News from Mayo
Girls who left Ireland for new lives in Australia during the Great Famine to be remembered
From October 16 – 19 in the West of Ireland, a small committee from Ballina, County Mayo in the West or Irelandwill unveil a memorial to 138 girls aged from 14 to 18 who were sent to Australia from the ‘workhouses’ in the county during the Great Famine in Ireland, between 1848 and 1850.
The Great Famine (in Irish: An Gorta Mór) or the ‘Great Hunger’ was a period of mass starvation, disease, and emigration in Ireland between 1845 and 1849, the worst year being ‘Black ‘47’. During the disaster, over a million people died, and two million more emigrated, causing a significant decline in the population, from which the country has not yet recovered. Of these, 1.8 million crossed the Atlantic to America and Canada.
Many, too, went to Australia, some as convicts, some as fee-paying passengers. And then there were the 4,014 orphan girlswho jumped at the opportunity to escape the awful grimness of the workhouses for, as they were told, ’a land of milk and honey’. 137 brave girls left the county of Mayo on the western seaboard for Australia, where they settled and left their mark on the other side of the world, mostly in Sydney and Melbourne as well as areas like Wollongong and Kiama. Today, the descendants of these Irish girls in Australia run into hundreds of thousands.
The memorial to the girls in the form of a bronze statue donated by local businessman Mr. Frank Kerins will be erected adjacent to Ballina Library in the town centre on Friday, October 19 at noon. Among the attendance at the unveiling will be the Australian Ambassador to Ireland, Richard Andrews. A choir and musicians will perform a musical tribute, the names of the 138 girls will be read out by schoolchildren from around the county, and floral tributes will be laid. The unveiling will form the highlight of a four-day series of events including illustrated talks, re-enactments and exhibitions.
A ‘céad míle fáilte’ (one hundred thousand welcomes) will be extended to visitors from Australia who visit in October or at any time in the future to see the memorial.
The fascinating story of the girls has been recorded in by local author and historian, Terry Reilly in his book, ‘Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls’ (2017).
For more information contact Terry Reilly – firstname.lastname@example.org
Or visit the Mayo Forgotten Famine Girls Memorial page on Facebook.