The Dingle Girls who left Kerry on the Earl Grey ‘Orphan’ Emigration Scheme, in October 1849, had experienced some of the worst effects of the Famine in County Kerry. We have the Quakers to thank for their first hand account of the devastation.
In November 1846, the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) established a Central Relief Committee in Dublin with a view to raising funds for distribution to areas where they were most needed and to gather independent information on the severity of the famine in different parts of the country. Two Quakers were sent from the Limerick Committee to Kerry. They were Edmund Richards from Gloucester and Edward Fitt a Limerick Quaker. They wrote an account of their findings as they travelled. They wrote from Dingle on 5th February 1847 ‘ This morning we were much pained with the cries of poor famishing children who, early as it was, had come into the town to get a morsel of food; it being the first day of the week, many poor were to be seen, and their miserable countenances and starved appearance claimed our sympathy. Old people tottering with feeble steps from door to door seeking relief. Children with drawn features stamped with premature old age, following their miserable parents, crying from the painful pangs of hunger; we endeavoured to mitigate their sufferings at the time and dispensed some relief during the day’. Continuing their journey around the peninsula, visiting Ventry, dispensing Indian meal, rice, small amounts of money, providing boilers for soup kitchens, their descriptions of the desolation are even more harrowing.
In my view, these 20 girls who were left Dingle to travel to Australia and build a new life there, were the lucky ones. On arrival, each girl was asked a number of questions by Immigration and we have their replies transcribed. From this we can record their names, addresses, ages (these were not always accurate), their parents’ names, if they were dead or still living, their religion and their ability to read or write. I have been able to trace some of the families, on the table below, where ‘Bapt. Cert’ is listed. If any of my readers can help with any of those whom I have not been able to trace, I would be most grateful if you could contact me. Read the full account of The Kerry Girls: Emigration & the Earl Grey Scheme, published by The History Press Ireland. Click here for the list of Dingle Girls