Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (54): Skibbereen and beyond (cont.)

 Skibbereen and beyond (cont.)

The poster above contains essential information about the November commemorative ‘Gathering’ in Williamstown this year. Wouldn’t it be good to see an Outreach programme associated with this Standing Rock in memory of the young Irish Famine women who arrived in Port Phillip? Organisers and descendants could choose the kind of outreach they would like. What do you think? I’m sure Dr Noone would encourage any proposal.

To return to some of the issues raised in my last post. Most of us will agree that the Earl Grey orphans had psychological baggage when they came to Australia. Some of them from places such as Skibbereen or Dingle or Kilrush may have been damaged more than others, making it hard for them to cope with the troubles they met in their new home.

If I may quote from Dr Kildea’s poignant oration, ‘Only Nineteen ‘ delivered at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney at the end of August 2017,

To be uprooted from your home country by force of circumstance, whether it be persecution or the prospect of starvation, and transported to a strange and foreign land can be a deeply traumatic experience. The fact that the refugee is thereby enabled to survive is unarguably a good thing. But that obvious benefit does not eliminate the emotional damage which the forced displacement causes”.

I encourage you to read Jeff’s speech if you haven’t already done so. https://tintean.org.au/2017/09/06/only-nineteen/

Reading his oration again I’m aware how much I’m indebted to him in these two blogposts on “Skibbereen and beyond”.

Were Skibbereen orphans especially vulnerable?

But let me play the devil’s advocate. What counter arguments or qualifications might be made to the claim that orphans from the Skibbereen area were especially vulnerable? Was Skibbereen so exceptional? Some qualifications to the claim have appeared already viz. there are places other than Skibbereen just as badly affected by the Famine. Dingle and Clare Abbey were mentioned in the previous post, for example. Note too the cover picture of the last post which features Captain Arthur Kennedy’s young daughter distributing clothing to children at Kilrush.

Kilrush evictions

Kilrush, in County Clare, was notorious for the number of evictions that drove people from their homes. Captain Kennedy, the Poor Law Inspector in Kilrush Poor Law Union, reported in July 1848,

“These helpless creatures are not only unhoused, but often driven off the land, no one remaining on the lands being allowed to lodge or harbour them. Or they, perhaps linger about the spot, and frame some temporary shelter out of the materials of their old homes against a broken wall, or behind a ditch or fence, or in a bog-hole (scalps as they are called), places totally unfit for human habitations, or they crowd into some of the few neighbouring cabins still left standing, when called to do so, as lodgers, where such numbers congregate that disease, together with the privations of other kinds which they endure, before long carry them off. As soon as one horde of houseless and all but naked paupers are dead, or provided for in the workhouse, another wholescale eviction doubles the number, who in their turn pass through the same ordeal of wandering from house to house, or burrowing in bogs or behind ditches, till broken down by privation and exposure to the elements, they seek the workhouse, or die by the roadside”.

scalp of brian connor nr Kilrush union house
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Or to take a different tack, there were another eighteen or so orphans from Skibbereen on board the Eliza Caroline and another eighty-five (85) on board the Elgin to South Australia about whom we know little or nothing. We just do not know how they fared in Australia. And therefore surely cannot be certain their Famine experience predisposed them to disaster in Australia.

Remember too that the orphans did not board ship carrying disease or wearing lice infected rags. They had an outfit, a wooden box, a Bible, and would be well fed during their voyage to Australia.

Dunmanway was different?

My thanks to  Síle Ní Muirchú (O’Driscoll) whose spiritual home is the beautiful Gougane Barra in West Cork. Síle provided the following excerpts from the Dunmanway Board of Guardian Minute Books. Dunmanway is just up the road from Skibbereen. Fifteen orphans from Dunmanway were also on board the Eliza Caroline.

“1st December 1849  “The Reports of the Master and other Officers were read, and orders made thereon, as follows”:

“The matron reported that 350 yards of gingham was required for girls bibs” 

The clerk was directed to advertise for contractors to supply gingham. Contracts to be made on the 8th inst.

8th December 1849

Letter from the Commissioners of 6th Inst No. 76770 containing instructions respecting Female emigrants – directions were given to the union officers to carry out the instructions of the Commissioners.

