Radio Kerry will broadcast a one hour documentary on The Kerry Girls: Emigration & The Earl Grey Scheme, on Christmas Day at 2pm. The documentary, produced by J.J. O’Shea will feature snippets from yours truly as well as a range of contributors. Over a month in Australia in Spring of 2016, J.J. interviewed a number of prominent Irish/Australian historians as well as descendants of these 117 Kerry girls from Dingle, Kenmare, Killarney and Listowel, who arrived in Australia in 1849/1859 under the Earl Grey ‘Orphan’ scheme.
Trevor McClaughlin, whose definitive book Barefoot and Pregnant? Irish Famine Orphans in Australia, was published in 1991 gives us his views of the scheme. Dr. Richard Reid who has written a number of books on the Irish in Australia including ‘A Decent Set of Girls‘ as well as the Irish/Australian historian Dr. Perry McIntyre are some of those interviewed. J.J. also spoke to some of the descendants of the girls and visited the ‘diggings’ where several of the girls and their families settled at the time of the Australian gold rush in Victoria.
The story of these spirited, adventurous, brave and determined Kerry girls is not all doom and gloom – far from it. Though it started in the Great Famine Workhouses of Dingle, Kenmare, Killarney and Listowel, the girls’ decision to leave there and start a new and unkown life at the other side of the world was in my view, an opportunity rather than a tragedy.