Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (49): a few Queensland orphan stories?

THREE, OR MAYBE FOUR, MORE FOR QUEENSLAND

This post needs your help. Are these families, orphan families? What do you think? Like some other orphans who went to Queensland, they did quite well for themselves. Readers, i hope, appreciate how much the reconstruction of the orphans’ lives, both in Australia and Ireland, is a cooperative effort. These examples draw attention to some of the pitfalls involved.

I had hoped to include details about Margaret Hardgrave nee Blair per Earl Grey. But I seem to have lost the documentation that would confirm this particular individual was an Irish Famine orphan. My entry for her in Barefoot, and on the website, was that she was a sixteen year old Presbyterian from Ballymena, County Antrim who married a shoemaker, John Hardgrave in Brisbane, 29 July 1850. She died 1 August 1924 at the age of  92! I suppose that is possible. If this is correct, Margaret was one of the most materially better off orphans. Her husband’s estate was valued at £9450 at the beginning of the twentieth century, much of it suburban real estate in the West End of Brisbane. When she died at home in Petrie Terrace, the “Hardgrave Estate” was “situated on a fine rise of land, with a 260 foot frontage to the tramline at West End” and “comprises three substantial residences and two splendid building sites”.

Here is an extract from John’s will and codicil, ‘signed sealed and delivered by Margaret Lydia Hardgrave in 1908’. Could someone please put my mind at rest; was she an Earl Grey Orphan? This Margaret Hardgrave was born in Antrim too. She spent one year in New South Wales and seventy-five in Queensland, at the time of her death. Her estate was valued at £2107.05.07.

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Bridget Muldoon

Here is another example that needs verifying, Bridget Muldoon per John Knox.

Kerryn Townsend wrote to me from Ipswich in January 1994 but her letter and its enclosures did not come to me until much later. How I managed to neglect her interesting carefully researched material I just do not know. She even offered to send me a photograph of Bridget and her husband, an offer I obviously failed to take up. Is this one an Earl Grey orphan? Her death certificate says she was born in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh but the John Knox shipping list has her as coming from Drumkilla townland in County Cavan. The two are not so far from one another. Bridget was 91 when she died, but again that is not impossible. Kerryn was convinced she was an Irish orphan. Here is what she told me.

Bridget’s husband, native born John Ingram had an Aboriginal mother called Maria. John was described as Aboriginal when he was baptised as a twenty year old in West Maitland, 15 October 1851. The couple had sixteen children, ten sons and six daughters (one not on the form below) three of them lost at a very young age.

Like many of the orphans, Bridget and her family were geographically mobile. You may wish to use google earth to follow in their footsteps. They gradually moved north from the Hunter Valley in New South Wales via Myall Creek where John their third child was born, to St Clair, Falbrook, still in New South Wales, where Mary Anne was born. About 1863, Bridget and John and their six children moved to the Maryborough District of Queensland where they were to stay for the next fifteen years. Then about 1878, taking the younger children with them, they moved to Yeulba in the fertile Western Darling Downs where they were to remain for the rest of their lives. John died in 1892 and Bridget in 1925, aged 91 or 92, another long-lived orphan!

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Kerryn , are you out there somewhere? Did you confirm the names of Bridget Ingram’s parents were Patrick and Betty? What do readers think? Is this an Earl Grey orphan? Thankyou for replying Kerryn. Please see Kerryn’s comment at the bottom of this post.

Here’s an illustration of how little time some of the orphans actually spent in an Irish Workhouse. Note that less than twenty percent of inmates gave “Union at Large” as their place of residence. Bridget was very specific about her place of residence.

 

These next two I’m fairly certain are Earl Grey orphans.

CHRISTIANA WYNNE per Digby

Among my family reconstitution forms I found another well-written letter from D. R. Mercer in Clayfield, Brisbane, dated 19 September 1988. It concerned a young nineteen year old Dubliner, Christiana Wynne. The letter writer supplied me with information I entered alongside Christiana’s name in the first volume of Barefoot (p.48). Alas, there was no response to my request to enter their name in the second volume of Barefoot, ten years later. Christiana may have travelled to Brisbane on the Eagle on that infamous voyage described by cuddy-boy James Porter (John Oxley Library Manuscripts Mss OM 68-18). She already had something of a reputation for in June 1849 she charged her master with assault. See case number 11 in the list of cancelled indentures at the Sydney Water Police Court http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf

But she married well, to William Darling in Brisbane, 20 May 1850. William was a canny Scot originally from Fifeshire. The family owned a farm on the banks of the Brisbane River, possibly employing Kanak labour. When she died in 1892 she left an estate valued at £3313.00. Here is part of her will which shows the names of some of her children and how careful she was with her money.

blogfocwynnedigby Note the names of some of her married daughters, Margaret McGuire, Christiana McWhiney, Annie Tandevine(?), Cecilia Hockings, and Jessie Mercer.

 

CATHERINE MADDEN per Tippoo Saib

Information about Catherine Madden also came to me through correspondence with one of her descendants, in May 1991. Unfortunately I only have her first name, Jacqui. She was living in Windsor, Brisbane at the time.

blogfocamaddenodonnell

My Barefoot had Catherine as a sixteen year old from Glascoreen (Glasscarn townland?) County Westmeath. Jacqui told me she was born and baptised in Mullingar in February 1834, the daughter of James Madden and Catherine McLoughlin. I wonder if we can confirm this on the National Library Of Ireland website ? There is a great collection of parish records for Mullingar: whoa, there she is http://registers.nli.ie/registers/vtls000639815#page/59/mode/1up

Catherine, first employed in Sydney by a Captain Gilbert, had her indentures cancelled at the WPO (Water Police Office Court) for absconding. See number 238, 14 March 1851 in the tables in this blog post https://earlgreysfamineorphans.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/earl-greys-irish-famine-orphans-22/

According to Immigration Correspondence in the State Records of NSW, she was sent to Moreton Bay, 2 September 1851.

Two years later she married native born James O’Donnell in Ipswich (23 September 1853). James, son of a convict, worked on a property called Rosenthal near Warwick. It was there that most of their twelve children were born. Jacqui’s research showed there was often a gap of several months between the children’s date of birth and their baptism. Later in life Catherine bought land, and was licensee of a hotel in Warwick called Rose Inn. In her will she is described as a Boarding House keeper. Perhaps this is how she managed after her husband died? Catherine herself died 4 April 1898 of ‘Dengue fever, Cerebral Haemorrhage and convulsions’. Her son, twenty two year old, George, the sole beneficiary of her will, was the informant. He thought his mother was only 56.

I’ll stop here for now.

“Let us go then you and I,

When the evening is spread out against the sky

Like a patient etherized upon a table;” (T.S Eliot)

 

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Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (46): B&P?, (d), vol.1, Introduction, pp.18-23

B&P?1 Introduction (d)

Thought I’d post the last of my 1991 Introduction tout suite. May you find it tout sweet. My thanks to the wonderful Pat Loughrey for the uplifting ending. He’ll recognize it from the BBC Northern Ireland Radio programme on the Famine orphans he did with me in 1987. He may even remember that hot day we went to interview a descendant of the Devlin girls, Mrs Merrilyn Minter. My sincere and heartfelt thanks to her for sharing her family history.

As before, I’ll add some notes and references a bit later. Meantime I’ll add a couple of pics and a verse of poetry for your be/a-musement.

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Part of the Monument to the Great Irish Famine at Hyde Park Barracks, Sydney (Angela and Hussein Valamanesh)

Is anyone having trouble making the text larger?

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From a poem by one of Ireland’s foremost poets writing in Irish, Louis de Paor.

The poem is Dán Grá/Love Poem in a collection called Aimsir Bhreicneach/Freckled weather, Leros Press, Canberra, 1993

...Chomh sámh. Chomh

naofa. Foc na

comharsain. Bimis

ag bruíon gan stad./So unburdened.

So serene.

Fuck the neighbours.

Let’s fight all the time.

Anyone interested in Irish poetry may wish to follow Doireann Ní Ghríofa

too.

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Parramatta 1847 courtesy State Library NSW

Parramatta 1847
courtesy State Library NSW “Sketches of New South Wales, Tasmania and Victoria”, by Lempriere and others, ca. 1830-1869.  Call number: DL PXX 39

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Notes for page 18

My post on ‘Cancelled Indentures’ is at http://wp.me/p4SlVj-vf

For what I have to say about the Parliamentary enquiry involving Immigration Agent H.H. Browne http://wp.me/p4SlVj-BT

and http://wp.me/p4SlVj-D6

Page 19

One quick way of searching if an orphan nominated another family member for passage to Australia is via the Remittance Records and Immigration Deposits Journals held in State Record and Archives New South Wales. I remember Pastkeys produced microfiche of these records in 1988. Maybe your local library in Australia has a copy. Here’s a link to the copy in the National Library,  http://catalogue.nla.gov.au/Record/618359

After 1857, SRNSW 4/4579, the Immigration Deposits Journals not only give the name of the depositor but also a full description of the person(s) for whose benefit remittance is being made.

One even finds Remittance certificates among general Immigration Correspondence in the NSW State Archives, for example,  SRNSW 9/6197, 4 August 1852, 16 year old Cathy Morgan of Enmore, per John Knox, deposited £8, nominating 39 year old Rose and 12 year old Jane Morgan presently in Kilkeel workhouse, County Down. This orphan was eager to bring her mother and sister to Australia! One would have to check shipping records to see if they actually came to Australia.

It would be good to know if descendants of the orphans had searched these records; it would test the accuracy of my claim that these were exceptional cases.

page 21

For an early map of the orphans’ scattering throughout Eastern Australia see http://wp.me/p4SlVj-Sw

pages 20-23

There is more information about the ‘gems’ a demographic study of the orphans uncovers in my introduction to volume two of Barefoot…? (2001/2). Here’s one extract. “Our ‘typical’ famine orphan, if such a person ever existed, was a teenage servant from Munster who was Roman Catholic and able to read. Both her parents were dead (almost a quarter of those who came to New South Wales had one parent still alive). She married when she was nineteen, within two and a half years of disembarking in the colony (two thirds of those traced, married in less than three years of their arrival) most likely to an Englishman, ten or eleven years her senior, and of different religion from her own…If she was lucky enough to escape the hazardous years of childbirth, her completed family size was nine children. The famine orphans had a higher age-specific marital fertility rate than other Irish-born migrant women. In New South Wales and Victoria our ‘typical’ orphan could expect to live another forty years, and in Queensland another fifty years after she arrived”. pp.3-4.

Some readers may wish to measure their own orphan against this ‘typical’ one. Lots of other questions are worth asking; why did the orphans who went to Queensland live longer? Queensland orphans also appeared to have fared better, in the sense they had the highest proportion of estates valued at more than £1000. How many of the orphans married former convicts or ‘exiles’? Did any of them suffer domestic abuse? How many ended their final days in an institution of one kind or another? I’ve suggested the orphans life experience was as complex as the human condition itself. We need to be careful with the generalizations we make.

Have a look at my final sentence in the introduction to Barefoot vol.1 above.

May I finish by drawing attention to the annual ‘gathering’ of orphan descendants, and others, at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney on the final Sunday in August? The Melbourne ‘mob’ meet in November in Williamstown, details later.

see  http://irishfaminememorial.org/www.irishfaminememorial.org

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.

belfastsculpture

 

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digging for potatoes

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blog1bpintro16Some 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.

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (38):some useful websites and links

USEFUL WEBSITES and links

Whilst I make up my mind whether to continue with this, revise what I have with a view to publication in hard-copy, or just abandon it, I thought you might like to play with some of these web links. It’s only in the last fifteen years or so that the internet has become a useful research tool for most of us in Australia. One day we may have internet access as reliable as people in South Korea and Japan. (Tell him he’s dreamin’).

As I’m sure everyone is aware, what’s available on the web is still only a tiny fraction of what exists in archives.  For instance I don’t think all the Reports of Immigrant ships into Port Jackson are digitised yet. State Records New South Wales (SRNSW) has 4/2823 (Lady Peel); 4/2907 (John Knox); 4/2914A (Tippoo Saib). Am I right or am I right? The encouraging news is how many more records are becoming available minute by minute, day by day. What I find most impressive is how easily and how quickly we can communicate with one another. There’s a downside too but we’ll not worry about that just now.