Special Business “Tender for supply of gingham deferred for consideration”.

The clerk was directed to advertise for persons willing to convey to Cork 15 female emigrants with their boxes etc? – tender to be considered on the 15th inst”.

15th December 1849

Special Business “Tenders for conveying female emigrants to Cork deferred for a few days”.

The tender of Mr Ralph Phipps? To paint boxes for the female emigrants at 5/2d each was accepted”.

22nd December 1849

“Debit Workhouse Invoice Account, and Credit Treasure, with the several sums as above”. 

“4. Emigration Account”.

Messr Skilling? And Co Books £1 s3 d9

Mr. ? for Bonnets 1 0 0

Mr Standley for Emigrants shoes 1 5 0

Mr Winder? For conveyance to Plymouth 3? 13 10 0

Mr ?? Fares to Cork 1 15 0

“The Reports of the Master and other Officers were read, and orders made thereon, as follows”:

That all? The clothing and requirements/requisites? Required for the outfit of the Female emigrants are now complete”.

Bibles, bonnets, boxes, shoes, and dressed in gingham, the Dunmanway orphans were privileged indeed, and cut a fine bib as they made their way to Cork en route to Plymouth and thence Port Phillip.

I doubt that today many Syrian children seeking refuge in Lebanon or Jordan, or in Canada or Germany are receiving professional counselling. Nor are the Rohingya fleeing to Bangladesh. How far have we failed to come? Such psychiatric help did not exist for our Famine orphans either. Yet maybe 235 Earl Grey orphans living close to one another on board the recently built, well appointed but small, Eliza Caroline, fostered memories of home. Living cheek by jowl for a ninety day voyage provided plenty of opportunity to share and talk about past experiences, and about anxieties, and hopes, and dreams. Good medicine in itself, for some at least, was it not?

There are different and subtle hues to our picture of ‘Skibbereen and beyond’, are there not?

Australian circumstances and events

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Sly Grog Shop on the road to Bendigo by S. T. Gill, 1852. Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria picture collection

Vulnerable orphans

What tipped a vulnerable orphan into the abyss? What things made her life so difficult in Australia? Maybe the life cycle of an ‘at risk’ orphan became a disaster because of events that happened in Australia. How many of them fall into this category? It is hard to know. We may never know. My gut reaction would be, about ten percent (10%) of the whole. But if we include any Earl Grey orphan who went into an institution, even once, to a Benevolent Asylum, a Lying-in hospital, a women’s prison, a Mental Asylum, or whose children went to an Industrial school, I’d put the figure higher. We just do not know the history of all the orphans. Which is why the work of people such as Perry Mc Intyre, Karen Semken, Cheryl Mongan, Richard Reid, and committed family historians is so important to our understanding of this issue.

Let me briefly explore, in general terms, the kind of thing that had an adverse effect on an orphan’s life. Here’s an incomplete list just off the top of my head. I hope you will identify others. Let me know your thoughts.

  • the vulnerability of a lonely female immigrant who lacked a support network from ‘home’
  • sexual and domestic abuse
  • criminal misdemeanours
  • alcoholism
  • mental illness, and other maladies
  • poverty and hardship
  • desertion, illness and death of her husband

Sexual and domestic abuse

I’ll just look at a couple of things from the list above. Under sexual and domestic abuse let’s include any orphan, vulnerable because of her servitude, who was a target for an employer abusing his or her power as master in the master-servant relationship. There will be more than the ones that came to court. Here are a few that were reported in the Melbourne press, the Argus.

Sarah Higg/Head ( the Melbourne Daily News named her as Sarah Head) a 14 year-old from Limerick per Pemberton took her employers to court in November 1849. Richard Clarke a printer in the Gazette office in Melbourne abused her with ‘the most insulting language’, calling her a ‘poor-house brat’. His wife had grabbed her by the neck and thrown her out the door. See Argus, 13 Nov. 1849 p.2 col 6 http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/504313

Catherine Mackie per New Liverpool was also a 14 year-old but from from Wicklow. The Argus 3 Nov 1849 reported as follows,

“The evidence went to prove that Mr.Williams (a schoolteacher of Brighton) had struck the girl repeatedly with a broom handle, and when she cried with pain he filled her mouth with ashes, to prevent the neighbours being alarmed”.
Or in Catherine’s words,”he then knelt upon me and took two fists full of ashes and put them down my mouth”.

