

Number 3 is for Bridget Murray per Lady Peel who was in Brisbane in 1861.

Bridget Murray from Roscommon

Bridget Murray from Roscommon

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Number 4 is for Jane Duff per Earl Grey

blogjdu

Jane is from Newtownards and is at Condamine in 1861.

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Number 5 is for Celia Dempsey per Digby(?)

Celia Dempsey from Dublin (Kingstown later Dun Laoghaire)

Celia Dempsey from Dublin (Kingstown later Dun Laoghaire). She is in Dalby.

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Number 6 is Margaret Plunkett per John Knox

Margaret Plunkett from Armagh/Newry

Margaret Plunkett from Armagh/Newry

The Armagh/Newry contradiction appears on the John Knox  shipping list. She was in Cadargo in 1861.

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Now where is number 7? It’s for Bridget McQueeney(ie) per Lady Peel

Bridget McQueenie from Leitrim

Bridget McQueenie from Leitrim

Bridget was in Laidley in 1861

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Number 8 is for someone we’ve met already, the spirited Margaret Stack from Ennistymon per Thomas Arbuthnot.

See the section ‘Moreton Bay District’ towards the bottom of  http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf 

Here is a photograph of that feisty 14 year-old later in life, as formidable as ever.

Margaret Smith nee Stack from Ennistymon Co. Clare

Margaret Smith nee Stack from Ennistymon Co. Clare

 blogmstackIt looks as though she was at Baramba Station in 1861? My thanks to her ancestor who sent me this information.

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Number 9 is for Mary Ann Prendergast, once again per Thomas Arbuthnot

Mary Ann Prendergast from Galway

Mary Ann Prendergast from Galway

Mary was at Toowoomba in 1861.

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I’m sure it would be possible to create interactive maps such as these. But we’d need a website and a number of helpers. I wonder what resources the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee has these days. Probably nowhere near as much as they would like. Imagine tracing how far the orphans travelled in Queensland (and elsewhere). Maybe one could invent an app. to allow people to map the geographic movement of their orphan ancestor? —-for a fee of course, or a contribution to one of the GIFCC Outreach programmes, http://irishfaminememorial.org/media/filer_private/2012/08/09/brochurenew_detailsprint.pdf

I suppose it’s a case of “tell him he’s dreamin”. (Hope you’ve seen the Australian film,’The Castle‘).

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May I remind readers of the annual gathering at Hyde Park Barracks on the last Sunday in August, the 28th this year? See http://irishfaminememorial.org/

Scroll down that page for information. The Guest speaker is Tim Costello, a brilliant choice.

The featured image is ‘Bullock Dray Melbourne 1851’, courtesy of the Dixson Library, Sydney.

And for a link to the contents of my blog see http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine orphans (35):some notes from PROV Victoria Superintendent letters inwards

A few more snippets

http://prov.vic.gov.au/

Here are some of my research notes. They are barely legible. Please get in touch if you cannot decipher something you want. They were made on one of my research trips to the Victorian Public Records Office when it was out at Altona, i.e. before Spring Street, and before moving to North Melbourne. I can remember taking a train and a bus and a walk before getting there. But it was worth it; the people there were extremely helpful. I cannot thank them enough.

These are notes i took when i perused PROV VPRS 115, 8 boxes, Superintendent Inward Registered correspondence. They’ll be useful for anyone interested in the Port Phillip orphans, I hope. Maybe worth another trip to the archives? You’ll notice I’ve occasionally recorded stuff not directly related to the Earl Grey orphans; remittances, people nominating others for a government-assisted passage, or the death of a baby, as you do. There’s even mention of one of the children who earlier was offered a passage on the Edmund Parry,  and who had refused. “1 March 1850 Catherine Minnihane niece (11 year old) to John O’Keefe from the Parish of Killaloe, townland of Kilcredan, nominated by Thomas Budds Payne“. I wonder did she make it here after all.