I’ve put together a selection of links I hope you’ll explore. Most of them appear somewhere on my blog. One or two do not. They are in no particular order, except that two and three tell you about the ‘Gatherings’ in Sydney and Melbourne that celebrate the Earl Grey orphans each year. Most are both educational and informative. And lots are merely entry points for you to do your own research. Happy surfing! Hope you’re waving, not drowning.

http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

http://www.irishfaminememorial.org

https://tintean.org.au/2015/11/12/irish-ambassador-at-famine-rock-commemoration-2015/

http://mykerryancestors.com/sharing-your-kerry-ancestors

http://mayoorphangirls.weebly.com

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/hindsight/the-famine-girls/4857904

https://vimeo.com/75656628

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QrOWw_qZ0sY

https://viewsofthefamine.wordpress.com/

http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/

http://trove.nla.gov.au

http://registers.nli.ie

http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Ireland/

http://www.convictwomenandorphangirls.com/Convict_Women/Home.html

http://www.irelandsgreathunger.com/about.html

http://ighm.org/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0p4pNJFrsTE

http://sydneylivingmuseums.com.au/stories/irish-orphan-girls-hyde-park-barracks

http://www.slideshare.net/GeobitsLtd/mapping-the-great-irish-famine-mike-murphy

http://tobinfamilyhistoryaus.blogspot.com.au/2013/03/stephen-tobin-ch9-sister-ellen-tobin.html

http://jakiscloudnine.blogspot.ie/2015/02/the-genesis-of-belfastgirls-at.html?m=1

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (36):an uplifting story, Bridget McMahon from Limerick 

Unfinished Stories (3)

(The featured image at the head of this post is of Marjorie Collins in the laboratory at Adelaide University. It is reproduced courtesy of the University of Adelaide Archives).

Bridget McMahon per Maria (1850)

Let me tell you an uplifting story. It’s the story of a famine orphan, Bridget McMahon, from Rathkeale workhouse in County Limerick.

I’m very grateful to Bridget’s descendant, Dr Eleanor Dawson, for sharing the information she has about Bridget’s history. People may know Eleanor from episode four of Barrie and Síobhán’s docudrama, Mná Díbeartha. Eleanor was interviewed early in 2009(?) if my memory is correct. She and I have some things in common. Obviously, an interest in the Famine orphans. We also share a profound belief in the value of education. And coincidentally, we share a medical history. My father died of tuberculosis when he was 31 years old; Eleanor contracted tuberculosis at 16 in her last year(s) of school. She was sent home to bed within the hour of her first ever X-ray, after 3 months of productive cough and lethargy. With home tutors, including her mother, she came out top of the New South Wales Leaving Certificate examination in 1944. Her uncle Archie, a medical man, saved her life, she says. In the days before antibiotics, from 1943 to 1947, he regularly inserted, under local anaesthetic, a cannula between the left lung and thoracic wall, creating an artificial pneumothorax collapsing the worse affected lung and its apical cavity, thereby promoting rest and healing. (Thank you Eleanor for information about the procedure. Eleanor too is a medical graduate; also a researcher, and a retired psychiatrist).

There are some differences between us too. I’m a trained historian who is concerned with historical context; what was the Famine like in Limerick, for instance. I would encourage would-be orphan family historians not to neglect the Irish context of their orphan. And to look for those things that help make ‘our’ family members more than ‘singular’ and unique but representative of something larger. For the advice Alison Light gives in her Common People, see http://wp.me/p4SlVj-Gf

 Eleanor has a closer relationship with a particular orphan, Bridget McMahon, her great-grandmother, than I could ever have. With her training in medicine and psychiatry, she is inclined towards her family’s medical history, and towards a professional understanding of the emotional and psychological dimension of such a family history.

Still, if we were preparing a television programme such as Who do you think you are? we’d tell you we intend focusing on Bridget’s distaff line; from Bridget to her daughter Annie Marie Long (later Collins), to granddaughter, Marjorie Collins (later Shiels), all the way to her great-granddaughter, Eleanor Shiels (later Dawson). How appropriate is that? It is Bridget’s mitochondrial line, mtydna. And if you allow me some licence, I’d say there is much of Bridget in Eleanor Dawson. She is quiet and unassuming, not given to blowing her own trumpet, highly intelligent, resilient, resourceful and a character as strong as tempered steel.

I’m telling you all this because it is important we examine where we are coming from. We, all of us, should be aware, and wary of, the ways our beliefs and values influence how we interpret the past. Self reflection is important.

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Let us begin with Bridget herself. Eleanor tells us, according to the New South Wales Board of Immigration shipping record of the Maria (the penultimate Earl Grey orphan vessel to arrive in Sydney, at the end of June 1850) Bridget could read but not write. She was a dressmaker, Roman Catholic by religion, and of good health, strength and possible usefulness. When she went from Ireland to join the shipload of ‘sister-orphans’ in Plymouth, her father John McMahon was dead, and her mother, Penelope ní Carroll, was living in Rathkeale, County Limerick, possibly in that very workhouse Bridget had left.

On Rathkeale workhouse, see Peter Higginbotham’s great website, http://workhouses.org.uk/Rathkeale/

Something of a mystery

There is a discrepancy between Bridget’s age (19) recorded on the Maria shipping list and the age she gave (22) at the time of her marriage to Samuel Long in 1858. We have searched Limerick Catholic parish records high and low for Bridget’s baptismal record and the marriage record of her parents, John McMahon and Penelope Carrol(l), without success.

[What a valuable resource is the National Library of Ireland’s online record of Catholic parish records. See http://registers.nli.ie Happy hunting and may your eyes be strong!]

What we did find was Penelope’s baptism, 6 January 1815, ‘Penelope of John Fitzgerald Fmr and Naby(?) Carrol, townland of Caherelly, parish of Ballybricken and Bohermore, sponsor, Mary Soolivan’. This link should take you there. Click on the plus sign at the top of the page to make the image larger.

http://registers.nli.ie/registers/vtls000632644#page/38/mode/1up

Penelope is such a distinctive name. This is the only Penelope we found in Limerick parish records. Our priestly authority, Tom Power, suggests the local priest may not have been happy with the name, it not being ‘Christian’ enough. But Penelope definitely retained it. She is recorded as Penelope Carroll at the birth of Bridget’s sister Mary, in Rathkeale parish, 2 October 1836, and as a sponsor at the baptism of James Quin in the same parish, 22 January 1839. I wonder where the name originated. Perhaps Naby or John learned of it at a Hedge school. Had they heard of Homer’s Odysseus? Maybe Penelope’s determination to keep the name, Penelope ní Carroll, was not so uncommon. Or perhaps she had a rebellious nature, or at least, an independent spirit.

We searched for Bridget’s baptism and her parents’ marriage, especially in  Ballybricken and Rathkeale, and in the parishes in between. We assume both events occurred in parishes where appropriate records have not survived, maybe in Cappagh, Banogue, or Croagh.

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And what of the Famine in Limerick?  It certainly threw Bridget into Rathkeale workhouse. Her father may have been a famine death. Limerick had high rates of people being evicted from their holdings during the Famine, and large numbers of people being employed on public works, breaking stones and making roads. Its port exported tonnes of grain during the Famine years, and imported tonnes of maize or Indian corn, making large profits for corn factors and millers. That corn may have helped save Bridget’s life.

The Famine in Limerick, especially around Rathkeale, is something worth researching further. I have to hand notes I made from a local newspaper, The Limerick Reporter. [Which reminds me, Macquarie University Library has microfilm copies of some Irish newspapers at the time of the orphans’ emigration. From memory, The Galway Vindicator and Connaught Advertiser, The Clare Journal, The Fermanagh Mail and Enniskillen Chronicle, and The Armagh Guardian].

Bridget and her mother surely knew what was happening around them: of the women rioting in the William Street Auxiliary workhouse in Limerick, 13 April 1849? Or of the women rioting in Nenagh workhouse in Barrack street in the same month? Or of John Sheehan P.P. telling of the frightful destitution in Ennistymon, County Clare, “The meal depots are more crowded than our chapels, but these must appear, to have their poverty paraded, with their spectral shapes, and skeleton forms, half-naked and in rags, eaten alive with filth and squalor and vermin…”, Limerick Reporter, April and May 1849.

The following report may have reached them too. It is from the Reporter’s Milltown Malbay correspondent, printed 26 October 1849.

“I was witness to an interesting exhibition at the Ennistymon workhouse, viz. the emigration of twenty-three female paupers selected by the active Vice-Guardians Messrs. Naish and Ward for the sunny clime of Australia. Under the careful superintendence of Miss Griffith, the Matron, these fortunate creatures appeared to excellent advantage in their tasteful costumes, cottage bonnets and green veils, bidding an eternal farewell to the unfortunate land of their birth, while their ruddy health and contented mien, contrasted painfully with the squalid wretchedness of 500 miserable beings at the gates, claimants for admission.”

Did some of the orphans carry guilt in their psychological baggage when they left for Australia?

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Out of Ireland

Unfortunately we do not know who employed Bridget in Australia. There is a family story she was seamstress to the Blaxlands  at Bathurst and Ryde. It may only be one of those stories that families create. We have not been able to confirm it.  Yet the story can be traced to someone who knew Bridget when she was still alive, so we shall not dismiss it out of hand. What we do know is that she married Samuel Long,  a Protestant, from County Tyrone, in 1858, nearly eight years after she arrived. She wasn’t having any of that ‘daggers drawn fighting on a narrow ground’ (Walter Scott). She was prepared to marry across the religious divide.

In 2005, Eleanor asked if I would take a short detour from my trip to Donegal and look for Samuel’s place of origin in the parish of Ardstraw, townland of Ballyfolliard, County Tyrone. No worries. It is now a rich and fertile dairy farming area, not jam-packed with people as in the 1850s.

ardstrawfolliard

 

“And we call that crossroads Tobair Vree. And why do we call it Tobair Vree. I’ll tell you why. Tobair means a well. But what does Vree mean? It’s a corruption of Brian… an erosion of Tobair Bhriain. Because a hundred and fifty years ago there used to be well there…And an old man called Brian …drowned in that well… What do we do with a name like that? Do we scrap Tobair Vree altogether and call it what?–The Cross? Crossroads? Or do we keep piety with a man long dead…?” (Brian Friel, Translations, Act two, scene one).

Samuel Long, Eleanor informed me, was one of six sons of a tenant farmer of the Duke of Abercorn. He was literate, had been in the Irish Constabulary and arrived in the Vocalist, in Port Jackson, in October 1856, with two of his brothers. An uncle by marriage, established for some years as a farmer in Wollongong, had paid for them under Remittance Regulations. Aged 26, 24, and 22, they were designated as farm labourers but all were soon absorbed into the Colonial Service. Samuel became a labourer, then a senior attendant and then the storekeeper at the Tarban Creek Lunatic Asylum. In 1869, Tarban Creek Asylum became Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville. 

Building, Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville, c.1883

Building, Hospital for the Insane, Gladesville, c.1883. Courtesy State Records New South Wales

Samuel and Bridget had a long association with such institutions. Samuel later became institutional storekeeper at the Newcastle Asylum for Imbeciles and Idiots, as it was named, 1871-1914. After the loss of her eighth and last Gladesville-born child as a premature baby, Bridget acted as de facto gatekeeper in Newcastle, for a time.

Both of them must have had some sort of relationship with other members of staff and some of the patients, we would suggest. The institutional records that have survived will allow us to put their lives into historical context. It is a task for another time. It will not be for the faint-hearted.

Later in life Samuel became senior attendant at the Australian Museum in College Street, Sydney. Bridget Ann Long (nee McMahon) and Samuel Long each died in the care of their childless son Robert and his wife Rebecca at their Waverley home in November 1913 and February 1914. Their unpretentious headstone overlooks the Pacific ocean at Waverley cemetery.

Ann Maria Collins (1863-1921)

Around the same time the New South Wales government introduced plans to ‘improve’ Gladesville Mental Hospital, it sought to reform public education. A new Education Act or Public Instruction Act was passed in 1880 making education compulsory for all 6 to 14 year olds. As a result, there would be an enormous increase in the number of schools in New South Wales. State Aid was withdrawn from denominational schools and three new types of schools were created, Superior Public, High, and Evening Public schools. See http://www.governmentschools.det.nsw.edu.au/story/instruction_act.shtm

Ann Maria Long was to marry James Patrick Collins, a Limerick man who had arrived via Canada to take up a post with the new Department of Public Instruction. The couple would move around New South Wales as James moved from post to post. He first taught at Swan Bay and Woodford Leigh before moving to Lismore Public. This last was to become a Superior Public school during James’s time. It prepared some students for matriculation to the University of Sydney. After their home was flooded and one of their children had died of diphtheria and Annie about to be confined with baby Archie Collins, James’s request for a transfer was accepted. The family moved to Richmond where the couple’s last three children were born. In 1897 James was appointed to Manly school and the family lived in the schoolmaster’s residence in Darley Road (now demolished).

Sadly, James died aged 42, leaving behind 34 year old Annie with six surviving children. Annie herself would die when she was only 57. Somewhere in that gene pool lies a seemingly random family ‘time-bomb’? Annie was able to manage after James’s early death…by teaching. She and her eldest son, Clarence Richard, worked as pupil teacher and work mistress, moving from one rented accommodation to another. With the help of bursaries Annie put four children through Sydney University, at a time when the number of people going to University was very small. As Sydney University says, it was ‘a brilliant family’… Clarence Richard Collins, B. A., Archibald John Collins M.B. Ch.B, Rosalie Helena Collins, B. A. and…

Near the outbreak of the First World War, in 1913, Archie completed his medical studies. He was to graduate with first class honours and awarded the Walter and Eliza Hall traveling scholarship for medical research in London. Instead, he served with distinction in the Australian Imperial Force (AIF) in France, being awarded the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) and Military Cross (MC) for gallantry in charge of a casualty clearing station. He was later knighted for services to medicine and served the University of Sydney as a Senator for many years. What a tale Eleanor’s family has to tell of Archie.