Tragically, in April 1850, Alice Ball  a 16 year-old from Enniskillen per Diadem committed suicide by throwing herself into the River Yarra in Melbourne. “Even though reins were thrown to her from the bank of the river, she would not, she refused to lay hold of them”. She was pregnant by her married master. See the Argus, 26 April, 29 April and 1 May 1850.  http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/4773296

On Alice see https://www.prov.vic.gov.au/about-us/our-blog/tragic-end-irish-alice

My final example, one that i cannot forget, is Mary Coghlan from Skibbereen per Eliza Caroline. You can read about some of the abuse she suffered at the hands of her husband via this link http://trove.nla.gov.au/ndp/del/page/6455284?zoomLevel=1

“He pulled me out of bed and shoved me one way and then another. I was stupid and taken in labor after he beat me, and I can’t tell half what he did to me… The child was born dead. Prisoner struck me with his hand and his foot. He struck me all over. He struck me with the point of his foot. I was tumbling on the floor. My daughter was in the house when he beat me. He ill-used me from the Saturday till the Friday, when the child was born. Sometimes he’d up and give me a shove or a slap”.

The sad thing is, a husband’s so-called “rights” to discipline and punish his wife and children was enshrined in law, a legal position which was underpinned by the ideology of most churches of the time. The head of a household, that is, the male, had a duty to administer ‘moderate’ correction to his wife and children to keep them on the straight and narrow. I wonder do we really live in more enlightened times. There are still plenty of troglodytes about.

Mental Hospitals

In the 1990s I did some research on Irish women in Mental asylums for my Irish Women in Colonial Australia. I am glad to say some excellent work has appeared since then, particularly by the former Professor of Irish studies at the University of Melbourne, Professor Elizabeth Malcolm. Have a look for Elizabeth Malcolm, “Mental Health and Migration: The case of the Irish, 1850s-1990s”, in Migration, Ethnicity and Mental Health…, ed. A. McCarthy & C. Coleborne, Routledge, 2012, and her chapter on Yarra Bend Asylum, “Irish Immigrants in a Colonial Asylum during the Australian Gold Rushes, 1848-69”, in Asylums, Mental Health Care and the Irish:1800-2010, ed. Pauline M. Prior,  Irish Academic Press, 2012, 2017.  One can gain access to substantial portions of these works by searching via Google books.

Professor Malcolm identifies two orphans in her chapter on case histories in Yarra Bend, Bridget Ferry  from Dunfanaghy in Donegal per Lady Kennaway, and Elizabeth Armstrong from Enniskillen per Diadem. One was described as a ‘congenital idiot’ and the other as suffering from ‘paralysis’ and ‘dementia’. But both were released ‘cured’ after only a few months stay in the institution. Professor Malcolm suggests they may have used the asylum for their own ends, “as a means of escaping from intolerable living conditions”.

There was no shortage of Irish women in Australian mental hospitals. Dr Malcolm lists the reasons for their being there; post natal depression, grief at the death of children, alcoholism, head injuries and poor physical health, and some evidence of ‘gold fever’ i.e. overwhelming disappointment at not finding gold on the Victorian gold fields.

And if I may add, from my own research notes, the reasons given by the medical authorities of the day as the ‘supposed cause’ of an inmate’s illness. They help identify some of the ‘difficulties’ an ‘at risk’ orphan may have faced. These are taken from mental hospital records in Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales;

“her mind is affected by her child burning to death”,

“feeble and much emaciated”,

“drunkenness and ill usage of her husband”,

“death of her husband and destitute circumstances”,

“states she has been living in a solitary hut, her husband having been up the country and that continued fear was the cause of her illness”,

“form of mental disorder, nostalgia. Supposed cause, grief at leaving her country and ardent desire to return to it”,

“she continually reads her Prayer Book…becomes excited over religious subjects stating she has renounced her husband, that she considers sexual intercourse a crime and that she would sooner die than submit”,

“supposed cause of her melancholia, ‘regret at leaving home coupled with her recent desolate condition'”,

“she is a native of Ireland and lived by selling fruits…she has been long parted from her husband on account of his brutal usage”,

“the mother states that during her pregnancy with this child she received the most cruel usage from her husband”.

No matter how heavy the psychological baggage the orphans brought with them from a Famine ravaged Ireland, sometimes the struggle they had in their new home in Australia  tipped them over the edge, and determined the downward course their lives.

wollston park1ascan
Woogaroo, later Goodna, now known as Wollston Park mental hospital in Queensland, built in 1865.

Benevolent Asylums

Elsewhere in my blog I’ve drawn readers’ attention to the fact that because so many orphans married older men, in their old age they were more likely to spend their last days in an institution such as a Benevolent Asylum. Or as Dr Malcolm puts it, ‘elderly working class widows were especially vulnerable to psychiatric institutionalisation’. They coped as best they could, whatever way they could.

Unfortunately records of the names of those in the Melbourne Benevolent Asylum have not survived. But they have done so elsewhere. One needs to be aware of the name of the ship and date of arrival to detect an Earl Grey orphan. Here are a few from the ‘Register of Personal details relating to persons admitted to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum’.(Queensland State Archives Ben 2/4). Dunwich is on Stradbroke Island in Moreton Bay.

In alphabetic order,

Mary Clark aged 69 admitted January 19th 1897. Born in Belfast, daughter of Charles Murray and Mary Donnelly…came to Australia 49 years ago by ship Roman Emperor, landed at Adelaide S.A. Goodness how far had she travelled.

Eliza Dwyer aged 75 admitted May 4th 1898. Born in Belfast, daughter of John Frazer and Margaret Gallagher…came to Australia 50 years ago landed Moreton Bay. Eliza was one of the original Belfast girls who arrived by the Earl Grey.

Ellen Agnes Hickson aged 61 admitted Oct. 29  1895 . Born Clare Ireland, daughter of John Leyden and Mary Cronin…came to Australia 1850 landed in Sydney…last two years in Asylum Goodna. Ellen Leydon  from Ennistymon in County Clare arrived by the Thomas Arbuthnot.

Eliza Scholes aged 52 admitted October 10th 1889. Born Belfast, daughter of Anthony Rodgers and Jane Harver…came to Brisbane ’48 & have been in Queensland ever since. Eliza was another of the original Belfast girls who arrived by the Earl Grey.

It would be a major research project searching for, and cross referencing orphans in different institutions throughout Australia. Eliza Scholes nee Rogers had served three months for vagrancy in March 1888 and another 6 months for the same ‘crime’ in January 1889 in Toowoomba Women’s prison.

A reminder, though, searching for orphans in such institutions, as I’ve said elsewhere, ” is merely adding the bias of expectations to the bias of the evidence itself”. But it is still worth doing.

The work of family historians can act as a counterweight to this, even if they too have a bias of their own. Their concern is not with the ‘lost’ orphans. They are the survivors, and sometimes, maybe too often, view things through rose-tinted spectacles. As Noeline Kyle puts it in her very useful book, Writing Family History Made Very Easy, Allen & Unwin, 2007, in her chapter called “Nostalgia, Sentiment and Blazing Sunsets”, “we read about devoted wives, hardworking men, dear children and pious wives” (p.165). Noeline has important and valuable advice for all would-be genealogists and family historians.

My intention was to include some Port Phillip orphan stories via family reconstitutions in this post, on the occasion of this year’s Williamstown commemoration. But the post is too long already. Next time, I promise, before the ‘gathering’ occurs.

Here’s an incomplete key to the contents of my blog http://wp.me/p4SlVj-oE

I hope it may be of use to the actors researching their roles for Jaki McCarrick’s play “Belfast Girls”. Break a leg!

At the bottom of each blog post after the comments there is a search box. Type in whatever you are looking for and click enter and you will find what reference there is, if any, in the whole of the blog. Thus if you enter “Ellen Leydon” you will be told she appears in posts 51, 25, 9, and 4. Happy hunting.

