Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (73): Addendum, South Australia.

South Australia, some additional material.

 I have just found some more of my research on the orphans sent to South Australia.  You may remember from earlier posts that the Imperial authorities in Britain, recognizing the difference between the colonies, dealt with South Australia separately from New South Wales.  See for example my posts 13 earl-greys-irish-famine-orphans-13 and 16 earl-greys-irish-famine-orphans-16

It looks like my newly surfaced folder consists mainly of British Parliamentary Paper photocopies, and my notes from South Australian archives. A quick glance shows nothing particularly new, just a lot more detail. If you want to search for yourself, your State Library should have copies of the Irish University Press 1,000 volume edition of British Parliamentary Papers. See BPP Colonies Australia vols.11-13. Volume 11 covers Sessions 1849-50, and volume 13 Sessions 1851-2.

You may be able to find the same records online via http://www.dippam.ac.uk/eppi/ or via Trove. Trove, for instance, has put up all the records from AJCP (Australian Joint Copying Project) https://trove.nla.gov.au/result?q=AJCP

Good luck with your search.

It sometimes is forgotten that South Australia dealt independently and directly with the Imperial authorities in Britain. Governor Robe (1845-48) may have been in favour of receiving female orphans from Irish workhouses but his successor Governor Young easily gave way to pressure from locals wanting to end the scheme. Support was only ever reluctant anyway. In reality, Adelaide’s trajectory regarding the Irish workhouse orphans was much the same as Sydney and Melbourne. Though it must be said they were usually quicker off the mark with their initiatives,

such as,

lobbying for an equal, or rather ‘appropriate’, number of ‘young lassies’ from England and Scotland:

registering the complaints from Surgeons on board the orphan ships about their difficulties in dealing with these young women:

“…they were governed by their passions and impulses hence I experienced much difficulty in preventing moral degradation and in establishing and preserving good order”.

SAA GRG 24/6 1848/1763, Col. Secy. Letters received, Eades to Munday, 25 October 1848

showing concern for the interference from the local self-appointed guardians of public morals, who described the ‘Government Location’ (Adelaide depot) as a ‘ Government Brothel’ and whose gossip about the unhygienic or dirty habits or rowdy behaviour of the Irish orphans spread like wild fire in such a small place.

“I allude to the depot at the Native Location for the reception of the female orphans landed upon our shores, where the most disgusting scenes are nightly enacted “.

The South Australian Register, 21 January 1850, p.3.


South Australia differed from the others in deciding it was inexpedient, or too expensive to apply, and police, their newly enacted arrangements for employing the Irish orphans. Thus leaving themselves open to the young women working the system, returning to the Adelaide depot more frequently than might have been the case otherwise. Given that we are talking about a relatively small number of orphans, it astonishes the modern reader to find so much paper, and so many enquiries generated by the Earl Grey scheme.

Adelaide from the South East c.1849 courtesy State Library New South WalesAdelaide 1849a

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Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (20):British Parliamentary Papers, female orphan emigration returns

British Parliamentary papers:

female orphan emigration returns

These scans of  xerox copies I made in c. 1980 may prove useful to some people. I recently found them among my research notes on Cartesian philosophers!

The first document is from the Select Committee of the House of Lords appointed to inquire into the operation of the Irish Poor Law, and the expediency of making any amendments to its enactments. Sixth Report. Appendix to Minutes of evidence, BPP HC 1849-49, vol 16, No. 507, pp.64-66. It tells us which Irish Poor Law Unions the orphans came from and which ship they traveled on.

You will notice the misinformation regarding the first two vessels. Unfortunately it does not include information about vessels that arrived later, in 1850.

The appendix is online here somewhere but I haven’t been able to find the exact page,



The next document is from BPP HC 1850 (XXVII) Commissioners for administering Laws for the Relief of the Poor in Ireland. Third Annual Report Appendix B pp.132-34 . You will notice this is where the figure 4114  female orphans  comes from but my Barefoot, vols I and II has slightly more, about 4150, from memory. I assume the number in the database will be closer to the second figure. Please excuse my shonky scanning.

Luckily nowadays one can gain access to these things online. Try



Which reminds me…I’ve been hearing people say things like many of the orphans married more than once or the orphans often married more than once. Both ‘many’ and ‘often’ imply a measure. I was wondering has anyone actually counted or is it just a general impression, even an anecdotal one? Is it one in five, or 100 out of 300, or 400 out of 4000? And what percentage of marriages is each of these?

I’m having a little trouble with my post on the ending of the Earl Grey scheme. Soon come.

Glac bog an saol agus glacfaidh an saol bog tú …which reminds me of Yeats’s “tread softly for you tread …”