Welcome to “From Famine to Feast” – a new show presented by Vince & Margie Brophy and Cora Browne about the Irish orphan girls from the ship the Thomas Abuthnott. Brought to Australia in 1850 under Earl Grey’s Orphan Girls scheme, the girls faced derision and a hostile welcome. They surprised their detractors by arriving hale and hearty and ready to work. The girls settled in Yass, Gundagai and the surrounding areas of Hume and became the mothers of generations of Australians.
The interesting thing about this story is that most of these women can be traced through records, so they’re not part of some grey history and indeed a big part of our continuing future.
My wife Margie tracing her own family history, discovered that she had relatives that lived in a little place near Yass, NSW, called Fairy Hole. It can be seen from the freeway and the road sign is still there. All this adds up to make up this continuing story all the more interesting. Can you imagine that her relatives may well have known some of these women shared a story a hello or a cup of tea with them.
In my family just recently we lost our mother Evelyn Carmel (nee Keogh / Flanigan ). She came from Ennistymon in County Clare. Now that particular part of the country was one of the hardest hit by the famine. When Evelyn was born in 1931 the great famine was only eighty five years old. I would have dearly loved to ask her mum Elizabeth, what she remembered being said by the old ones about that time.
Elizabeth was married to Captain Bernard Patrick Keogh whom was in the Irish Free State Army. B.P. can be see in the footage of the movie Michael Collins standing at one of the gun carriage wheels.
I worked out that Evelyn would have heard the stories from her mother whom heard them from her family, and to which I drew the conclusion maybe some of my mothers family knew some of these orphan girls, given the six degrees of seperation and 23 of them came from her district of Ennistymon?
All this is linked into these women coming to Australia and as you read both in Ireland and Australia their journeies continue.
If you have a story of these Irish orphan girls we’d love to hear from you. It would help us to draw a closer bond to this wonderful story.