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (50): more brief histories

SOME MORE BRIEF HISTORIES

A reader recently mentioned how much she liked reading stories about the orphans. So you will forgive me, i hope, if i add some more.  These are based on my ‘family reconstitutions’ some of which appear elsewhere in my blog. But this time I’ve added a little gloss.

May I suggest these orphan stories illustrate the many textures and hues of the female condition in colonial Australia? Some of the orphans were lucky in marriage, some not so. Most of them had agency of some kind, even if often limited by historical circumstance, and societal norms and constraints.

Let me begin with two from the notorious Earl Grey, the first vessel to arrive, carrying the “Belfast Girls”. I’ll refer to a couple more towards the end.

ELLEN PARKS from Belfast

Ellen Parks married twenty-five year old, London born, George Clarke, in May 1850, less than two years after she arrived. George proved to be a successful restaurant keeper, dealer and fish-monger whose estate was valued at £3500 when he died. Ellen predeceased him by six years. The couple lost two of their children at an early age. But Ellen was assured her other children would be well looked after. In his will, George spread gifts of glassware, furniture, jewelry, books, and fine engravings among them; to James, a large diamond ring, to Christina, a gold locket and chain in a box, to George(?), a gold hunting watch with Albert and locket attached, to Lillian, a ladies gold watch with Albert and Pendant gold chain with cross attached, to Anna Lloyd, a gold miniature brooch with Emu and Kangaroo on a wreath, to Alice, a gold brooch and earrings containing topaz, to Ellen Sewell, a cluster diamond ring, and to Frank Fowler a number of books and engravings. It is always worth checking probate records, is it not?

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A different fate awaited her shipmate, JANE HOGAN from Ballymena.

She married a former convict, Francis Hanley, a good bit older than herself, scarcely six months after arriving. But she was to die in childbirth in 1860 when she was twenty-eight years old.

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FROM MALLOW, COUNTY CORK to PORT PHILLIP

MARY BARROW per Pemberton

Mary Barrow is not so well-known as her older sister, Ann. Ann married a former convict, Samuel Phillips. The photo is of Ann and her husband Samuel on shopfronts in front of cab stables, Sydney Road, Brunswick, unfortunately now demolished. Their son David was to become Mayor of Brunswick.

blogfoabarrowsculpt

And among their illustrious descendants was their grandchild, Sir Ronald East CBE MCE FICE FRHSV. Try typing his name into a search engine. My informant for the entry in Barefoot vol 2, p. 320, told me the family now embraces twenty-two different nationalities. It is very much part of multicultural Australia.

It is fitting we also acknowledge Ann’s sister, the young fourteen year old Mary Barrow who arrived by the Pemberton in May 1849.

Mary was to marry a Cork man, Michael Doherty, and together they went searching for gold. The couple travelled west, living in Raglan, Charlton, Avoca and Ararat. Both of them are buried in Ballarat New Cemetery. One can only hope the two families remained in touch with one another. Is there any evidence for this, does anyone know?

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DORINDA SALTRY FROM SLIGO per Lady Kennaway

I must admit my choice of family reconstitutions is pretty much a random choice. But  I notice I am influenced by my knowing some people who may be interested, such as Terry, Barbara, Kay, Anne-Marie, and Chrissy.

Dorinda Saltry from Sligo married an ‘exile’ Lemuel Bryanton from Suffolk. Lemuel was in Pentonville prison as a horse thief before being sent to Australia. He evidently used his skill with horses later in life for he was a groom and a horse cab owner in Melbourne when all of his nine children were born. Note that William Lonsdale, a member of the Melbourne Orphan committee, was required to give his approval to the marriage of the young couple in 1850. Four of their children, including two named after their mother, died at a young age. Orphans’ children dying relatively young surely affected their attitudes to death. Maybe it was a common enough occurrence throughout colonial Australia. Giving birth every two or three years was a common experience for women too.