The fourth graduate was Eleanor’s mother, Marjorie Collins, B.Sc. and M.Sc.

Marjorie Shiels (1895-1970)

Marjorie Collins. Courtesy of the University of Sydney Archives G3/224/1415

Marjorie Collins. Courtesy of the University of Sydney Archives G3/224/1415

Marjorie Collins was also a brilliant scholar. Like her brother Archie and her younger sister, she was Dux of Fort Street School. For a synopsis of her academic career see http://sydney.edu.au/arms/archives/history/students_early_women_Collins.shtml

She graduated with first class honours in Botany from Sydney University in 1916. She was a pioneer botanical ecologist who was awarded the first Master of Science (M.Sc.) degree at Sydney University in 1924.

 In 1917, Marjorie’s outstanding undergraduate career led to a position as lecturer and demonstrator at Adelaide University working with Professor T.G.B.Osborn.

Here is the featured photograph again with Marjorie acting as demonstrator in one of Professor Osborn’s classes. Our thanks to the University of Adelaide Archives.

Marjorie Collins in the laboratory

Marjorie Collins in the laboratory

Marjorie’s biographer, Dr Claire Hooker, tells us that Marjorie’s stay at Adelaide inspired her to examine some of the big questions about the effects of climate “on vegetation and on the ecology of semi-arid regions”, what today we would describe as environmentalist concerns. She loved the land she studied and developed early ideas about conservation.

At the end of 1919 she returned to Sydney to take up a Linnaean Macleay fellowship. She was the first botany candidate to win such a fellowship, a fellowship “that required extensive, rough fieldwork”. Undaunted, Marjorie held Linnaean Macleay fellowships until 1924 and in that year, she won a Sydney University Medal for her M.Sc. examination in Botany, and graduated with first class honours. But as Dr Hooker opines, Marjorie “was to find being a pioneer painful and difficult, both as a woman scientist and as an ecologist”. In 1925 she left academia.

After marrying, Marjorie taught in schools for long periods, wrote natural history articles, and co-authored widely used Honours Leaving Certificate school textbooks on Biology and Practical Biology.  She inspired many school-students with her enthusiasm and warmth, not least her daughter, Eleanor, who was also to carve out her own distinguished career as doctor, researcher and psychiatrist.

Eleanor Dawson

Here is a photograph of Eleanor Shiels when she graduated from Sydney University, in 1951. She was already four months into junior residency at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital and one month married to Edward Dawson. A compromise would soon be arranged with the Hospital Board.

Eleanor Shiels at Graduation MB BS 1951

Eleanor Shiels at Graduation MB BS 1951

Eleanor’s career spanned medicine and psychiatry. Her CV, she says, is on her bucket-list. But at least I know after she retired she continued her good work writing about, and making submissions to professional bodies and to parliament on the ethics of psychiatrist-patient relations. Now in her twilight years she is still learning, this time, how to care for her life-partner and soul-mate, Edward Dawson.

Let me finish by sharing with you a poem she wrote just over a year ago; it sheds light on the very personal nature of family history. I’ll call it “Eleanor’s poem”. Eleanor may prefer another title.

Eleanor’s poem

At fifty-seven my mother’s mother suddenly died

in the twenty-fourth year of her widowhood.

Epidemic losses from her married years had numbered three;

diphtheria and typhoid, and then pneumonic flu.

Two sons had come back safe from Flanders’ fields,

from Passchendale and Zonnebecke,

the elder wounded, the younger decorated,

eventually even knighted and stated by his ultimate valedictorian

to have forged his soul in the crucible of battle.

But in that family didn’t they all?

Alone my teacher grandmother had raised the six survivors of her seven children

to lives of study, sacrifice and service.

Aided by bursaries, two of her daughters and two sons alike

graduated with honours from her ever-moving suburb-to-suburb household,

fine paradigm of need and equal opportunity.

Then came cancer and post-operative embolism.

At fifty-seven she suddenly died, never having seen or held a grandchild.

At fifty-seven her only married daughter did become a grandmother.

That daughter stood beside me, raptly looking down upon my snugly cotted offspring;

sharing my delight, warmly encouraging yet gently warning me

about the scant-envisaged future years she labelled ‘work and thrall’.

She’d reminisced then how Camilla Wedgwood,

doyenne of 1920s Sydney academic scene,

had viewed me years before in that same cot, tut-tutting, ‘what a waste!’

And with that memory, my mother, a humorously self-styled bluestocking

conspired with me to recognize that even clever women in high places

do not know everything.

Years later, at fifty-seven, now long years ago, I myself was pondering the past;

coming to realize ever so slowly, that I’d not need and must not want a grandchild,

if that child had to be a cold-store embryo or else a long-day child-care baby.

Time would tell.

For at twenty-one my eldest grandchild told me of his dream-

a dream of living with his soul-mate in a tree house

and taking babies for picnics in a forest.

with an email chuckle-sign he asked for help-

help to work out how to make his dream come true.

“We are such stuff as dreams are made on,

and our little life is rounded with a sleep”.

(Eleanor Dawson 13/02/2015)

Eleanor has long been a supporter of the Irish Famine Monument at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney. Here she is with the Irish Ambassador Declan Kelly  at a wreath-laying ceremony at the the Monument in 2002.

Dr Eleanor Dawson and Ambassador Kelly

Dr Eleanor Dawson and Ambassador Kelly

[A gathering at the Irish Famine Monument takes place each year on the last Sunday of August. This year, 2016, the guest speaker will be Tim Costello. See http://www.irishfaminememorial.org for details].

Eleanor understands and is proud of her connection to her Irish Famine orphan, Bridget McMahon, from County Limerick. Let me remind you of her wonderful lineage: Penelope Carroll–Bridget McMahon–Ann Maria Collins–Marjorie Shiels–Eleanor Dawson. Or as Jaki McCarrick puts it in her play, “you…are a great gift to Australia, and don’t ya forget it”.

Once again a link to the contents of my blog http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

EARL GREY’S IRISH FAMINE ORPHANS (29):Where to from here? Telling orphan stories and some issues involved

WHERE TO FROM HERE?

Dublin Famine sculpture

Dublin Famine sculpture

 

When I came to the end of my last post I wondered if I should write a conclusion to the whole series. Maybe something on the Earl Grey Irish Famine orphans’ contribution to Australia. Was H. H. Browne correct in his assessment? Were the orphans of little use, and ‘distasteful’ to the majority of colonists ? Or did they make an valuable contribution? Along with convict women, they became ‘mothers to the Australian character’?  However, if they are set in context beside the c. 9,000 single Irish females who immigrated to New South Wales in 1840-41, the 5,000 who came to South Australia in the mid 1850s, or the 70% of female government assisted migrants to Victoria in the 1850s, we might gain a more realistic picture of where they stand. This is not to deny the orphans their unique position as destitute famine refugees. Nor the particular hardships they faced.  To do this might require me going back over everything,– to reorganize, rewrite, polish, and rewrite again. Maybe a publisher would be interested in  a small print run.

But then I remembered what I’d written in earlier posts (4, 13 and 19) about histories of individual orphans. Could we reconstruct their experience at local level in Ireland and match it with the same detailed local history in Australia? Could we put together life histories of individual orphans, maybe even inter-generational family histories? Or compare their experience in different regions–the Illawarra and Hunter Valley in New South Wales, around Ipswich in what was to become Queensland, the goldfields of Victoria or Clare Valley in South Australia, for instance? And what do we do with the ‘lost’ souls, the Mary Littlewoods or Georgina Mulhollands or the Mary Ryans we cannot find?  http://wp.me/p4SlVj-p7 outlined some of the problems we’d face.

How to tell the orphans’ stories raises all sorts of issues: properly navigating copyright issues and acknowledging one’s debt to others; how best such family histories might be integrated into a larger historical context. I particularly liked the way Kay Caball wove orphan family histories into her Kerry Girls. Elizabeth Rushen and Perry McIntyre put information about individual Red Rover (eary 1830s) women into an Appendix in their Fair Game (Anchor Books, 2010). Doing something similar would only enhance my little history of the Irish Famine orphans–should I have the talent or the energy. But don’t hold your breath. I wouldn’t want to trespass on people’s privacies.

——

One work I’ve lately been taking inspiration from, is the delightful Common People by Alison Light (Penguin, 2015). Let me try to understand why. It’s a book that shows me just what family history can be, maybe even should (?) be like.

I’m a sucker for good writing whether it’s Ames talking to Jack Boughton at the end of Gilead (Marilynne Robinson); or a black crow and Morrigan at the end of Gun Street Girl (Adrian McKinty); or whether it’s lyrical writing, full of pathos, or hard-headed, clear, honest and direct as it is in Common People. Here’s how Alison Light writes about the death of her great-grandmother Sarah Hill, in Netherne Asylum, in 1911.

The Register of deaths confirmed the information on her death certificate: she died on 18 June from ‘exhaustion’ after sixteen days of mania…

There were far more questions than answers. ‘Mania’ is deemed a ‘mood disorder’, generally characterized as a state of wild, feverish elation, a hyperactive state of restlessness and often irritability, which leads to sleeplessness. But in the nineteenth century ‘mania’ was an umbrella term…In fact nothing about Sarah’s mania or her death ‘from exhaustion’ could be taken for granted. If she died of heart failure after a fortnight’s frenetic activity and no sleep, she was also likely to be near starvation. Those who were raving were hard to feed, words pouring out of their mouths so that they could take nothing in. Might Sarah have survived in a private asylum in her own comfortable, quiet room with the special care of the best doctors…? As with her sojourn in the workhouse as a child, the adult Sarah had arrived in a public institution at perhaps the worst time in its history.” (pp.166-67)

Her transparent, in your face, honest presence throughout the book is a real breath of fresh air for someone like myself who was trained to distance oneself and write history essays and theses in the third person. We were taught objectivity may not be achievable but it is always worth striving for. Laudable aims, I’m sure. Yet Alison Light’s presence–she’s everywhere–makes her work very personal. It gives a piquant sharpness to her book which makes it interesting to readers other than her immediate family and like minded ancestor hunters.

I…hoped that my speaking voice would anchor the reader as we moved through time (p.xxiv)…I find that her people had long been on the move (19)…I need a larger-scale atlas as William travels back into his childhood (19)…In the wake of my father’s death I took to tinkering about in the Portsmouth Record Office (70)…I feel tender towards those who refused to conform…cocking a snook…at squire and parson (117)…If anywhere can claim to be my ancestral home it is the workhouse. Somebody in every generation fetched up there (233)…I now know that nothing about a graveyard can be taken at face value (252)”.

What lifts her book to a wider audience still, is her self-reflection, and examination of why so many people research their family’s past. A reader must be made of stone not to stop and think about her ‘meditations’.

My first instinct in writing Common People was to find the people who had been missing from my past. I wanted…to rescue them…from sheer oblivion (p.xxv)… When my father was very ill with cancer, I went in search of his mother’s grave. It was an odd, possibly morbid thing to do. Family history begins with missing persons—missed in both senses of the word. But when do we register an absence as a loss? (p.11)…Family is never one organism but fissiparous, endlessly dividing itself. In a family tree everyone seems connected, but in life families ‘fragment’…People want to know where they came from but they also want to know where they could have gone and why their branch of the family did not go there (93-4)…Genealogy has long fostered grandiloquent forms of family romance and been a source of reassurance to antiquarians, cranks and snobs…humble aspirants elevate themselves…believing there was once a family pile or manor in the past…If the creation of a nation rests on its ‘foundation myths’, family legends too, handed down the generations, are also the stuff, like dreams, of which we make ourselves (130)”.

Can you see yourself in any of this? Common People is full of such reflections challenging readers to ask themselves what exactly do they want, and why?

What appeals to me most of all about her book is how she does her damnedest to put her family into historical context. She is willing to cast her net widely, not only into nooks and crannies but over the big-picture historical context, as often, and as much as she can. Sure, in any family history there are dead-ends and blind alleys and people you’ll never really know but if you merely want a family tree, lives shrunk between dates in brackets, you’re missing the sweetest thing of all.

Any family history worth its salt will go further and ask questions about ‘economic forces’, politics, religious and social conditions, and the like. Alison Light invites us to take ourselves into ‘history’, with its different interpretations and debates and argumentative soul; make our family members more than ‘singular’ and unique but representative of something larger. Her book is also about working-class Britain ‘on the move’ during industrialisation in the nineteenth century; her ancestors act as ‘intermediaries between the living and the dead’ charting an unglorious story of poverty throughout much of the twentieth as well. (Many of these phrases are hers. I do them less than justice).

——–

We may regret that we don’t have the same wealth of resources at our disposal in Ireland or Australia–not the same access to census data, or county histories, or a tremendously rich array of local social histories, as Alison Light had for Common People. But don’t despair. I’m sure there’s plenty we can use. I’m not the best person to ask about this. Maybe others can make some suggestions?

I was pleasantly surprised when I had a quick look at my books, a library that’s been brutally downsized in recent years. I’d consider myself a very limited Australian historian but look what I found…some brilliant histories of ‘localities’,

Grace Karskens, The Rocks. Life in early Sydney, Melbourne U.P., 1997,

Don Watson, Caledonia Australis. Scottish Highlanders on the frontier in Australia, Vintage, 1997,

Mark McKenna, Looking for Blackfella’s Point. An Australian History of Place, UNSW Press, 2002,

 

a couple of fascinating ‘primary’ sources,

J. S. James, The Vagabond Papers, ed M. Cannon, Melbourne U.P., 1969,

William Kelly, Life in Victoria 1853 and 1858, Lowden, 1977,

 

and a couple of others you may need more than once,

G. Blainey, Black Kettle and Full Moon. Daily Life in a Vanished Australia, Viking, 2003 and

Gerald Walsh, Pioneering days. People and innovations in Australia’s rural past, Allen & Unwin, 1993.

 

I’m sure there are plenty more. Your local librarians, local historians and Archivists will be only too pleased to help you. See for instance two recent ones I mentioned in an earlier post, Libby Connors, Warrior, Allen & Unwin, 2015 and Tanya Evans, Fractured Families. Life on the margins in Colonial New South Wales, UNSW Press, 2015. Tanya with the help of family historians skilfully recounts the history of Jane Kelly per Digby in chapter five.

And what if we approached from a different direction? By travelling in the footsteps of the people you’re interested in? Here’s a link to Peter Higginbotham’s great website.

http://www.workhouses.org.uk/Ireland/

Go to Ballyshannon workhouse or whatever is left of it today and make your way to Dublin’s North Quay. Then, since there is no longer a boat to Portsmouth, take the ferry from Rosslare to Holyhead. You are experiencing a similar route to the one your orphan ancestor took. I travelled on that ferry a few times many, many, years ago. I’m not sure what it’s like today.

And in Australia, it may be impractical to travel as orphans did with Surgeon Strutt, by cart, over Razorback, southward to Yass and Gundagai. But you get the idea. Take the journey nonetheless.

Go to the workhouse ‘your’ orphan came from and travel to Dublin or Cork. Follow her footsteps as much as you can after she arrived in Adelaide, Sydney or Melbourne. It’s an experience worth having; you are trying to relive her ‘history’. Is that too crazy? I’m sure you will have other and better ideas. Perhaps you’d share them?

I travelled to a distant town

I could not find my mother

I could not find my father

I could not hear the drum

Whose ancestor am I?

(Edward Brathwaite, The New Ships in Masks, Oxford U. P. 1970)

My thanks to the late Lionel Chapman for the family photograph at the head of this post. It has Johanna Kelly in a wedding photograph in 1907.

 A link to the contents of my blog http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (17): Orphans ‘scattering’, some graphs and photos 

ORPHANS ‘SCATTERING’

&

some more graphs and some more  photo-graphs

These maps were drawn in the mid 1990s and thus need updating with material that has come to light since then. I’m putting them up because i know they are accurate and they still give a good idea how widely the orphans were ‘scattered’ throughout Eastern Australia in the second half of the 19th century.

Another reason is that mapping the orphans’ movements is a useful tool for discovering more about their history. Barbara Barclay has made excellent use of maps in her study of Famine orphans from County Mayo. There is no reason this cannot be done on a larger scale. I’ve already mapped the origin of the orphans based on the workhouses they were from (see blogpost 4). Could maps be drawn which show their more precise origins in Ireland, as well as their place of first employment in Australia, as indeed Barbara does for those from County Mayo, on her website www.mayoorphangirls.weebly.com ?

Is there not a computer programme that would allow us to map their movements over time? We could follow them between places of employment, and through marriage, birth and death records for much of their life. We’d need to find out more about such a programme. Does it exist already? There may be a lot of work involved?

The other maps I drew for Barefoot vol.2 were frozen at specific points in time, 1848-50; 1861; and c.1890-1900. They are still useful I hope. I’ve run the 1861 ones together for the map below, as indeed Mike Murphy did, in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine. The colonies of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland were ‘separated’ from one another by that date.

Location of the orphans in c.1861 from their childrens' birth registrations

Location of the orphans in c.1861 from their childrens’ birth registrations

I’ll add a couple more which might allow a closer look. The first is of Queensland in c. 1861.

Orphans in Queensland c. 1861

Orphans in Queensland c. 1861

The next is of New South Wales in c. 1861.Orphans in NSW c. 1861

And this one shows the location of Earl Grey Famine orphans in New South Wales at the time of their death in c. 1900.

Orphan locations from death certificates

 See post 12 for maps showing the location of orphans in Victoria.

WORKHOUSE GRAPHS

Here are some more graphs illustrating workhouse conditions, a bit of a throwback to earlier posts. You may wish to compare these with the ones in post 6.

Armagh workhouse in 1848


Enniskillen workhouse in 1848

Enniskillen Workhouse in 1848


South Dublin Workhouse in 1848

South Dublin Workhouse in 1848

ORPHAN PHOTOGRAPHS

 Now for some more orphan photographs and once again, my heartfelt thanks to the descendants who kindly sent me these to use.

Catherine Grady per New Liverpool

Catherine Grady per New Liverpool


Maria Maher per Thomas Arbuthnot and her graddaughter

Maria Maher per Thomas Arbuthnot and her granddaughter

Oh dear,  I still haven’t made much progress in mastering WordPress. I’ll try uploading some more and see what happens.

Rose Sherry per John Knox

Rose Sherry per John Knox


Mary Healy per Elgin and her husband

Mary Healy per Elgin and her husband


Mary Doherty per Eliza Caroline

Mary Doherty per Eliza Caroline  


Eliza McDermott per Tippoo Saib

Eliza McDermott per Tippoo Saib


Catherine Moriarty per Thomas Arbuthnot

Catherine Moriarty per Thomas Arbuthnot


Honora Haydon per Lady Peel

Honora Haydon per Lady Peel

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans 7 (c): The Voyage.. with orphan voices

The Voyage (cont.)

I’m going to have a go at this; an historian’s view of the female orphans’ voyage to Australia interspersed with, and in a blue typeface, imaginary voices or snippets of conversation from the young women themselves. I promise not to go ‘overboard’ with this (that’s terrible!). There is a great variety of possible ‘voices’-over 4,000 individual ones in fact. The psychological effects of the Famine, the loss of loved ones, their varied workhouse experiences and the different strategies they used to cope with life’s setbacks are all in the mix. So too must be the ebullience of young women setting out for a new life. I’ll do my best to immerse myself in the sources and not just pluck something out of the air. What I put into their mouths may be very different from what readers think they would say. But the benefits, I believe, outweigh the negatives; it helps us see the young women’s voyage differently and it gives them something they haven’t had before; a voice of their own, however inadequate that imaginary voice may be. At least it makes us view and think about the famine orphans from a different perspective.

Some very talented writers have had a go at this already. Kirsty Murray’s Bridie’s Fire, (Allen & Unwin, 2003), Evelyn Conlon’s  Not the Same Sky, (Wakefield Press, 2013) and Jaki McCarrick’s play, Belfast Girls scheduled for Artemesia Theater in Chicago in May 2015, show just how stimulating this approach can be. For example, Jaki McCarrick treats the voyage as a liminal space, a world– between the world they have left– and a world they have yet to see.  http://www.theatreinchicago.com/belfast-girls/7557/

Reflect on this. The long, three to four month, voyage was a transforming experience for the young women; for many it was the first time they had gone outside their small familiar world and met people and cultures other than their own. Friendships and alliances they made on board ship might be short-lived and fluid, or last well into their new Australian home, at least until they married. Virtually all of them lacked the family support that other Irish migrants had; thus their shipboard alliances became crucial to their survival and well being–ar scáth a chéile a mhaireann na daoine. (Under the shelter of each other, people survive).

Historians, in their own fashion, have long appreciated the importance of the voyage to Australia. Emigrants generally, “when at last they landed…were by no means the same people who had boarded ship months before” (Charlwood). What occurred was ‘a gradual and complex adjustment’  that sheds light on their subsequent behaviour (Campbell). Maybe they felt remorse at leaving Ireland, some becoming ultra-Irish in Australia, some “deliberately severing bonds with home, wishing to vanish and hear of it no more” (O’Farrell). Unwise of us, then, to dismiss the voyage as being of little significance, don’t you think?

—–

At the end of post number three (3) http://wp.me/p4SlVj-2p I outlined some of the arrangements Guardians of different workhouses made, outfitting and conveying to Plymouth the female orphans in their charge. The outline is clear enough–the clothes, the wooden boxes and other necessities–and the carts, Bianconi coaches, and trains that carried the young women to an Irish Port and thence to Plymouth. But the details often escape us.

Were the orphans’ clothes cut to the same style and shape? Were they of a dull grey and black or dark green colour? Some seamstresses we know used gingham. And at the International Irish Famine seminar in Sydney in 2013 one of the speakers talked of the availability of inexpensive, usually blue-patterned, cloth in mid nineteenth century. Exactly what were the  clothes  the young women wore? Were they tight-fitting, full length, allowing little freedom of movement? Were some of the young women wearing their own fitted shoes for the first time, or even wearing underwear for the first time? How did they wash? What toilet facilities were available to them? Maybe our concerns would not have been their concerns?

The orphans must have been quite a sight moving through the Irish countryside, making their way to a local train station or to a local port where they could catch a steamer to Dublin or Cork. What kind of cart, or coach, or train, did they travel in? How fast did it move? How comfortable were they? What did they do if it rained? “Aw Mr Donovan, Mr Donovan, what’ll happen if it rains?   Be quiet Bridie Ryan, ye’ll do as ye’ve always done, get wet; and dry out as ye’ve always done.” 

I never cease to be amazed at how little I know about these things, and about the private lives of the Earl Grey female orphans. It may be worth thinking about this a bit more, sometime in the future. In Ireland, was their family and their village the focus of their private life? Did communal living in a workhouse afford little time for solitude, or developing self-awareness? Did that  experience make them eager to create a family life for themselves once they arrived in Australia?

——-

Board of Guardian Arrangements

Apart from Edward Senior’s assembling orphans from a number of different workhouses, in Belfast, in May 1848, generally it was left to individual workhouses to arrange transport of ‘their own‘ orphans to Plymouth, the port of embarkation for all Australia bound Famine orphans. Most of them, it would seem, went first to Dublin where they boarded a steamer to take them to Plymouth.

A comprehensive survey of Board of Guardian minute books might tell us how many orphans departed via Cork. Kay Caball, for instance, reports in her Kerry Girls that orphans for the Elgin and John Knox, from Kenmare and Killarney, left from Penrose Quay in Cork. (The thirty-five young women from Killarney for the Elgin went first to Liverpool and thence to Plymouth, poor things). However, the orphans from Listowel and Dingle by the Thomas Arbuthnot and the Tippoo Saib left from Dublin. Síle Murphy, in Coppeen, tells me that orphans from Dunmanway and Skibbereen in West Cork also left from Penrose Quay in Cork. We know, too, from the Clonmel Board of Guardians’ Minute Books, that at least one group of women went to Cork, and others by rail to Dublin. Perhaps it all depended on who was available to examine the young women before they left Ireland.

Longford Board of Guardian Minute Book 29 November 1848

The following orders of the Poor Law Commissioners were laid before the Board and directions given thereon, as follows:

Dublin 24th November 1848 Enclosing a list of the Female emigrants selected by Lieut. Henry and directing that they arrive at Plymouth on the 4th December the day named for the sailing of the Vessel for South Australia and the necessity of their being in Dublin on Saturday 2nd December before 12 o’clock for the Duke of Cornwall steamer to take them to Plymouth.

[Then follows the names of 50 young women, ranging in age from 15 to 18 years.]

Resolved that Mr Doyle the Master do proceed in charge to Dublin and pay the necessary charge and expense…

Rossgrey (Roscrea) Board of Guardian Minute Book (Oct.1848-July 1849)

30 December 1848 A letter was received from Lt Henry, emigration officer, directing the Master to have the 60 girls who had been selected for emigration, in Dublin on the evening of the 9th instant. The Master stated that he would require a person to assist in escorting the emigrants to Dublin and a cheque for expenses. Ordered  and a cheque for expenses to be drawn…

17 February 1849 The Clerk having reported that the cost of the 60 emigrant girls forwarded from this Union was as follows:

Outfit of clothing and necessaries………………………………£228.12.2

Master and Assistant’s expenses escorting them ……………………5.0.0

Railway fares………………………………………………………13.3.6

Lodging and board in Dublin……………………………………..15.15.6

Cords and cards for boxes…………………………………………..2.3.0

Fares to Plymouth…………………………………………………40.10.0

Total                                                                                         £305.4.2

Clogheen (Tipperary) Board of Guardian Minute Book

7 July 1849

Resolved that the Clerk be directed to write to the Superintendent of the railroad station at Dublin requesting he will direct that the 3rd class carriage may be attached to the day mail train on Wednesday the 18th instant for the conveyance of the 26 females proposed for emigration to Australia or that he will give direction that they be permitted to travel in a second class carriage at the rate of fare paid for the 3rd class and to request an immediate answer.

Resolved that the Clerk be directed to write to Mr Bianconi requesting he will state on what terms he will provide for the conveyance of 26 females and that the person in charge with 26 boxes 2 feet long, 14 inches high and 14 inches wide from the Clogheen workhouse to the Dundrum Gold’s Cross railroad station on the morning of the 18th instant in time for sufficient for their further conveyance too Dublin by the day mail train…

Resolved that the Clerk be directed to purchase from Mr Hackett, stationer, Clonmel 26 prayer books and 26 Bibles (Douai) for the females proposed for emigration and that he be further directed to purchase any necessary articles which may be required for which provision has not already been made by the Guardians.

————

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Honora Haydon per Lady Peel


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Bridget Flannigan per Tippoo Saib


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Bridget Flood per Eliza Caroline

My thanks to all the descendants of Famine orphans who sent me photographs to use.

Crossing to Plymouth

Clearly, getting to Plymouth could be a complicated and expensive task. In the late 1840s Ireland’s railway network was limited. There was only about 120 miles of track in 1847 but things were improving so that by 1853 Dublin was connected by rail to Waterford, Limerick, Galway and Belfast (MacDonagh, Pattern, 1961). Still, many an Earl Grey orphan must have risen very early in the morning and travelled by cart, often in the dark, to join the mail train at a station closest to their workhouse. And what of those from remote parts, from Ballyshannon, from Ennistymon, from Listowel and Dingle, for example? Did they travel all the way to Dublin by cart? How good were the roads? Such conditions added hours even days to the initial stages of the orphans’ voyage.

One of the advantages of the unholy row concerning the ‘Belfast Girls’ who came by the first ship, the Earl Grey, is that we find detailed information about their voyage to Plymouth in the government enquiries that ensued. (The documents in the first volume of my Barefoot…? are all about that ‘unholy row’). Surprisingly, Edward Senior, Poor Law Inspector for the North-East of Ireland, wrote in defense of his choice of orphans that even “when their friends and relatives were crowding on the pier endeavouring to press into their ship, their conduct was exemplary…”. We sometimes forget the orphans had friends and relatives too. The letters orphans supposedly sent back from Brisbane and Sydney mention sisters and aunties and a step-mother to whom they wished to be remembered, and from whom they’d like a lock of hair: more than just the orphans themselves were affected by the Earl Grey scheme.

One can well imagine the scene when the young women left other workhouses, perhaps ‘keeners’ coming together in Irish speaking areas. Oliver MacDonagh (Pattern, 1961, pp.167-8) writes of ‘the piercing experience of parting’ for many an emigrant at this time: “some of the women would fall fainting when they saw any person going, others would hang out of the car to keep back the departing one; but when it would go, the whole lot, men and women, would raise a cry of grief that would wrest an echo from the peaks”. The young women on board the Thomas Arbuthnot, for example, fell to keening as they rounded the Cape of Good Hope on Christmas Day 1849, mná caointe literally letting their hair down, in small groups, moving rhythmically, perhaps registering their protest and renewal, defining themselves… Their keening was not about ‘mercenary tears’.  According to one witness, “…circle after circle rapidly formed, and the shrieks of grief and woe resounded through the good Thomas Arbuthnot from stem to stern”. (Reid and Mongan, ‘a decent set of girls’, p.123).

S ariú! Agus méliom féin
Dá mbeitheá go moch agam…
Agus och! och! ochón airiú! – gan thú!

(And now I’m on my own,
If I had you at the break of dawn…
Agus och! och! ochón airiú! – without you!)

Or maybe this one farewelled those going to join the Lismoyne in August 1849; it’s called Slán le Máigh. It’s associated with localities near the River Maigue.

Och, ochón, is breoite mise                                                            
gan chuid gan chóir gan chóip gan chiste 
gan sult gan seod gan spórt gan spionnadh 
ó seoladh mé chun uaignis.

(Alas, alas! ’tis sickly I am,
Without possessions or rights, without company or treasure,
Without pleasure or property, without sport or vigour,
Since I was sent into loneliness.)

(my thanks to Tom Power and Síle ní Murphy for this caoineadh)

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Cathy Fox per Earl Grey


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Eliza McDermott per Tippoo Saib


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Eliza Greenwood per Earl Grey

But back to the Earl Grey orphans: it was more than a week after leaving Belfast before they could board their ship at Plymouth. Their first journey would be long and uncomfortable. On the night of 24 May 1848, the young women from Dungannon, Cooktown, Armagh, Banbridge and other outlying workhouses slept in an auxiliary Belfast workhouse building in Barrack Street where Poor Law Inspector Senior called the roll.

Sarah Arlow         Heer, Sur

Isabella Banks      Here   sir

Susan Barnett        Here, sir

Annie Best           Sur, here

Margaret Best       Sur, here  (This is not the way, me trying to reproduce dialects. I should stop that.)

The next day they joined the orphans from Belfast workhouse and later that day, all 185 of them, made their way through the streets of Belfast to join the steamer Athlone at the docks. It was quite a parade, a long line of young women in the charge of James Caldwell, Ward Master, accompanied by PL Inspector Senior, maybe some other Workhouse officers and members of the Board of Guardians, and ‘friends’ of the orphan emigrants, all of them making their way from Belfast workhouse (now the City Hospital, am I right?) across town to the pier at the docks. Their boxes would have preceded them and been put on board in the hold before they arrived. Maybe the sun was shining that spring evening or a light drizzle fell on their faces? Maybe there was a lot of crying? Maybe there was laughter and banter? The next morning they arrived in Dublin, 26 May.

Other emigrant families joined this first shipload of female orphans in Dublin. But the orphans had to stay on board while Lieutenant Henry inspected them. Then they waited till the steamer left for Plymouth the following evening, the 27th. It was yet another 42 hours before they arrived at Plymouth Depot, at 2 o’clock on Monday 29 May! The following days were spent in the Depot being checked by representatives of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners and being organized into messes. James Caldwell later reported to the Otway enquiry (Barefoot…?, vol. 1) that one orphan had lost a shoe in landing and another lacked “two bed gowns and one petticoat that she had not been furnished with; I bought material to make her two bed gowns and one petticoat and gave it to her; the clothes of the Belfast girls were numbered, and a card, with a list of their clothing, nailed on the inside of the box…”.

Crossing by steamer from Dublin or Cork to Plymouth was probably the most uncomfortable part of the orphans’ long voyage. The steamers were known as ‘deckers’, that is, there was little protection from the elements. Our orphans may have slept lying down on the deck in crowded conditions, making do with the meagre supply of food they carried with them. There was plenty of time to be sea-sick, or be drenched by the rain. Ach Jeez Mary Boyle will ye move over and let me lie down? Eliza Carroll’s just been sick. I don’t want to sleep next to her.

The Plymouth Emigrant Depot

In October 1849, Surgeon Charles Strutt, the best Surgeon the orphans could have wished for, saw that orphans intended for the Thomas Arbuthnot were in a miserable, bedraggled, soaking-wet state when they arrived in Plymouth. He organized a bath for over a hundred of them. One can only hope that other surgeons were capable of such kindness. Many an Earl Grey orphan appreciated a good meal and a decent night’s sleep in the Emigration Depot before boarding the vessel that would take her to Australia.

The Emigrant Depot in Plymouth was also the place where well-meaning members of parliament, clergymen and naval officers saw prospective emigrants for the colonies. They were quick to express their opinions and prejudices to the Commissioners. Thus the “girls” by the first two vessels  (the Earl Grey and the Roman Emperor) “did not show any peculiar absence of cleanliness, yet, with some exceptions, they were wanting in that orderly and tidy appearance which characterize many of the female emigrants from Great Britain. Though generally short and not at all well-looking, they did not appear weak or unhealthy; they seemed good-humoured and well-disposed…” (Mr Divett M.P. August 1848).  Or, “I would say that they were better calculated for milking cows and undergoing the drudgery of a farm servant’s life, than to perform the office of a lady’s maid” (Rev. T. Childs, August 1848). Meanwhile, that same month, Lieutenant Carew R.N. commented sympathetically, “In one respect they are very inferior, viz. in personal appearance and physical development, caused, I believe, by a life of poverty, and having from infancy been always ill-fed. Could these girls, however, be seen after having been six months in Australia, after having, during that time, enjoyed the fresh air and plenty of good nourishing food, with a feeling of independence, I believe the change would be so wonderful that it would be difficult to recognize them…”. (from British Parliamentary Papers, 1,000 volume Irish Universities Press edition, Colonies Australia Sessions 1849-50, Despatches from the Right Honourable Earl Grey, Secretary of State, vol.11, pp. 351-2).

The Plymouth Depot was the first and only place, on English soil, that representatives of the Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners (CLEC) actually met the orphans. They would examine their papers; check their boxes; see that each had the outfit required; and check they were in a good state of health. That the CLEC paid such meticulous attention to the Earl Grey scheme is the reason the orphans’ death rate was so low; less than 1%! It is worth repeating; the female orphans who arrived in Australia did not experience the tragic death rates of the Irish who went to British North America in 1847-8. Australia did not have a Grosse Isle or a Partridge Island or the grief that extended all along the St. Lawrence River.

Regulations for the Voyage to Australia

Britain’s 1843 Passenger Act and the modified 1847 and 1849 Acts may have imploded under the sheer weight of Irish numbers fleeing to British North America. But they worked well for the Earl Grey female orphans who went to Australia. The Australian scheme was very well organized, which is not to say it didn’t have its problems. The Passenger Acts, like the Earl Grey scheme itself, were a work in progress; it would not be until the 1855 Act that the British government was satisfied they had things the way they wanted.  My impression is that the earlier regulations and charter parties, (i.e. contracts between CLEC and shipping companies or their brokers), focused particularly on ships’ conditions, space for emigrants, their dietary, and prevention of intercourse between female migrants and crew members. It was not until early October 1849 that a detailed regulation of the emigrant’s day was written down and given an official imprimatur.  That’s something worth checking since it implies the orphans who sailed before October 1849 were not subject to the same detailed guidelines as those who sailed after that date.

Extract from Charter Party of Thomas Arbuthnot 18 August 1848

(not carrying orphans this time but it did carry Surgeon Strutt)

Sir,

We hereby tender to Her majesty’s Colonial Land and Emigration Commissioners the above Ship, rated A1 at Lloyds, for the conveyance of Passengers to Port Adelaide, Port Phillip or Sydney at the rate of £13-15- Pt Phillip, £13-17-6 Pt Adelaide, £13-7-6 Sydney for each Adult passenger, subject to the stipulations contained in the Charter Party hereto annexed…

4. That the said Ship shall at all times during the continuance of this contract be fitted in the between decks with proper bed places for the accommodation of he passengers, and with a separate Hospital for males and females, fitted up with bed places and two swing cots; and that the said Ship shall also be fitted and furnished with with sufficient water closets, a head pump, a good accommodation ladder for the use of passengers in embarking and disembarking; and, also for the exclusive use of passengers, with such cooking apparatus as may be approved by the said Commissioners…of good coals, wood, and coke; of scrapers, brooms, swabs, sand, and stones for dry rubbing, four to be mounted; together with whatever else the said Commissioners or their Agents, be thought necessary for the cleanliness of the Ship, and the comfort and safety of the passengers in addition to the following mess utensils viz.–For each Mess of six persons.

One mess kit, with handle,

One tin oval dish–About 14 inches long and 4 inches deep,

One mess bread basket–About 14 inches long, 6 1/2 inches deep and 10 wide with handles,

Two three-pint tin pots, with covers and bar hooks, for boiling water,

Two water-breakers of two gallons each, properly slung for use,

One potatoe bag,

One pudding bag, 

with an addition of one-fifth to provide against loss or breakage…

Miscellaneous

19. And it is hereby mutually agreed that the Commissioners have the right to appoint a Surgeon, who shall be entitled to a cabin, to be approved by their Agent, with an allowance of forty cubical feet of space in the hold for luggage, and shall be dieted at the Captain’s table, on condition of his taking the medical charge of of the Officers and Crew of the Ship.

20. That the Master is strictly to forbid and prevent on the part of the Crew or Officers any intercourse whatever with the Female Passengers on board, and also the sale of spirituous or fermented liquors to the Passengers.

Which is not to say such conditions were rigorously adhered to; one of the ‘mistakes’ of the Surgeon (?) of the Earl Grey was to make the messes too large, about twenty five orphans together, instead of a much smaller, more easily controlled, number. He and the Matron would get into a heap of trouble with the ‘Belfast Girls’.

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Margaret Stack per Thomas Arbuthnot with grandchildren


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Honora Shea per New Liverpool


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Ann Nelligan per Pemberton

 

Extract from the 1849 Regulations

Appendix 7 to the 10th General Report of the CLEC 6 October 1849

 You can read it at http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/documents/12723/page/320998“>http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/documents/12723/page/320998  Click on the second one.