What strikes me is the ‘duty of care’ reflected in these letters to Superintendent La Trobe. Sure, there is desire that regulations be administered properly but there is also a very human(e) touch, providing soap for the Pemberton orphans “to enable them to wash all their things and to disembark comfortably” VPRS 115, vol.1, 49/85. Or to help Mary Darcy who had lost use of her limbs from an injury aboard the Pemberton,“the poor girl must be cared for somehow. I must leave the Police Magistrate to suggest in what manner and at what cost” VPRS 115, vol.1, 49/340 .

Anyways have a rummage through these. See what you can find. Note for example, the tenders for an Immigration Barracks; reference to orphan ship reports viz Pemberton, ‘the females were orderly and obedient’ and the ship ‘well fitted out’ ; Diadem, Derwent and New Liverpool, ‘the orphans from Clonmel were refractory, insubordinate and extremely troublesome’; letter from the Police Magistrate, Portland, re what he was doing for the arrival of the orphans by the Brig Raven, and individual cases, Mary Darcy,Margaret Gorman, Eliza Armstrong, Isabella Browne, causing them concern.

PROV. Superintendent correspondence-in 1849 VPRS 115 vol.1

PROV. Superintendent correspondence-in 1849 VPRS 115 vol.1

VPRS115i

VPRS115ii

VPRS115iii

VPRS115iv

VPRS115v

VPRS115vi

VPRS115vii

VPRS115viii

Happy hunting. I don’t think a lot of this made its way into my Barefoot & Pregnant? or on to the website. http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/

Here’s a list of the contents of my blog. Just click on the http address http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (34):applications for orphans

Another Aside

Ah! The wonders of my filing cabinets. Having moved rooms at work a number of times, thrusting stuff quickly into folders, and into boxes when I retired, I shouldn’t be surprised if nowadays ‘lost’ research turns up in the most unlikely places. I’ve just found a report from another excellent research assistant, Margaret Burgmann which I’d like to share with you.

I was preparing the first volume of Barefoot & Pregnant? at the time and was looking at reasons for the brevity of the Earl Grey scheme. I wanted to test the claim it had become increasingly difficult to find suitable employers for the orphans. In the words of Melbourne officials, “…the orphans by each succeeding ship have been disposed of to parties of a lower rank, and less desirable class than those preceding”. Or as Archdeacon McEncroe put it, …the cause of dissatisfaction was with some vulgar masters who had got up it the world. Those who had got money by the gold discovery are the most overbearing towards their servants”. 

I asked Margaret to examine the Registers of applications for orphans 1848-51 held in the State Records of NSW. (nowadays NRS 5240, formerly 4/4714-17). See https://www.records.nsw.gov.au/publications/now-then-enewsletter/now-then-67-april-2014

And to look for the applicants in local commercial directories. Here’s her findings;

Applicants for orphans 1848

Applicants for orphans 1848

foempl48ii

Applications for orphans February-July 1851

Applications for orphans February-July 1851

foempl51ii

foempl51iii

Margaret used W & F Ford, Sydney Directory, Sydney, 1851, Francis Low, The City of Sydney Directory, 1844-5, Sydney, 1844 and his Directory for the City and District of Sydney, 1847, as well as Sands and Kenny, Commercial and General Sydney Directory for 1858-59, (first year of publication). With some qualifications, her conclusion was that yes indeed, 84% of the 1848 applicants were from the upper middle class. In 1851 only 52% of them were. Margaret reminded me that “applicants in 1851 were harder to identify. There were many more applicants from outside Sydney. Further, the directories concentrated on white-collar and well-off blue-collar members of Sydney society. Only occasionally was an entry classified as ‘gentleman'”.

If i was to do a similar exercise again, my starting point would be the people who actually employed the orphans. Since the 1980s, we have been able to identify many more of the orphans’ employers. See the website http://www.irishfaminememorial.org/en/orphans/

I hope this will encourage people to find out more about the masters and mistresses of their own particular orphan servant(s). What directories and other sources could we use?

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (32):a “Belfast girl” Mary McConnell

Some Unfinished histories (1)

Mary McConnell

I’m not sure how this will go. I’ll try getting in touch with some of the orphans’ descendants who sent me material in the past. Maybe together we can give an outline of a family history that may be of interest to others, even if it’s just to suggest possible lines of enquiry. I’ll attempt some of the things I’ve suggested earlier, such as make our own presence felt, find something about the orphan’s Irish background, as well as what happened to her in Australia. And I hope, put her in some kind of historical context. I’m sure you know all this already. You are welcome to make a suggestion about the things we ought to include. 