The couple do not seem to have travelled far. Bowondara or Boroondara cemetery is in Kew, Melbourne.

fodorindasaltry

ELLEN CURRAN from Enniscorthy per New Liverpool

Here’s one who did travel– as far as Casterton in Glenelg Shire near the South Australian border. Ellen Curran married an Englishman nearly twelve years her senior. But he outlived her. Most of their children inherited their longevity. Ellen’s father, step-mother and half-sister came to Australia in c. 1851. Her ancestor who provided this information has supplied the married names of their children. Note there are few Irish sounding names among them. Like many an orphan, Ellen’s children were absorbed into the larger, dominant,  dare I say, Anglo-Australian culture.

Ellen was a Wexford orphan most of whom came to Australia on board the New Liverpool. A similar number of their Wexford workhouse “sisters” disembarked at the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa.

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One more to Port Phillip,

CATHY CULBERT from Tuam per Lady Kennaway

Port Phillip, and what was soon to become the colony of Victoria, attracted people from all over the world at the time of the 1850s gold rush. Cathy Culbert, originally from Tuam in County Galway, married William Swain, or Swane, from Flores in Portugal on the first of January 1850, both residing at Sugar Loaf Creek north of Kilmore. William was there before the rush for gold began. I wonder what his history is. Together Cathy and William had ten children, six boys and four girls. At some stage they moved north of Ballarat to Maryborough which is where Cathy was buried in 1899.

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Some more who lived in Queensland,

CATHY DURKIN from Ballyglen, Mayo per Panama

Maybe Barbara or Terry can tell me where exactly Ballyglen is in County Mayo. I suspect it is somewhere between Killala and Ballycastle in the north of the county. Times must have been really hard in these beautiful western districts of Ireland during the Famine.

Cathy was lucky. She had relatives in the colony, a cousin Catherine White, who lived in the Moreton Bay district. A few months after arriving in Sydney she went with a party of another twenty-two orphans to Moreton Bay! Either the Sydney Immigration Agent was most accommodating or Cathy herself managed to take advantage of her circumstances. A few years later she married Henry Wakefield from Oxford with whom she spent the rest of her hard working life, in Brisbane, giving birth to ten children.

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CATHY KENNEDY from Kerry per Thomas Arbuthnot

This one will be of interest to Kay Caball, author of The Kerry Girls. Her book is essential reading for anyone with a Kerry orphan in their family. I’d recommend it to everyone with an interest in the Irish Famine orphans. Kay tells us that Cathy  gave her place of origin to the Dingle workhouse Board of Guardians as Brandon Bay, which is in the Gaeltacht in the north of the Dingle peninsula. There is always room for error in our official records, and interestingly here we have strong evidence that the first language for some of the orphans was Irish. Like Cathy Durkin above, or the young Moriarty sisters from Kerry, Cathy Kennedy may have had Irish as their first language.

Perhaps Irish was the first language for many orphans from the West of Ireland? Or perhaps my East-West fault line is too crude? 1851 Census records identify the areas with the largest number of Irish only speakers, Galway, Kerry, Clare, Cork, Mayo, Waterford, Donegal, for example. Like Cathy Durkin above, from Mayo, or the young Moriarty sisters from Kerry, Cathy Kennedy was probably at least bilingual.

But as Máiréad Nic Craith reminds us in her brilliant chapter in the Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, ” Legacy and Loss: the Great Silence and its aftermath”, (p.583), the 1851 census probably underestimates the number of Irish speakers in the country at the time.

The language question is a fascinating subject is it not? Other questions about attitudes to death, posed earlier, or  about the ways geography impinges on an orphan’s life–Kay Caball reminds us that Cathy Kennedy and her parents walked miles across difficult mountainous terrain to get  to the Dingle workhouse–or in Queensland, Mary Moriarty from Dingle, restlessly moving with her husband, Samuel Brassington, from Brisbane to Ipswich to Dalby, Condamine, Moraby, Roma, Mitchell up the Maranoa River, across the mountains to the Warrego River and finally reaching Augathella in 1864, would be very much aware of how the natural environment impacted on her life–these sort of subjects can bring us to a closer understanding of an orphan’s life both in Ireland and Australia. We shouldn’t be afraid to cast our net as wide as we can.

 

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I intended including the young Moriarty sisters in this post. Maybe another time. Let me finish, as promised, with two more of the orphans Surgeon Douglass banished to the Moreton Bay district.