(You may have to type the reference into your browser and ‘go to’ page 46)

1. Every passenger to rise at 7 a.m. unless otherwise permitted by the surgeon, or, if no surgeon, by the master.

2. Breakfast from 8 to 9 a. m., dinner at 1 p.m., supper at 6 p.m….

8. The passengers, when dressed, to roll up their beds, to sweep the decks (including the space under the bottom  of the  berths), and to throw the dirt overboard…

11. Duties of the sweepers to be to clean the ladders, hospitals, and round houses, to sweep the decks after every meal, and to dry-holystone and scrape them after breakfast…

18. On Sunday the passengers to be mustered at 10 a.m., when they will be expected to appear in clean and decent apparel. The day to be observed as religiously as circumstances will admit…

Additional Regulations…

1. The emigrants are to be divided into messes…

3. The surgeon-superintendent will appoint from among the emigrants a sufficient number of constables for the enforcement of the regulations, and of cleanliness and good order.

4. The constables will attend daily at the serving out of the provisions, to see that each mess receives its proper allowance, and that justice is done…

7. If there be no religious instructor on board, or schoolmaster appointed by the Commissioners, the surgeon-superintendent will select a person to act as teacher to the children.

—————

The Route Taken

 In post 7 (a) there is a picture of the Constance as it made its way to Adelaide. I’ve reproduced it here. Have a look where Kerguelens Land is on the map below, which is from Robin Haines, Doctors at Sea, Palgrave Macmillan, 2005, p. 3, with permission of the author. It’s just above where it says ‘Southern Ocean’.

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Dutton, T. G. & Day and Son. (1853). The Constance 578 tons off Kerguelens Land, 20th Octr. 1849 on her passage from Plymouth to Adelaide in 77 days. From the Nan Kivell collection with permission of the National Library of Australia.


Hainesvoyages

Routes taken by ships from Britain to Australia ‘before 1840’ to 1960

The Captain’s decision to take the recently discovered Great Circle Route meant the Constance arrived in Adelaide in record time, after only 77 days. But she had to sail through the icy waters of the Southern Ocean, dodging pack ice, and endangering her passengers. (There were a number of deaths on board the Constance). The Commissioners were furious but eventually they recommended a modified route for emigrant ships sailing to Australia, according to the time of year. Fortunately, no ship carrying orphans went so far south. The Earl Grey was to take 123 days but somewhere along the way it lost its yardarm and mainmast which slowed its progress considerably. The Thomas Arbuthnot, in contrast, took only 88 days, according to the unidentified witness quoted above (re keening). By my count the figure should be 96 days. According to my calculations, the average length of the voyage between Plymouth and Adelaide for Earl Grey orphan ships was c. 101 days; for Port Phillip, c. 98 days; and for Port Jackson, c. 108 days. No matter which ship the orphans boarded, it was a long time to be at sea.

How did they pass the time?

Regulations such as those above, and Instructions to Surgeons, give us some idea how the orphans’ day was planned; when to rise; when to open and close scuttles and hatches; when to eat; when to sweep and clean; when to knit or sew; when to go to school, or when to go on deck, and when to go to bed. But remember, the Commissioners were not on board to oversee how well their regulations were applied. As I’ve said before, there is often a difference between how things should be and how things are, in practice. There were, in fact, lots of variables involved.

How well did a Surgeon relate to young women, and they to him? Was the Surgeon’s relationship with the ship’s Captain and Officers to their mutual advantage? What if the Captain was uncooperative and irascible?

How strong a personality was the Matron? How caring was she? Could she explain to an orphan having her first period what was happening? Help! Help! There’s blood all over my legs. What’s happening to me?– Shush now, Ellen. Here, come here, my wee pet. Some of the young women on the Roman Emperor began having their first period, only to find the Surgeon unprepared for the eventuality. There were not enough ‘cloths’ on board to go round. The main illness recorded by the Surgeon of the Earl Grey was amenorrhoea. Either ovulation was suppressed by severe physiological hardship and stress, or some young ones were beginning to ovulate in a stop-start sort of way.

What were the dynamics of adolescent interaction between themselves, and towards authority figures; Surgeon, Matron or Sub-Matron, Master of their vessel or First Mate? How did young adolescent women relate to other members of the crew? Mary Madgett, Mary, Look at the young fella with the scarf on his head? Isn’t he lovely? Isn’t he busy? And what happened if unforeseen events occurred– blustery stormy sea-swelling weather when a mainmast broke, and came crashing down–how scary was that for someone who had not been to sea before? What excitement and chatter there was when they stopped at Tenerife or the Cape of Good Hope for ‘wood and water’, saw an albatross or shark, or were invited by King Neptune to join him in Davy Jones’s locker when they ‘crossed the line’.

The Commissioners, however, had a weapon in hand. Surgeons were required to keep a diary and a medical journal. When the ships arrived in Australia an Immigration Agent and his assistants inspected the ship and interviewed the migrants. If anything was remiss, if the conditions of the Charter Party were found to be unfulfilled, then gratuities for the Master and his Officers, and for the Matron and the Surgeon were withheld, and they would never again be employed on an emigrant ship.

On the second vessel to Sydney, the Inchinnan, there was short issue of rations and maltreatment of some of the orphans by the Surgeon, Mr. Ramsay. See http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1512513?zoomLevel=2 The young women on board were gutsy enough to complain about and redress the short issue of rations. They were gutsy, litigious young women prepared to stand up for their rights. Mary Stephens/Stevens from Mayo even took the Captain to court for throwing her on the deck, for kicking her and beating her with a stick.  An account of the case was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald 8 March 1849. You can read about it here, in a report from the Central Criminal Court http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/1512481?zoomLevel=1

On the Digby, the orphans were also defrauded of a large portion of their rations. The Immigration Board in Sydney (Merewether, Savage and Browne) submitted a detailed report to the Colonial Secretary based on the Surgeon’s private log. It provided overwhelming evidence that the Captain was “utterly unfit to command an emigrant ship”. “Dr Neville further charged the Master with having ‘permitted the Sailors to be too familiar with the female Emigrants in opposition to the authority on board and clause No 20 of the Charter Party'”. (The reference I have is State Records NSW Reel 2852 4/4699 Reports 1838-49 but it is an old one).

Or again–in November 1849 Francis Merewether, the Immigration Agent, informed the Master of the William and Mary that gratuities to himself and his Officers were being withheld. The Matron was to receive only half of hers and three of the sub-matrons nothing at all. The Captain and his Officers were rude, insulting and interfered with the Surgeon when he tried to perform his duties. And they had not issued the emigrants with their full allowance of rations and medical comforts. Dysentery, diarrhoea and amenorrhoea were the principal diseases on board.

Not that these examples are typical of the whole Earl Grey scheme. But it’s worth searching for such reports, if only for what they tell us about the orphans’ voyage. The Surgeon of the Roman Emperor to Adelaide reported that “to establish discipline, preserve good order and prevent moral evil, I experienced much difficulty…The excitement caused by arrival which naturally prevails, inordinately affects the Irish of the class to which these emigrants belong”. The Inconstant to Adelaide also had its troubles; matrons visiting the Captain’s cabin; the Captain reputedly striking the Surgeon; crew members’ dissatisfaction with their Captain. Becca, Johanna, Did you see that hussy go off with the Captain? Will we tell the others?

For the sake of balance, here are a couple of examples from ships arriving in Hobson’s Bay, Port Phillip: Isabella Browne, acting as a nurse and in charge of the Hospital on the Diadem, arranged nocturnal visits (i.e. at 2 .am.) for occasional crew members. Yet “it appears that the Surgeon Superintendent used much vigilance in endeavouring to prevent communication or intercourse between the girls and crew, seldom retiring from the deck to his Cabin before 12 o’Clock at night, and sometimes 1 or 2 o ‘Clock in the morning”.  To modern eyes, middle class Victorians certainly had a fixation about keeping the sexes apart.

And from the report on the Derwent, “9. The Board cannot conclude without remarking upon the very indifferent success attending the School established on board…” although the greater part of the orphans “attended the school regularly throughout the voyage, very few had learned to spell their own names or the most simple words”. It would appear Northeners were adept at bucking the system.

——–

Let me finish this by comparing two very different voyages, that of the Earl Grey and that of the Thomas Arbuthnot. They  illustrate some of the things I’ve been talking about. But they are like chalk and cheese. The Surgeon of the Earl Grey, Henry Grattan Douglass was a fifty-eight year old member of the Protestant Irish Ascendancy. He had little sympathy for the young women in his charge, especially the ‘Belfast girls’, and even less understanding. They clashed early in the voyage, barely two weeks out. “The first eight or ten days most of the people were sick, and I did not pay much attention to the language used by them, but when they recovered, the difficulty I had with them for the first month was extreme, as they used the most abominable language. and actually fought with each other”. (See my Barefoot…? vol. 1, or Votes and Proceedings of the Legislative Council of New South Wales 1850, vol. 1 pp.394ff).

On the 16th June Douglass found two orphans fighting, one of them armed with a fork,– maybe Catherine Graham or Catherine McCann? I’ll have your bloody guts with this, ya wee shite. Douglass ordered her to be put on the Poop where she was bound to be reviled, insulted and mocked by the crew. (The Surgeon of the Inchinnan would later be chastised for using such a punishment. Not so Dr Douglass). The Belfast ‘girls’ objected to Douglass’s authoritarianism and rose in revolt demanding Cathy’s release. As you’d expect, there’d be only one winner in such a clash, the one who held most power and who was backed by the Master of the vessel. Maybe they reached an uneasy truce. The women, some of them undoubtedly worldly-wise, street smart, and all too familiar with the school of hard knocks, set down their markers. We’re going to swear as much as we like, ‘borrow’ each others clothes as much as we like, No, I’m not going to mend my bonnet. It’s torn. I’ll wipe my boots with it if I want to, stop anyone else coming into the Belfast ‘mess’, talk with members of the crew when we’re on deck, tell the Matron what we think of her. Helsfuckenbells. Piss off Banbridge. Back to where you came from.

In evidence taken by the Sydney Orphan Committee, in December 1848, the Matron was asked, “32. Was there any improper conduct on the part of any of the crew in connexion with these females?” “I wished to stop all intercourse between the immigrants and the crew, and to prohibit the girls speaking to them, but the Doctor thought this was impossible…”. Maybe the Belfast women won some minor victories after all? Hey Mister. Come and talk with us. What’s that? You have to wait till eight bells. You have eight bells? Woo-hoo

But Douglass was scathing in his criticism of the orphans once he arrived in Sydney. The orphans “were early abandoned to the unrestricted gratification of their desires…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”…”one woman was married, and had run away from her husband…the women frequently charged each other with having had children…they were for the most part addicted to stealing, and to using the most obscene and gross language…” . He was to single out, and name, 56 orphans who were sent to Maitland and Moreton Bay, instead of landing in Sydney.

Hey Gina, Are you gonna give Mr Fancy pants, Mr Smellunderthenose, a dose? Fuckoff Black. Shut yer bake. Where’d ya leave yer wee dick of a husband anyway? Were you and yer Ma on the game, or not? She was a right hoorbeg.

———-

The voyage of the  Thomas Arbuthnot would be very different indeed. The Surgeon, Charles Strutt was a thirty-five year old unmarried Englishman. (He was later to marry Bridget Ryan from Ennis, in Geelong–Reid & Mongan, decent, p.169) His diary has survived, as has that of Arthur Hodgson, politician and Darling Downs squatter who also travelled on the Thomas Arbuthnot at this time. Richard Reid and Cheryl Mongan also reproduce, in their decent set of girls, (pp.115-26) an essay entitled ‘Female Emigration’, author unknown, which is a most useful account of the voyage.

Whereas Douglass knew little about the young women in his charge–he claimed the orphans from Cavan were well-behaved but alas, no Cavan orphans were on his vessel–Strutt would refer to “my people”, and when asked if any would accompany him to Yass, “130 at once expressed their wish to go any place that I might be going to”. Where Douglass had shaky support from an English born Matron, Maria Cooper and her daughter–“if I made a remark to any of them, all I had in return was “Thank goodness, we shall not long have her to bully over us”— Strutt had Mrs Murphy, a 42 year old widow from Dublin, and her daughter, to support his efforts to apply ‘detailed’ regulations. They made school lessons work especially well,  “with patience, kindness and care”.

Strutt empathized with his charge. He was kind; he improved ventilation through the hatches and personally mended lanterns; he arranged salt-water baths in warmer latitudes; issued lime juice and plum pudding, and let ‘his girls’ stay up a little longer on deck.  But he applied discipline; he made his charges work, and he made them work hard. “Friday 7 December My girls have become much more orderly and tidy under the constant steady pressure I keep up against holes, rags, tatters and dirt”. He allowed them their play. Meg, Mary, Bridget, Ann, Let’s give this handsome Walter Davidson a couple of pinches. You first Biddy. See if he can catch us.

Strutt allowed the young women from Galway, Clare, Kerry and Dublin to express themselves in song and dance, taking their turn with their reels, slipjigs and quadrilles, –maybe a South Galway set or step dancing, St Patrick’s Day, The Blackbird and Three Sea Captains–dances the orphans would know–beating out their own rhythm, learning new moves, glad to be alive.

Let me finish with an extract from the essay on “Female Emigration’ mentioned earlier. It is an account of the Arbuthnot voyage seen through rose-tinted glasses but it demonstrates how, in the right circumstances and with the right people, the Commissioners’ regulations could work.