This time, I’ve chosen to write something about one of the infamous ‘Belfast Girls’, Mary McConnell. I’ve been in touch with one of Mary’s descendants, Mrs Pat Evans, for more than twenty-five years; she herself has been working on Mary for more than thirty. Tricia has provided lots of information about Mary’s history. She tells me that she is emotionally close to her orphan descendant. After all, she is her great-great grandmother. It took her a while to reconcile herself to some aspects of Mary’s life but she understands her, and admires her resilience. Tricia says, ” I am able to accept that my Mary was not what we would call a good girl today and at the same time extremely thankful of what she did to survive in the harshness of the day”.

We both are very grateful to a renowned local historian, Brian Andrews, who helped us put Mary’s life into context, in the Hunter Valley of  New South Wales. Unfortunately I lost contact with Brian some years ago. But I see, via the web, he was awarded an OAM for his work as a local historian. Congratulations and well-deserved, Brian. Brilliant work.

I’d like to keep this post in an unfinished form to emphasize that orphans’ family histories are constantly being revised. The ‘facts’ can change so quickly.

Tricia rightly suggests that if she was writing Mary’s history outside and independent of this blog, she’d provide a summary of the Earl Grey scheme, something like this,

“Lord Earl Grey, the British Secretary of State, thought he had the magic answer for several problems facing the English Parliament. He could rid the Irish workhouses of the orphaned paupers by supplying the Colonies with female labour and females to correct the imbalance of the sexes, which were both needed in great numbers in the Colony of New South Wales. This scheme was called the ‘Earl Grey Scheme’ and was to remove about 4,000 female Irish orphans from the disgusting workhouses throughout Ireland. The scheme was to survive for only two years.

See http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Belfast/

 
From the Belfast Workhouse, Mary, with the other ‘Belfast Orphans’, left Belfast traveling to Plymouth by the Steamer ‘Athlone’ under the supervision of wardmaster James Caldwell. The ‘Belfast Girls’ and many others then left Plymouth on the 3rd June 1848 per ‘Earl Grey’ to Sydney Australia where they arrived after 122 days at sea on 6 October 1848.
 
Whilst on this voyage each girl was given daily rations of ½ lb meat, ¼ lb flour, raisins, peas, rice, tea, sugar, butter and biscuits. Each girl was also outfitted with 6 shifts, 6 pairs of stockings – two worsted & 4 cotton, 2 pair of shoes, 2 gowns – one of woolen plaid, 2 short wrappers, 2 night wrappers, 2 flannel petticoats, 2 cotton petticoats, 1 stout worsted shawl & a cloak, 2 neck and 3 pocket handkerchiefs, 2 linen collars, 2 aprons, 1 pair of stays, 1 pair of sheets, 1 pair of mitts, 1 bonnet, day & night caps, 2 towels, 2lb of soap, combs & brushes, needles, threads, tape & whatever other little articles (such as a few yards of cotton or calico) the Matron may know young females to require. They were also given a Bible and Prayer Book suitable for their respective religions. Then they were given one box – length 2 feet, width 14 inches, deep 14 inches, with lock and key, to be painted, & the Emigrant’s name painted on the front, & a catalogue of the contents pasted on the inside of the lid. The box was ordered to be strongly made, so as to bear a long voyage & besides being locked they should be strongly corded.
The first ship to arrive in The Colony was ‘Earl Grey’ on the 6th October 1848 into the harbour of Port Jackson. The last ship carrying it’s live cargo entered Port Phillip, Melbourne on 31st March 1850 and she was the ‘Eliza Caroline’.  There is also known to be four ships that sailed into the Port of Adelaide in South Australia.
 