ELIZA FRAZER and VIOLET LACKIE per Earl Grey

One of Eliza‘s descendants figures prominently in Siobhan McHugh’s Radio National podcast which you can download and listen to at  http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/hindsight/the-famine-girls/4857904

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Violet Lackie reminded me of  young James Porter’s disparaging account of the orphans who went to Brisbane by the steamer Eagle,

“Within forty eight hours they had all been married and they could be seen all over the town trecked out in the gaudiest finery that could be procured in the few drapers shops then in Brisbane. Of course the men from up country represented themselves or were understood by the girls to be squatters and when their cheques were spent the difficulty was to get their wives out of town. They had been spoilt by the few days carouse and did not care to face the discomforts of a bullock drivers camp. One girl positively refused to move but her husband by main force got her to the camp pad locked a bullock chain round her waist and fastened it to the tail of the dray. Eighteen months afterwards I got to the Merro diggings I reconnised her living under the protection of a man other than hr husband, keeping a sly grog shop”. (cited in Barefoot…, vol.2, p.112).

Evidently it was not Violet. She remained with her native born husband, George Fitzpatrick, all her life.

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I knew these two appeared in court records not long after they’d married and hoped I could find out more using the digitized newspapers in http://trove.nla.gov.au/

Eliza had rushed to the rescue of a young servant working next door, in Humby’s the bootmakers in Brisbane. Fourteen year old Mary Maddocks was being sexually assaulted by a Mount Elphinstone ‘exile’. The culprit was sentenced to seven years imprisonment (Brisbane Court of Petty Sessions (QSA Z2833 31 July 1850).

I had a little trouble with trove and had to login to my account before I had any success.

Unfortunately I found nothing on the Mary Maddocks case but did find a brief reference to a fight Eliza and Violet had in late 1849. See the Moreton Bay Courier, 10 November 1849 column 3. Eliza was fined 5 shillings, and ordered to pay ten shillings costs.

http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/page/541419?browse=ndp%3Abrowse%2Ftitle%2FM%2Ftitle%2F14%2F1849%2F11%2F10%2Fpage%2F541419%2Farticle%2F3711662

http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/3711667?searchTerm=Violet%20Fitzpatrick&searchLimits=l-title=14|||l-state=Queensland

There was little more using ‘Violet Fitzpatrick’ as my search term. But there were rich pickings using ‘Edward Dwyer’ and ‘Eliza Dwyer’.

Edward appeared before the Brisbane Petty Sessions court on charges of drunkenness. See for example,  http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/3718161?searchTerm=Edward%20Dwyer&searchLimits=l-state=Queensland|||l-title=14

I cannot sing the praises of Trove enough. It is a great research tool. Create an account for yourself, persist with it. You will be rewarded many times over.

Just a quick reminder of the gathering at Hyde Park Barracks this coming Sunday 27 August. You will be made very welcome. See https://www.facebook.com/GreatIrishFamineMemorial/

Cad a dhéanfaimid feasta gan adhmad,
tá deireadh na gcoillte ar lár;
níl trácht ar Chill Chais ná a teaghlach,
is ní bainfear a cling go bráth;
an áit úd ina gcónaíodh an deighbhean
a fuair gradam is meidhir thar mná,
bhíodh iarlaí ag tarraing thar toinn ann,
is an tAifreann binn á rá.

Noli timere (Seamus Heaney)

Earl Grey’s Irish Famine Orphans (15): “Belfast Girls”

“BELFAST GIRLS”

This is just a short post in honour of Jaki McCarrick’s play, Belfast Girls, which opens this/next week (May 2015) at the Artemisia Theater in Chicago.

See the facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/events/1409959125987645/permalink/1429293680720856/

Volume two of Ray Debnam’s 3-CD set of The Feisty Colleens is a must for anyone interested in the history of these young women. Ray has researched the ‘Belfast girls’ per Earl Grey who were banished to Moreton Bay in 1848. He has done so with imagination and admirable thoroughness. See  http://thefeistycolleens.com/author.html 

Many of the orphans married former convicts which is hardly surprising given the history of the Moreton Bay settlement. Ray ‘s work however, shows much more than that. I was particularly interested in the support the young women gave each other, often turning up to each other’s marriages, as well as the differences between them. It is well worth a look. Ray has a good sense of historical context.

