During the 19th century Ireland became a land of emigrants, many of them leaving for Britain’s Australian colonies. To reach that distant ‘new world’ most took advantage of a government assisted passage which by the standards of the time was a well organised journey in ships supervised by Surgeon-Superintendents, Matrons, Sub-Matrons, Schoolmasters and Water Closet Constables.
Farewell my Children tells the story of these emigrants as they left their Irish homes between 1848 and 1870 to sail to Sydney, a journey mirrored by those who left for Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart or Moreton Bay (Brisbane). Who were these emigrants, what propelled them out of Ireland and what were their first experiences of Australia as they battled for employment? Orphan girls fled the destitution and disease of Irish workhouses during the Great Famine; hundreds left the impoverished parishes of north-west Donegal; families sponsored other family members in chains of migration stretching back to counties Clare, Tipperary, Tyrone and Fermanagh; and family members joined convicts who had been transported years before. Here were the thousands who formed the basis of that large component of colonial society that thought of themselves not as ‘British’ but as the forerunners of somewhere called ‘Australia’.
About the author
Born in Ireland, Dr Richard Reid has worked as a high school teacher, museum education and research officer, exhibition curator and public historian. In 1993 he was the Australian War Memorial’s Executive Officer for the return of an Australian Unknown Soldier from France to the Memorial’s Hall of Memory. In 2011 he was the senior curator for the National Museum of Australia’s the exhibition ‘Not Just Ned’, a history of the Irish in Australia since 1788.
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