The ‘Belfast Girls’, per ‘Earl Grey’, as they were referred to, were classified as refractory. One of the girls (I must admit was not one of the good girls)  was my Mary McConnell”.
In her family history, Tricia would also say more about the voyage itself, and about Surgeon Grattan Douglass’s condemnation of the ‘Belfast girls’, and the subsequent enquiries that followed his report.
I’m not going to do that here, for my purpose throughout my blog, is to give a more detailed picture of the scheme and of the Irish Famine orphans themselves, than is usually the case. Tricia’s comments have prompted me to ask how many Earl Grey descendants have read the report of C. G. Otway, the Irish Poor Law Commissioner? It’s in my Barefoot & Pregnant? volume 1, which should be available in your local library. Why do you think it has had such little impact?
May I invite anyone writing their orphan family history, especially if he or she wants to delve deeper, to think about what I’ve said in these thirty-odd blog posts; about the origins of the scheme; about how the plan may belong more to the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners than Earl Grey himself; about how Irish Poor Law Commissioners and Boards of Workhouse Guardians arranged things at the Irish end; about Charter Parties and the regulations that applied to every government assisted voyage; about the orphans’ arrival and early days in Australia, and above all, about the ways we might try to put ourselves in an orphan’s shoes and view things through her eyes?
Here’s a link to what my blog contains, http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE  If you wish to use any of it in a fuller family history of your own, please feel free. But also please acknowledge your debt in the conventional academic way. I believe that goes something like this,  my name, name of the blog post and the date you accessed the site. My thanks in advance.
Mary McConnell
At last, to Mary.
A recently posted family reconstitution form gives us a brief synopsis of Mary’s life. And already our ‘facts’ have changed; we find the form needs revising. There is a big question mark over the names of Mary’s parents. James and Fanny are the names Mary gave to Belfast workhouse. So I’ll call them James and Fanny McConnell. 

Tricia recently informed me that William Ashton‘s details are also incorrect. He was not a Bounty migrant who came by the Brothers in 1841. Rather, he was a convict found guilty of highway robbery at Liverpool Quarter Sessions in July 1838. He arrived in New South Wales on board the Theresa in 1839. Tricia discovered this through Maitland gaol records and the Maitland Mercury which linked William and Mary’s name together. We should also remove William’s parents’ names and his birthplace and date from the form, and change his occupations to ‘brickmaker, sawyer, labourer, and bushman’.  The other details are correct.

fomarymcconnellearl grey

 

 

Among descendants of the Famine orphans, the story of the “Belfast Girls” is relatively well-known. Surgeon Douglass described the ‘Belfast girls’ as “notoriously bad in every sense of the word“.  “The professed public woman and barefooted little country beggar have been alike sought after as fit persons to pass through the purification of the workhouse, ere they were sent as a valuable addition to the Colonists of New South Wales”. It was a stain that’s been very difficult to remove.

A detailed enquiry by Irish Poor Law Commissioner C. G Otway rebutted Douglass’s claims –as might be expected– and was supported by the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners in London–as also might be expected– but it was never enough to restore the good name of the rebellious ‘millies’ (Mill workers) and “gurriers” from Belfast. As far as the Surgeon, Captain, and Matron of the Earl Grey were concerned, Mary McConnell was “a professed public woman”. She, and the other ‘Belfast girls’, should not be allowed to land in Sydney. “Considering that the landing of the Belfast girls in Sydney, would assuredly lead to their final ruin, and being also impressed with the importance of separating them from the remainder of the Orphans, the Committee [the Sydney Orphan Committee] acceded to the proposal of Dr Douglass, that they should be at once forwarded into the Country” .

Let me mention in passing, how much I enjoyed Jaki McCarrick’s recent award winning play, Belfast Girls“, not as a nitpicking historian but for its dramatic sensibility, its contemporary relevance, and above all, Jaki’s sympathetic treatment of the young women.

Ellen (with renewed resolve) …Remember, this is what you’re to be wed ta. Your books. Your learnin’. For Molly’s sake — let none of us waste this journey an’ all we’ve learned. You — in here (points to her head) are a great gift to Australia, an’ don’t ya  forget it. We all are an’ must none of us forget it.