After Surgeon Henry Grattan Douglas’s scathing report on the ‘Belfast Girls’ —they were, in his words, ‘barefooted little country beggars, swept from the streets into the workhouse, and thence to New South Wales…notoriously bad in every sense of the word‘--thirty-four (34) of them were sent straight to Moreton Bay and seventeen (17) to Maitland without setting foot in Sydney.

In the John Oxley Library (Mss OM 68-18), in the James Porter Papers, there is an account of the Eagle steamer carrying orphans to Brisbane, towards “the latter end of 1849”. Obviously it’s not about our ‘Belfast girls’. In it, Porter claimed “about twenty of these girls were put on board as steerage passengers for Moreton Bay and although the lower classes in those days did not follow Paris fashions so slavish as now the girls to me presented a remarkable contrast. There (sic) hair had been cut short and the black fellow when he saw them for the first time in Brisbane called them “short grass” consequently they were afterwards called “short grasses”. Their dress consisted of  a plain blue cotton cotton gown with white spots which hung loose from the neck to the feet. These were covered with heavy hobnail shoes”.

I wonder if the ‘Belfast girls’ also had their hair cropped? It was a well-known form of punishment and humiliation for women in convict days. Perhaps the same attempt to control the Famine orphans was used by authorities?

Let me post a couple of photographs and a few family reconstitutions relating to the ‘Belfast girls”. I”ll put them up in alphabetical order. The first one is of Jane Clarke, allegedly a married woman. We’ve met her before. Unfortunately I haven’t come across many photographs of the ‘Belfasters’. Ray has Jane marrying Richard Bushnell, a former convict, with whom she has nine children. The couple lived on the Darling Downs, Warwick and near Gayndah. Jane died in Bundaberg in 1902.

Jane Clarke

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fojaneclarke

Eliza Frazer

The next is a family reconstitution of someone with a famous name in Australian history, Eliza Frazer.

foelizafrazerearl greyThere are another two probable children to the marriage.

In July 1850 Eliza was a witness at the trial of John Brown charged with an assault on a young servant, Mary Maddox. Another witness, Mary Sparkes, describes Eliza’s part in the affair, “… I know the little girl–and I know the prisoner he lodges at Humbys–Last night I was filling the kettle and I heard someone screeching–I listened and knew it was the voice of Humby‘s girl–the man was not naked but his trousers were unbuttoned–he said to the girl Hush! Hush! and I’ll give you five or six shillings…felt hurt and called to Mrs Dwyer  who came up and threatened to burst the door if he didn’t open it.–I remained at the back door–and Mrs Dwyer went to Mrs Humby and told her to be down quick for the girl was not being acted right by…” .
One of the ‘feisty colleens’ indeed,  as Ray calls them.

Eliza Greenwood

The next example is Eliza Greenwood. Note how far she travels during her lifetime.

foeliza greenwooda

foeliza greenwood

foelizagreenwoodearl grey

 Mary McConnell

Not all the ‘Belfast girls’ were banished to Moreton Bay. Some went to Maitland in the Hunter Valley. Here is one example, Mary McConnell, also alleged to be a married woman before she left Ireland. Mary never married her partner in Australia, William Ashton. All her children were registered by her as “illegitimate”. Yet they lived their lives and were married as “Ashtons”. As always, my thanks go to descendants who gave me information and sent me photographs. In Mary’s case, my sincere  thanks to Pat Evans and Brian Andrews. Maybe I can return to Mary’s family history at a later date?

fomarymcconnellearl greyTheresa Short

Finally, a family reconstitution for Theresa Short. Ray has discovered a possible fourteenth child.

fotheresashortearl greyNot all the ‘Belfast girls’ had such large families and apparently stable relationships. Some such as Georgina Mulholland or Mary Black appear fleetingly on the historical stage but they are given another fictional life, this time in Jaki McCarrick’s play.

https://twitter.com/artemisia4vr/status/591048220349964288

May it be a scintillating success and play to packed houses.