“The berths settled, and duly taken possession of, the next thing was to arrange the messes. Each mess consisted of eight persons, and a card was given, showing the provisions that were to be delivered out each day of the week, with the quantity on each day”.   In addition to their mess kit, “the Commissioners added, for each emigrant, a new mattress, bolster, blankets and counterpane; a large canvass bag, for holding linen and clothes, a knife and fork, two spoons, a metal plate, and a drinking mug—all of which articles they were allowed to retain upon landing…

As the regular routine of the day was now fully established, our readers may be interested in learning its details. By half past seven all the Emigrants who were in good health were expected to be washed, dressed, and in a neat and fitting order to present themselves…When breakfast was ready the cook reported it to the officer of the watch…the ship’s bell was rung, and the breakfast served out in regular rotation, to the respective messes…

Immediately after breakfast the berths, tables, lockers and ‘between decks’ were swept clean; well scraped, and polished with holystones and sand; the ladders were brought on deck, scraped and washed, the mattresses and bedding neatly folded up, and everything made clean, dry and comfortable. In the early days of the voyage there was a lot of dampness until caulking of the leaking timbers was completed. Maggie, Maggie, don’t open that side port. Oh hell we’re soaked.

At half past ten the Surgeon Superintendent, generally accompanied by the master of the carpenter, took his rounds of inspection…a girl with her hair unbrushed, holes in any part of her attire, or dirty hands never escaped reprimand. In general, however, his commendation far exceeded his censures…

At eleven the various classes of the school commenced…The classes succeeded each other throughout the day, when the weather permitted, and the pupils made a regular, and some of them a rapid advance, in reading, writing, and arithmetic. Neither were needle-work and knitting neglected; industry was the order of the day, and it was rare to see any of the girls unemployed, for any length of time…

Whilst the morning classes were going on the Surgeon attended in the Hospital…After this he…investigated grievances, heard complaints on both sides, rebuked quarrelling or negligence, and endeavoured to reconcile differences, when they occurred… Doctor, Harriet Carmody won’t let me brush her hair and she’s taken my comb. Tell her to give it back.

At half past twelve the cook gave the welcome report that dinner was ready; and the officer of the watch having tasted it, and pronounced it to be dressed as it ought to be, the ship’s bell was rung…and immediately served to the messes in due order; one person from each mess attending to receive it, and to take it down to the rest. After dinner the school was resumed till half past five, when the ship’s bell announced that tea was ready, and it was served out with the same regularity as had been observed with respect to breakfast and dinner. Thus regularly and methodically were the wants of two hundred passengers provided for day by day, whilst those of the crew, nearly fifty in number, the captain, mates and fourteen cabin passengers were all attended to with the same punctuality…

We left our large party at tea, but sounds of gaiety are heard, and we find the remainder of the evening is to be passed in singing; dancing, and other innocent amusements…At dusk, lanterns were hung on deck to light the dancers, and equally between decks,  for…those who preferred remaining below. At eight, or a little later, according to the weather, all the girls retired to their quarters, the between decks were swept clean…the Surgeon-Superintendent paid his last visit at half-past nine; all the lamps were extinguished, with the exception of three, and the doors were closed until half-past five the next morning.

…We are now approaching the end of the voyage…’we ranged cables, took a pilot on board, entered the Heads, and cast anchor near Garden Island about dusk…The Health Officer came on board, was much pleased with the condition of the ship…The following morning we came into the Cove, and were inspected by the Colonial Secretary, the Agent for Immigration, the Health Officer of the port, and several other gentlemen. They were highly satisfied with the order and regularity on board, the good health, fatness, and deportment of the girls, the cleanliness of the decks, berths, tables, pots and pans, etc., and to do the poor girls justice, they deserved the praise, for they had exerted themselves to the utmost, and spared no trouble or labour’.

This account is well worth examining. It’s reprinted in full in R. Reid & C. Mongan, ‘a decent set of girls The Irish Famine orphans of the Thomas Arbuthnot 1849-1850, Yass, 1996, pp.115-126. (update: thanks to the great detective work of Karen Semken we know a slightly earlier version appeared in the Daily News, London, Wednesday 6 November 1850, under the heading, ‘Emigration and the Colonies’. It’s looking increasingly likely that it was written by Strutt himself.)

Did an orphan’s voyage experience affect her life in Australia, do you think?

http://jakiscloudnine.blogspot.ie/2015/02/the-genesis-of-belfastgirls-at.html?m=1

http://jakiscloudnine.blogspot.ie/

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (6): Hiatus- charts and family forms

HIATUS

(some things from the cupboard while I decide what i should do next)

Religion of inmates in 1848, South Dublin, Enniskillen and Armagh workhouses

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I’ll add a couple of things from my filing cabinet  for your perusal.

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South Dublin workhouse in 1848 by age and gender

Dublin, Enniskillen and Armagh workhouse populations were both bottom heavy and top heavy i.e. the largest age groups were the elderly and the young.

SOME FAMILY RECONSTITUTIONS

These were the foundation for my measure of orphans’ family size, age at marriage, age at death, marriage partners et al.

Sometimes  my family reconstitution forms proved difficult to understand. Here Allan Smith was very close to getting it exactly right.

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Margaret Stack family

Sometimes I had my doubts I’d recaptured an Irish female orphan. I had doubts about this next one so did not use her in my calculations.

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Charlotte Willis Family–not an orphan?

Sometimes I was fortunate enough to go back into civil registration records to check on things; I found family historians often underestimated the size of their orphan’s Australian family. Having to purchase every registration that was made was just too expensive. Here’s one that got it exactly right.

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HONORA SHEA FAMILY

ANOTHER CHART

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STATUS OF WORKHOUSE INMATES 1848

just found   http://www.slideshare.net/GeobitsLtd/mapping-the-great-irish-famine-mike-murphy

You may need to type ‘mapping the great irish famine mike murphy ‘ into the box that appears

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine orphans (5): Who were the female orphans? (cont.)

WHO WERE THE FEMALE ORPHANS? (cont.)

In the last post I finished by recommending Peter Higginbotham’s website on Workhouses;  http:www.workhouses.org.uk/Ireland/ It is an essential resource for anyone interested in the female orphans.

And just in case you missed Steve Taylor’s views of the Famine  http://viewsofthefamine.wordpress.com/miscellaneous/cottage-interior-claddagh-galway/

But let me continue with what I started. First a standard account of the workhouse system generally then on to specific information about orphans and the workhouse they came from.

It was not till 1838 that Ireland had its first Poor Law with an Act ‘for the more effective relief of the destitute poor”. The Act divided the country into a number of Poor Law Unions, 130 of them in 1843, based on major towns. Each Union was to have a workhouse run by a Board of Guardians elected by rate payers in the Union. In theory, the money for the building and the running of the workhouses was to come from rates levied in each Union. By 1843, 112 of the workhouses were completed and the remaining eighteen were on their way. The more substantial ones such as those at Belfast and Newcastle West in County Limerick were built according to a standard plan drawn up by Government architect, George Wilkinson. His ground plan was for a workhouse to accommodate 800 people. Such buildings had a commanding  and unwelcome physical presence in the local community where they were built.

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Callan workhouse, Co. Kilkenny

       The thinking behind the Poor Law System was that conditions in the workhouse should be so unattractive that only the truly destitute and desperate would enter. There was some doubt among Poor Law Commissioners that material conditions inside the workhouse would be inferior to that of the poor but they were convinced that the strict regimen and discipline and separation of families would deter people from seeking refuge. Contemporary middle and upper class thinking was aimed at ‘improving’ and ‘controlling’ the lower orders by incarcerating them and subjecting them to close supervision in institutions such as factory and mill, national school, workhouse or if all else failed, prison.

In a workhouse, inmates were subject to minute regulation of their lives. There were strict rules for their admission, first to a probationary ward. There they were ‘thoroughly cleaned’, ‘clothed in workhouse dress’ and examined by a medical officer. They were then classified as belonging in the sick or ‘idiot’ ward, placed in the adult male or female ward or the separate yards for boys and girls or the apartments for children. Families were broken up, wives separated from husbands, brothers from sisters, and children from their parents, although those under two years old could remain with their mothers.

“Buttermilk and urine,

The pantry, the housed beasts, the listening bedroom. We were all together in a foretime…” (Seamus Heaney, Keeping Going)

Also set down in meticulous detail were ‘rules for framing dietaries’–three meals a day for children, two for adults, consisting of such ‘delights’ as bread, Indian meal, oatmeal, buttermilk and soup in what can only have been ‘mouth-watering’ combinations.

Articles 14 to 48 of workhouse regulations dealt with discipline and punishment of ‘paupers’. When they got out of bed, when they were set to work, when they had their meals, when they finished work and when they went to bed were all timed by the ringing of a bell. Prayers were read before breakfast and after supper each day. Roll call took place half an hour after the bell was rung for getting out of bed. No one was allowed any tobacco or ‘spirituous or fermented liquor’ or to play at cards or ‘at any game of chance’.

The grounds on which an inmate could be deemed ‘disorderly’ and ‘refractory’ were also set out in detail as were punishments for such misbehaviour. Anybody who used obscene or profane language or did not ‘duly cleanse his person’, for example, was disorderly. Anyone who repeated one or more of the 12 offences constituting disorderly conduct or who insulted or reviled workhouse officers or who wilfully damaged or attempted to dispose of the property of the Board of Guardians or who climbed over any wall or fence or left the workhouse in an irregular way was deemed refractory. Refractory inmates were put in solitary confinement or were taken before a magistrate. As you can see, the refuge the workhouse offered rested on the twin pillars of discipline and punishment. The intention of the framers of the Poor Law as exemplified in the prison-like conditions of workhouses, their dull work routine and monotonous food and emphasis on strict discipline was designed to deter all but the truly destitute from becoming a burden on the poor rate.

In August 1847 an Irish Poor Law Commission took over from the English one. It now had to contend with the Famine. The number of Poor Law Unions was increased from 130 to 163. Existing workhouse buildings were extended and temporary fever sheds erected or rented in a forlorn attempt to deal with the crisis. By the end of 1847 it was officially estimated 417,000 people were being relieved inside workhouses in Ireland. At the end of 1848 that number had increased to 610,000 and was to increase again to 923,000 in 1849. [These figures do not include the number of people on outdoor relief.] In the midst of crisis the Poor Law system was asked to reorganize itself and deal with catastrophe on a horrendous scale, a scale  for which it was not designed and for which it was ill-prepared.

The extra demands the famine placed on workhouses relegated the aim of disciplining and punishing to a secondary role. In fact discipline became harder to maintain. Rebellion was sometimes a very personal even existential thing. In September and December 1847, James McMahon, Betty Hill, Jane Campbell and Eliza Dawson were thrown out of Newry workhouse, James for refusing to eat his supper, Jane and Eliza for quarrelling and Betty for giving cheek to the Master.  At other times, shortage of food led to full blown riots, many of them led by women, as in William Street Auxiliary workhouse in Limerick in 1849 and one week later, at the Barrack Street workhouse in Nenagh in Tipperary, where the women “broke in the door of the dining hall and threw the tins and other vessels within their reach about the floor, yelling fearfully all the time”.

Overcrowding and epidemics of disease strained even the biggest and best organised workhouses to breaking point. Cashel workhouse rarely had enough space or temporary fever sheds for the victims of dysentery, fever, measles and cholera. In January 1848 the Cashel Medical Officer P. Heffernan reported to the Board “Your Hospital is crowded to excess and the paupers are falling sick in dozens. I cannot admit anymore into the Hospital for want of accommodation”. The Guardians were later dismissed that year.

In Belfast the medical officer complained he could not contain the spread of contagious diseases unless he could treat patients in separate wards. Smallpox patients were put in a small bathroom, those suffering from ‘erisipilas’ went to the straw house but he still lacked a separate ward for dysentery patients. He said “…treating several contagious diseases in the same place is attended with very great risk to the patients”, not to mention workhouse officers. In 1847 the wards master, the schoolmaster and schoolmistress caught ‘famine fever’ and in June of that year Patrick Boyce the workhouse bookkeeper died of typhus. In 1849 the Belfast Board complained “that the practice of waking the bodies of the Dead from cholera prevails to a considerable extent, thereby exposing the people who assemble on such occasions to the risk of disease and causing alarm in the neighbourhood”. They asked  they be allowed to bury bodies with haste, compulsorily if necessary.

There is a rich archive of material relating to Irish workhouses, not yet fully tapped which helps us place female orphans in a specific local context in the period before they left for Australia. What their workhouse was like may be depicted using both Indoor Admission and Discharge Registers and Board of Guardian minutes. For example, here’s a chart I drew some time ago, relating to inmates’ length of stay in 1848 in a selection of workhouses for which evidence was available. Overwhelmingly for most, their ‘length of stay’ was less than three months. There was little time for them to be ‘institutionalised’.  At least 42 % or more of the orphans entered their workhouse on more than one occasion before leaving for Australia. [Please forgive my amateur attempts to insert these charts–I think we may be listing. I’ll not bore you with the statistical tests I used, except to say both the median and mode measures of central tendency lay in the first category i.e. less than three months. I am open to correction.]

