New Irish Research Group in South Australia

Irish Research Group in South Australia (IRSGSA)

Irish treasure found at Baker’s Flat

This recently formed research group has grown out of ten years’ research on the Irish in South Australia, beginning with research on Irish place names by Dr Dymphna Lonergan, and the Irish in the County of Stanley by Dr Stephanie James. These two scholars were introduced to each other at a South Australian Genealogy and Heritage Society annual dinner and subsequently became research friends. 

Torrens river, Adelaide, named after Derry-born Colonel Robert Torrens

During her research on Irish placenames in South Australia, Dr Lonergan came across the story of the Irish settlement in Kapunda and local amateur historian Simon O’Reilley. Over the years, Dr Lonergan kept prodding the archaeologists at Flinders University to consider fieldwork in Kapunda to document the story of the Irish who squatted on Baker’s Flat. In 2012, a suitable postgraduate candidate emerged. Susan Arthure hailing from Trim Co. Meath had come to Flinders’ archaeology from a post at the Department of Environment and Heritage and happily took on the Irish on Baker’s Flat as a Masters, to be followed by further archaeological research for her PhD. Around about the same time, the youngest member of the Irish Research Group in South Australia. Fidelma Breen, originally from Portadown, County Armagh, researched the Orange Order in South Australia. Her subsequent PhD studies at the University of Adelaide looked at the economics of contemporary Irish migration to South Australia.

ISAANZ Conference Dinner. Fidelma Breen first left at back; Stephanie James second left at back; Susan Arthure far right at front beside Dymphna Lonergan

In 2016, the group worked together on the Irish Studies in Australia and New Zealand (ISAANZ) conference (see photo) that was held in Adelaide in December of that year. More Irish South Australian research emerged during that time such as Bronte Gould’s study of Irish doctors, Rory Hope’s study of early pioneer John Hope, both of which were presented as papers at the conference. Other studies underway are of the Catholic Church in South Australia and Irish orphans to SA. All of this growth and the desire of the group to continue sharing research interests has led to the idea of a history of the Irish in South Australia. IRGSA will draft an outline of a proposed publication over the next few months in the hope of seeing its publication in 2018.

Contacts for the Irish Research Group in South Australia: