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
Hello Kay, re my GG Grandmother Mary Kennedy of Dingle – you may remember in Oct 2013, in the preparation of your book, we had some discussion about Mary, her birth & her parents. My cousin Sharyn had done some research on this & we all seemed to agree ( because these were the only results that matched) that Mary’s parents were Daniel Kennedy & Gobnet Keller, married on 20 February 1832 in the parish of Annascaul & that Mary Kennedy, of Clift, was baptised on 28 February 1833. You were going to see if you could shed some light on “Clift”. Did you have any success there. I’m not sure now, on how to prove that these are the people we are looking for, although I’m convinced that they are. I am awaiting the release of the digitised Parish records & hoping that these may help to solve this mystery. Hope this helps. Ian.
Ian, good to hear from you. No I don’t have an update on ‘Clift’. I have searched through all the Aunascaul townlands and there is no townland called ‘Clift’ there. The records that you are looking at on http://www.IrishGenealogy.ie have been translated from the original Latin and are not always accurate. There is another record on http://www.IrishGenealogy.of of a Mary Kennedy (Coumduff) baptised in Aunascaul on 11th June 1832 and this Mary should also be considerred.
However, I think myself that Mary was from Dingle rather than Aunascaul. You cannot rely on ages that have been entered on their Immigration entries. I have found that almost without exception, the girls are two or more years older than the age given at entry. You see age was of no significance in 19th century Ireland, people didn’t celebrate birthdays, they had no ‘certificates’ to prove anything so they just said what they thought they might be and you will find that later when they married, they gave a different age again. So going on the Australian records, I would presume that Mary Kennedy was born between 1831 and 1833. She says that her ‘father living in Dingle’, which I would presume meant he was living in Dingle town in 1849 whether independently or in the Workhouse. As you know, the baptismal records for Dingle from March 1828 to April 1833 are illegible. But the good news is that the Canon in Dingle has got a very dedicated person who has volunteered to decipher these and he has been working away solidly for over a year now. I have been able to identify 3 more of the Dingle girls from his work. I will check with him to-day on Mary Kennedy.
Tks Kay. Good info.
Maureen, that is great. You see my main motivation in writing the book was two fold – to get to know their identities if at all possible and then to let people know about their existence, their courage and resilience. I was shocked when I first discovered that girls had gone out from Listowel, where I had gone to school and then I disovered all the others – Dingle, Killarney and Kenmare. I didn’t want them left forever as a nameless bunch of Earl Grey ‘Orphans’. I have been lucky enough to have been interviewed and asked to speak about the book for both a Kerry and a wider audience so it’s great to get their story told to New Zealanders. You can check a documentary with Frank Lewis of Radio Kerry here and with Myles Dungan of The History Show on RTE1 Sunday 18th January 2015.
Just to let you know I have recommended your book “The Kerry Girls” for our Library to purchase for the New Zealand Society of Genealogists in New Zealand,