(Belfast Girls by Jaki McCarrick © Samuel French Ltd. London. All rights reserved

Reprinted by permission of Samuel French Ltd. on behalf of Jaki McCarrick)

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We are lucky the Otway Report has survived: it has specific information about Mary McConnell. (For more details, see Disc 2 of Ray Debnam’s CD set, Feisty Colleens).

In the report, two Belfast Detective Police Constables, DC John Cane and DC Stewart McWilliams testified that none of the Belfast girls accused of prostitution by Surgeon Douglass was known to them as such.

Stewart McWilliams,  Police Constable sworn:

I am one of the detective police;…I have been so employed for the last eighteen years; from the nature of my duties, I have a knowledge of all the houses of ill-fame, and the persons frequenting them in Belfast; all of the prostitutes I mean. I do not think there is a prostitute in the town I do not know…

From my knowledge of young persons working in mills and manufactories, I know they are generally unguarded in their language and mode of expression, and use unchaste language, though they may not be unchaste in person, or prostitutes.

I have read over the names on the list of the females sent in the first vessel from Belfast, and there is not the name of a single person that I ever knew or heard of as being a prostitute amongst them.

Look at the name whose initials correspond with Mary McCann, No. 45 I had no knowledge of her as a prostitute or person of bad character, and she could not have been well known in Belfast as a prostitute without my knowing it.

Look at Mary McConnell, No.55 I give the same answer… (Barefoot vol. 1, pp. 106-7.)

Given the circumstances, theirs is the kind of evidence we might expect? I leave you to decide for yourself. My view is that people today are not so quick to adopt the high moral ground; they understand how someone may depend upon prostitution to survive and others might use it for their own empowerment and material security. Maybe Surgeon Douglass too quickly accepted as truth the insults and obscene language the Belfast orphans hurled at one another.

More interesting than the Constables’ evidence is the testimony of Catherine McKevey who lived with her husband, a Pattern Maker, in Laggan Village. She had known Mary personally for the six years before she left for Australia.

Catherine McKevey sworn statement to C. G. Otway

Catherine McKevey sworn statement to C. G. Otway (Barefoot, 1, p.123)

This has an authentic ring to it, does it not? Mary’s parents were ‘decent, hard-working people‘. Mary had lived and worked with Mrs McKevey for about a year when she 14 or 15 years of age, as ‘a thorough servant‘ (i.e. doing everything). Her dad had died three years ago (in c. 1845-6) and her mum two (in c. 1846-7); ‘she was an orphan‘. ‘I heard (gossip) she was in the penitentiary and had not behaved herself as she ought‘. After Mrs McKevey’s, Mary had gone first into service, and then to work in Mr Montgomery’s mill. ‘I…advised her as to conducting herself well where she was going…‘.

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Good-bye your hens running in and out of the white house

Your absent-minded goats along the road, your black cows

Your greyhounds and your hunters beautifully bred

Your drums and your dolled-up Virgins and your ignorant

dead

(Louis MacNeice, Valediction)

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Sometimes family historians need to make an educated guess about what happened to a descendant. We’ve done that in some of what follows.

Mary was born in Tyrone, the daughter of James and Fanny McConnell, and baptised a Presbyterian. Surely she had siblings? Maybe a brother or sister died before she and her young parents went to Belfast, in the early 1840s. ‘Jummie’ McConnell, a weaver, part of the declining domestic-putting-out system in Tyrone, and like an ever increasing number of others, was told there’d be a job and hope in Belfast. It was a city built on mud flats, and already growing into Ireland’s major manufacturing city.  But in the 1840s, it was a mere fledgling of what it was to become later in the nineteenth century.

The young family went across Queen’s bridge to Laggan Village, down near the Short Strand and the bottom of Ravenhill Road, in County Down.  It was part of Ballymacarrat, a largely working-class and Protestant area, with its Iron Works, Vitriol Works, Rope Works and Textile Mills.  Tricia was informed by a Senior Research Fellow at Queen’s University that Laggan Village was on the South Bank of the Lagan River, a Protestant working-class area that included Ballarat Street, Dungevan Street and Bendigo and Carrington Streets. The map Tricia has is a fairly modern one; it includes Albertbridge, one of the bridges crossing the Lagan but that bridge was not finished until 1890.  In the recent ‘Troubles’, the area was a ‘narrow ground’, a battleground for sectarian conflict. It has since been rebuilt. I doubt if Mary would recognize it, if she returned today.

