Famine Commemoration

Famine monument remembrance event marks 20 years

The glass panels of Sydney’s Famine Memorial feature the names of Irish orphan women settled in Australia between 1848 and 1850.

The glass panels of Sydney’s Famine Memorial feature the names of Irish orphan women settled in Australia between 1848 and 1850.

The 20th annual commemoration at the Australian Monument to the Great Irish Famine takes place later this month.

Due to a major refurbishment and upgrade of the exhibition spaces at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum and installation of a lift, the Museum is closed until late in 2019.

This means that the annual event will be different this year, starting with a symposium entitled Looking Forwards And Remembering commencing at 10am at the nearby Mint Building in Macquarie Street.

Afterwards, attendees will congregate in front of the Hyde Park Barracks’ Famine Memorial for the annual commemoration.

Historian and genealogist Dr Perry McIntyre said the Irish community were the driving force behind building the monument in 1995.

“It reminds them of their roots and historical connections to Ireland,” she said.

The monument is dedicated to over 4,000 Irish orphan girls and women who were resettled under a transportation plan during the Great Famine.

The National Monument to the Great Irish Famine was completed in 1995.

The National Monument to the Great Irish Famine was completed in 1995.

Unmarried women and girls, left alone and destitute by the catastrophe, arrived in Australia between 1848 to 1850 under former British Prime Minister Earl Grey’s Orphans scheme.

The girls and women came from all 32 counties to meet Australia’s need for both female labourers and mothers in the male-dominated colony.

Dr McIntrye said these women remained influential in the cultural heritage of the Australian community today.

“We are in contact with at least several thousand descendants and my estimation is that there would be at least 500,000 people descended from these 4,114 girls, even if they don't know about this aspect of their genealogy.”

The Annual Commemoration usually commences at the Hyde Park Barracks Museum on Macquarie Street, the site where orphans who were sent to Sydney were housed.

For this year’s Commemoration on August 25, descendants of the orphan immigrants are invited to wear a lapel label indicating their ancestor’s name, home county, and the ship they journeyed on.

Symposium attendees will hear from both the Vice Consul-General of Ireland Rory Conaty and Dr McIntyre, giving insight into how the story of the young women rescued from the Famine continues to influence Australia’s cultural landscape today.