I am delighted to tell you that I finally finished my book on the 117 Kerry Girls who went to Australia in 1849/1850 and it will be published by The History Press Ireland in Spring 2014.
The Kerry Girls: Emigration & the Earl Grey Scheme
The Story of 117 Kerry Girls sent to Australia on the Earl Grey Scheme
This is the true story of 117 Kerry girls sent out to Australia in 1849/1850 from Workhouses in Dingle (20), Kenmare (25), Killarney (35) and Listowel (37), under the auspices of the Earl Grey ‘Orphan’ scheme. The majority of these Kerry teenage girls were not in fact ‘Orphans’ as many had one parent alive. Their emigration has become known as the ‘Earl Grey scheme’ after its principal architect, Earl Grey, Secretary of State for the Colonies in Lord John Russell’s Whig government at the time of the Great Irish Famine
The Imperial government saw it as an opportunity on the one hand to clear out some of the overcrowded Irish workhouses and on the other, to provide much needed female labour and potential marriage partners for colonial settlers. In the two years that the scheme was in place, over 4000 Irish girls were sent to the other side of the world.
This book seeks to bring to the notice of the public both here and in Australia, the circumstances that lead initially to the Kerry girls confinement in the workhouses, their ‘selection’ and shipping to New South Wales and Adelaide, their subsequent apprenticeship, marriage and life in the colony. While it is not a ‘Famine’ book, it sets out the terrible circumstances that they left behind in Kerry and the mixed reception afforded to these ‘useless trollops’ following their arrival. We ask if their emigration was an opportunity or a tragedy? Did they become pawns in a political struggle between Imperial and Colonial interests?
It is estimated in Australia that there are 277,173 descendants of these Irish girls. The Chapters are interspersed with remarkable pen pictures of a number of the girls, provided by their descendants. These pen pictures show the human side, the different personalities and their reaction to the changed conditions of their lives. If you haven’t seen the story of Bridget Ryan, one of these girls, on the recent TAR ABHAILE documentary, you can access it on TG4 Player. It is highlighted on the boxes on right and Bridget’s story is on Episode 3. Link
My research into the project over the past two years, included identifying the girls from the four workhouses and matching these with shipping and baptismal records. Further research took place through the individual Minutes of the Boards of Guardians of the workhouses, Tralee/Kerry 1848/1850 newspapers, Australian 1848- 1851 newspapers, British Parliamentary Records etc., etc.
Congrats Kay! I am really looking forward to reading your book. Martine
A great achievement, Kay. Looking forward to the book. Best wishes, Trish
Thanks Patricia, I am hoping that the publisher will have it ready by March. At the moment, I am compiling the Index and Bibliography and sending it to my Editor in the UK. I have ‘booked’ the Minister for Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht – my neighbour Jimmy Deenihan T.D., to officially launch it during Listowel Writers Week. It is a story that most Kerry people are totally unaware of. I went to school in Presentation Convent Listowel, just a few hundred yards from the Workhouse and never, ever heard of the Earl Grey Scheme and to be honest, very little about the Famine. I have checked with schoolmates, in case it was just me not listening to the teachers, but no – we were just never told much about it. It seems to have been such a traumatic event that it has taken generations to come to terms with it.
Tragic story and one which so many would prefer to see covered-up.
I have strong family connections to Dingle ( Graham / Murphy )
Is there a listing anywhere on the net of the names/ details of the girls involved ?
I am glad of your interest in The Kerry Girls: Emigration & The Earl Grey Scheme. It is due for publication to-morrow and will be available on Amazon.co.uk at http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=The%20Kerry%20Girls%20Emigration%20%26%20The%20Earl%20Grey%20Scheme&sprefix=The+K%2Cstripbooks&rh=i%3Astripbooks%2Ck%3AThe%20Kerry%20Girls%20Emigration%20%26%20The%20Earl%20Grey%20Scheme.
The names of all the firls are in the back of the book. While I was able to locate the parents of a number of the girls, this was not possible for all. If you know of any or think you might, please email me at any time. I would like to know what your opinion is also on the book.
[…] Kerry Girls: Emigration and the Earl Grey Scheme” by Kay Maloney Caball. Fom a post on her My Kerry Ancestors […]
Congratulations Kay for your achievement, for telling some of the lost stories of our dear girls. Each of the 20 ships to Australia brought Famine Orphans from a range of workhouses throughout Ireland.
As a descendant & genealogist, I am so proud of great great grandmother, my Limerick Famine Orphan Sarah Matilda Smith nee O’Malley. As well as their personal pioneer struggles as teenagers cut adrift from home & family, in getting through the Great Famine & the various political world issues, these refugees dealt with a greater share of “man’s inhumanity to man”.
We are glad to have your scholarship & dedication, re-knitting our bonds with lost family links & Ireland.
We look forward very much to you being our guest speaker at Melbourne’s Great Famine Commemoration Day in November 2014, where we have joined annually since 1998 to tell their tales through performance, music & oral history.
All the best
Irish Famine Orphan Heritage
Great Famine Memorial Williamstown
(03) 9397 6619
Debra, thank you for your kind remarks. The book is proving very popular both here in Ireland and also in Australia. Looking forward to the Famine Commemoration Day at Williamstown in November. I am already ‘recruiting’ descendants for the event. I met with three people in Listowel on Monday who had come searching for their Pearse ancestors (Winifred Pearse via ship Thomas Arbuthnot). They are residents of Melbourne and look forward to being there. Kay