 “I never saw a richer country, or, to speak my mind, a finer people; the worst of them is the bitter and envenomed dislike which they have to each other. Their factions have been so long envenomed, and they have such narrow ground to do their battle in, that they are like people fighting with daggers in a hogshead” (Walter Scott 1825)

Mary appears not have carried any of that ‘venom’ with her. Her common-law husband, William Ashton, was a Roman Catholic and her children were baptised in the Church of England.

Her parents, Jimmy McConnell and his wife, Fanny, were ‘hard-working, decent people’. But Belfast would be no earthly paradise, and Laggan village would be their deathbed. 

Tricia, I’ve tried to find out a bit more about Belfast during the Famine years. I haven’t bought this book, just seen bits of it via Google; Christine Kinealy and Gerard Mac Atasney, The Hidden Famine. Hunger, Poverty and Sectarianism in Belfast, 1840-50, Pluto Press, 2000. (The authors also have a chapter in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine). They explain Belfast did not escape ‘the devastation triggered by’ the Famine which is something not widely recognized by historians. Nearly 1500 people died in Belfast workhouse during 1847 (Mary would have seen many of them die). In the three months between late December 1846 and March 1847, during a very bad winter, nearly 280 thousand quarts of soup and 775 cwt of bread was given to the hungry through Belfast’s soup kitchens. “By the end of March, over 1,000 “wretched-looking beings” each day were receiving free rations of bread and soup at the old House of Correction“. The Belfast Relief Committee knew that more than food was needed.”There are to be found a vast number of families…who have neither bed nor bedding of any description–whose only couch is a heap of filthy straw, in the corner of a wretched apartment”. 

Now imagine you are 17-18 year-old Mary McConnell in late 1846, early 1847. Your dad died a year ago and you and your mum have survived, only just. In that desperately cold winter, your mum died too. You lost your job in the Flax Mill. What would you do? What do you think Mary did? Fight tooth and nail, as a street kid? Become a prostitute, at seventeen years of age? (that is still uncertain). Develop an obscenely sharp and cutting tongue to protect herself from rivals and predators? “That’s my fucken crust of bread, wee lad. Touch it and I’ll cut yer balls off”. Use soup kitchens; there was one in Ballymacarrat. Get into the workhouse when the cold months came. She was in Belfast workhouse “16 months previous to her emigration“, that is since early 1847 (Barefoot, 1, p.71).   But then she learned of the Earl Grey scheme, and with other street-wise young inmates, decided Australia was the place to go. Some of her shipmates, the Hall sisters, Rose McLarnon and Eliza Mulholland also had an association with Ballymacarrat.

 None of Douglass’s ‘troublemakers’ was allowed to disembark at Port Jackson. All of the orphans had to stay on board whilst the Sydney Orphan Committee called Surgeon, Matron, and Ship’s Master before them. They decided the feisty, rebellious, pilfering, potty-mouthed Belfasters should be kept separate from the others and sent immediately into the hinterland. Mary would be sent by steamer to Maitland, with eleven others, Ellen Rooney, Eliza Conn, Mary Black, Anne McGuire et al. Another thirty seven would be sent to Moreton Bay. Did Mary ever meet any of the others again? Would she have recognized them if she had passed them on the streets of Maitland in the 1880s?
One wonders too if the recalcitrant Belfasters suffered the same punishment as those observed by James Porter when he travelled to Moreton Bay as cuddy-boy on board the Eagle towards the end of 1849. “There (sic) hair had been cut short…consequently they were afterwards called ‘short grasses’. Their dress consisted of a plain cotton gown with white spots which hung loose from the neck to the feet. They were covered with heavy hob-nailed shoes. Each girl if she had any idea of adornment had no means of carrying it out”. It was a common punishment for convict women.
To be continued
We’ll take up the story of Mary’s life in the Hunter Valley, next time.