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LENGTH OF STAY IN WORKHOUSE IN 1848

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 Or again, a chart showing what percentage of inmates gave “Union at Large” (i.e. Poor Law Union) as their place of residence in 1848. That is, they were homeless, and probably mendicants.

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PLACE OF RESIDENCE IN 1848

 These charts are interesting in light of Dympna McLoughlin’s chapter on “Subsistent Women” in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine where she draws attention to women living ‘a hand-to-mouth existence, with no secure employment’. They included, Dympna says, “petty traders, tramps, peddlers, petty criminals, dealers, beggars and a high proportion of labourers”. (p.255) These were women who were geographically mobile, who used the workhouse for their own ends, coming in in winter and leaving again in  spring. But they were hard hit by the Famine and being without ‘respectability’ and ‘reputation’ in society had little option other than assisted emigration. I am inclined to give some weight to her argument since I found only a handful of references to female orphans’ families in land records such as Tithe Applotment Books and enumerators’ returns for Griffiths Land Valuation. Only infrequently did they appear in baptismal records. I know too that a number of orphans gave ‘Union at large’ as their place of residence and that many of them entered and left the workhouse on a regular basis.  Most of them certainly belonged to the labouring class. The argument is certainly worth exploring further.  At the very least it helps underscore just how destitute the orphans were and how difficult it was for them  to escape their poverty trap.

Most of our orphans were from among the unemployed and destitute cottier and agricultural labouring classes. They were from families whose economic strength was extremely fragile at the best of times and who were periodically thrown on the charity of good neighbours when illness, death and the uncertainty of employment destroyed their fragile cohesion. Tragically, the charity of good neighbours, any reluctance they may have felt about joining public works schemes or accepting food hand-outs or entering the workhouse was destroyed by the calamity of the Famine.

INDOOR RELIEF REGISTERS

One of the most important collections of workhouse records that have survived are the Indoor Relief Registers, sometimes known as Admission and Discharge Registers. Thanks to the wisdom and foresight of the former Deputy Keeper of Public Records Northern Ireland Dr Brian Trainor, many of these Registers have survived for Northern Irish Poor Law Unions. It is these and the Registers for North and South Dublin workhouses that I’ve studied, alas, all too briefly. The Registers record a number for each person entering the workhouse, their name, their gender, their age, whether they are single, married or widowed if they have reached adulthood i.e. usually 15 years of age and whether they are orphaned, deserted or a bastard, if they are children. Then follows details about their occupation and religion and more columns headed ‘if disabled, description of the disability’; ‘name of wife or husband’; ‘number of children’; ‘observations on condition of pauper when admitted’; ‘electoral division and townland in which resident’; ‘date when admitted or born in workhouse’; and finally, ‘date when died or left the workhouse’. It’s an amazing piece of bookkeeping.

In practice there existed a wide degree of latitude in the keeping of the Registers. At worst, details are often missing and the information we gain about individual orphans is sparse indeed. Thus, for an orphan who came by the Derwent to Port Phillip in 1849-50 from Ballymena, the record is No. 4115, Betty Hamilton, female, 15 years old, single, no employment or calling, Presbyterian, residing in Ballymena, admitted 14 June 1849, discharged 25 October 1849. At best, the information is extensive, not only about personal and family history but also about occupation. A plainmaker, helper in stable, brush maker, bootbinder, pinmaker, fustian cutter, fringe and tassel maker, ribbon weaver and woollen winder were among those entering South Dublin workhouse in  1848. Their place of origin is recorded in the North Dublin Register; born in Kilkenny county, County Louth, Cavan, Donegal, Derry, native of Dublin, demonstrating the pull of Ireland’s major city at the time of the Famine. And in Enniskillen Register at the beginning of 1848 we read of the condition of ‘paupers’ when admitted; ‘in great want’, ‘in great distress’, ‘orphan, father and mother died on the road’. ‘had to sell the coat off her back for food’, ‘in a starving condition’, ‘lying in the quarry starving’, ‘husband deserted her, to be prosecuted’, ‘beggarman, nearly blind, dirty and sickly’, ‘wandering about from place to place’, ‘beggar girl, deserted by mother’, and the mother of two young orphans, Mary Love, ‘widow disabled from dropsy’, a reminder that these are records of destitute people, victims of the famine who were yet fortunate enough to gain entry to a workhouse.

The one major deficiency is that Indoor Registers have survived for only a small number of workhouses; outside Dublin they are mainly from the North of Ireland. The evidence is thus weighted in that direction. But they allowed me to identify at least some female orphans in their workhouse.

Identifying the female orphans

The key is record linkage, in this case linking Australian shipping lists with Irish workhouse Registers. The names of the orphans who travelled  to Australia as part of the Earl Grey scheme appear in shipping lists held in archives or State records in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. Most information is available from the Board of Immigration shipping lists for arrivals in Port Jackson. Those in Melbourne tend to provide less information about their Irish background but more easily accessible information about their first employer in Australia. Adelaide records I am glad to say now include the shipping list for the first vessel to arrive, the Roman Emperor which had been missing for some time. From British Parliamentary Papers I also knew the names of the  Poor Law Unions providing orphans for each vessel: this was a third link.

In the mid 1980s armed with this information and knowing the date of departure of each vessel I was able to spend some time looking for orphans in Dublin and Northern Irish workhouse Indoor Registers. For example, knowing the first vessel in the scheme the Earl Grey left Plymouth for Port Jackson on the 3rd June 1848, I looked for the names of individual adolescent females who were discharged from their workhouse in Belfast or Antrim or Armagh  et al. on the same day, about a week or ten days before 3rd June. I applied the same method to the two vessels that carried Northern Irish orphans to Port Phillip, the Diadem and the Derwent. They were to leave Plymouth 13 October 1849 and 9th November 1849 respectively. The same method was used for the vessels with Dubliners on board. And voilá, in the massive Dublin Registers,

North Dublin No. 14737 Maria Blundell female 10 yrs old no calling RC delicate after fever native of Dublin returned from fever hospital, North City entered 11 March 1846 left 20 October 1849

North Dublin No. 22543 Mary Dowling female 14 yrs old no calling RC born in Dublin ragged and dirty Union at large entered 9 July 1847 left 20 October 1849 [she was listed alongside her 10 yr old  brother Michael who was later discharged 26 July 1850]

South Dublin No. 1013 Marianne Howe female 16 yrs old no calling Protestant very old clothes South City Kevin St. entered 10 October 1848 left 13 January 1849

South Dublin No. 1079 Mary Bruton female 17 yrs old single servant RC old clothes S. City Engine Alley entered 16 October 1848 left 13 January 1849.

and in Northern Irish Registers. [ In some of these I was able to trace the number of times female orphans entered and left the workhouse, when their mother or father died and what happened to their other siblings, the Devlin and the Littlewood families being two such examples. To describe just one of these, in April 1842 shortly after it opened and three years before the Famine struck, a 39 year old widow Rose Devlin came into Armagh workhouse with three of her children, Margret 9 years old, Patrick, 6, and Bernard, 4.  After four months stay she and her children left, only to  re-enter three months later but this time her fourth child, Sarah Ann, 12, had joined them. On nine different occasions throughout the 1840s this little family group re-entered Armagh workhouse, sometimes for as short a period as a month, at others as long as six or ten months, until two of their number Sarah Ann and Margret left to join the Earl Grey in Plymouth. Ten years later Sarah was to sponsor her brother’s immigration to Australia.  Ideally I would have liked a lot more time to examine different volumes of the Registers and thereby do a more thorough job tracing the workhouse history of Earl Grey female orphan families. Maybe some of you could do so for your orphan ancestor?]

Here is a little family akin to the Devlins in that they were a-typical long-term residents of Armagh workhouse. They appear in the first volume of Armagh’s Registers.

Armagh No. 12 Charlotte Wilcocks female 10 yrs old deserted by father no calling Protestant no disability healthy resides Armagh entered 4 June 1842 left 4 October 1849

No. 13 Jemima Wilcocks female 9 yrs old deserted by father (the rest ‘as above’ when the two sisters left to join the Diadem in Plymouth)

No 14 Edward Wilcocks  male 13 yrs old (as above) totally disabled left the workhouse 17 November 1842.

(Here’s a little appetiser for later posts, should I ever get that far. It’s a family reconstitution for Charlotte in Australia. About 300 of these reconstitutions are the basis of the demographic information I’ve written about elsewhere. Workhouse Register reference numbers that I’d found appear alongside an orphan’s name in Barefoot, information which was later uploaded to the first version of the following website. The new version of the website continues to be improved and developed all the time. www.irishfaminememorial.org  Keep watching there.)

c.wilcox

Magherafelt  No 1900(?) [my research notes are not as legible  as they should be] Cathy Hilferty female 17 yrs old single never in service RC with fever clean Ballymeghan entered 3 April 1846 left 19 May 1846

No. 2080  Cathy was back in again less than a week later, this time described as a servant but ‘out of service’ having entered 22 May 1846 and left 11 June 1846.

She came into the workhouse later that year described as a 16 yrs old labourer who was out of employment but clean from Ballymeghan, entered 13 November 1846 left 4 August 1847.

Then in 1848 she came back in with her widowed mother and siblings. Ellen Hilferty was described as a 50 year old widow mendicant RC healthy 2 children (in fact 4) no means of support Killyfaddy entered 18 November 1848 left 15 August 1849.

Cathy this time was 18 yrs old and her siblings William 15 yrs, Nancy 11 yrs and John 9 yrs. Like Ellen they entered 18 November 1848. William left 4 December 1848, Nancy and John 15 August 1849 with their mother. Cathy left 30 October 1849 en route for Plymouth to join the Derwent.

Enniskillen No 2065 Letitia Connelly 14 yrs old orphan RC Ballyreagh Salry entered 2 February 1848 left 26 October 1849 to join the Derwent. Letitia did very well for herself marrying a store-keeper and astute business man, William Hayes.

Enniskillen  No. 3048(?) Alice Ball 15 yrs old Protestant Enniskillen 4 July 1847 left 1 march 1848

No 3078 Alice Ball  14 yrs old orphan Protestant Enniskillen 30 August 1848 left 3 October 1849 (to join the Diadem). Alice was later to commit suicide in Melbourne.

My hope is that further local studies of workhouses may be realised; there are already good examples–Roscrea, Cork and Lurgan– in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine as well as excellent local studies for the four provinces of Ireland. Perhaps these might be used as models? National School records might help us understand the local area too.

Post Script

Perhaps someone can help?

Were these vessels part of the female orphan scheme?

  • There are a number of vessels carrying a small number of female orphans which are not officially recognised as being part of the Earl Grey scheme viz. the William Stewart,  Mahomet Shah and the Martin Luther (?) to Port Phillip and the Subraon to Port Jackson.  At least three of them sailed before the scheme was officially underway. Are they easily identified on the shipping lists of these vessels? Were they from Irish workhouses or other charitable institutions and houses of industry? I wonder if  authorities in London and Dublin sent them by subterfuge, as it were, testing the waters for the later female orphan scheme. It certainly didn’t work in the case of the Subraon.

Why did so many come from Enniskillen workhouse?

  • If I might refer you to the map at the beginning of the previous post, have a look at Enniskillen. It is second only to Dublin and Skibbereen in sending the largest number of orphans to Australia. How do we explain this? Was the region particularly hard-hit by the Famine? Did the workhouse accept young women from surrounding areas in Donegal, Tyrone and Leitrim? They aren’t very close and entry to a workhouse was usually only open to inhabitants of the local Poor Law Union. Names of townlands and electoral divisions were painstakingly recorded when entering a workhouse.  Maybe the answer is in the administration of the workhouse itself? Late in 1846 and in March 1847 reports from visiting Poor Law Commissioners castigated Enniskillen workhouse for its ‘miserable state of filth and irregularity’. In 1847 the death rate was 95 per thousand and may have been higher since no books were kept for eight weeks when fever was raging in the house. In 1848 the death rate dropped to approximately 10 per thousand and by 1849 had fallen to 2 per thousand. In March 1848 the elected Board of Guardians of Enniskillen Poor Law Union were dismissed and two professional Vice-Guardians appointed, Messrs John Gowdy of Monaghan and Edward Hill Trevor of County Down at a salary of £250 per annum. Before long the effects of the new broom were in evidence; inefficient officers were dismissed, doctors were appointed as vaccinators for various districts; new arrangements were made to improve the cleanliness of the workhouse; inmates were given a change of bed sheets every fortnight and a clean shirt each week. In the months following the appointment of Vice-Guardians the administration of the Union was put on a sound footing; cooked food was substituted for meal ‘in the several relief districts throughout the Union’; workhouse schools  became part of the National Schools system and £800 was borrowed from the government for a new workhouse building. Was it this that determined so many orphans originating in Enniskillen? Sufficient numbers of the right age, an efficient administration with money for orphans’ clothing and transport to port of embarkation, at just the right time.  All the orphans from Enniskillen left towards the end of 1849. What do you think? Maybe a reader has more information or another explanation?

Just a couple of family reconstitutions to finish, Jane Hogan and Cathy Durkin. There must be a way to improve the quality of these.

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