Famine victims become 'part of Australia's narrative'
Published 26/08/2013 | 05:00
THEIR descendants went on to fulfil their dreams by reaching the top echelons of Australian society. More than 4,000 destitute Irish girls, many orphans, who made Australia their home after the Famine have been remembered.
The fifth International Famine Commemoration was staged yesterday at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney, where the girls were housed on arrival. Some of their descendants were among the hundreds who turned out for the musical and wreath-laying commemoration.
Records show 117 girls, aged 14 to 20, left Kerry between October 28, 1849, and April 8, 1850, from workhouses in Dingle, Kenmare, Killarney and Listowel under a scheme devised by the British home secretary.
First they travelled by ship to Plymouth before getting on a vessel for the many months at sea to make it to Australia.
Arts Minister Jimmy Deenihan, who selected Sydney as the location for this year's service, said people could now only imagine just how "difficult the journey" was for those who left to escape the horror of the Famine and begin new lives abroad.
"Through the orphan girls and others who emigrated during this time, the Famine forms not just part of Ireland's history but also part of Australia's historical narrative," he said.
It is the first time the commemoration has taken place in Sydney, with previous events taking place in Canada, New York, Liverpool and Boston.