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4,000 Irish orphan girls were sent to Australia during the 1840s to work as domestic servants and to marry the young men of the colony. Photo by: hht.net.au

4,000 Irish orphan girls sent to Sydney during the Great Hunger to be remembered

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4,000 Irish orphan girls were sent to Australia during the 1840s to work as domestic servants and to marry the young men of the colony. Photo by: hht.net.au

The 4,000 Irish orphan girls sent to Sydney Australia during the Great Irish Hunger in the 1840s will be honored at a commemorations ceremony later this month.

Aileen Trinder, a genealogist, from Gymea, in New South Wales, searched through land, parish, shipping records, and newspapers and discovered that she is a descendant of one of these young girls sent from Ireland.

The Irish orphan girls, mostly between the ages of 14 and 20, were destitute and living in workhouses in Ireland. They were sent to Sydney under a scheme devised by the British Home Secretary Earl Grey. The 4,000 girls were given jobs in Australia working as domestic servants and the chance to marry the young men of the colony.

“They had been handpicked by government officials and removed from county workhouses grown horribly overcrowded as, year after year, the Irish countryside sank deeper into poverty, misery and disease” according to the Sydney Living Museum.

Grey’s “vision was twofold: youthful lives spared of misery and the ex-convict colonies enriched with hardy, humble, fertile females.”

Trinder traced her ancestry to an orphan named Bridget Quigley (16). She arrived on the last of the orphan ships, the Tippoo Saib, in 1850. She was accompanied by her older cousin and her half-sister emigrated soon after. Bridget went on to marry an English dairyman, George Dagworthy, at St Mary's Cathedral, Sydney, Trinder told the Leader newspaper.

She said “Bridget couldn't write and when she married she just left her mark, a cross, on the paperwork.

Bridget and her husband lived in a number of places including Jinglemoney, near Braidwood. Their daughter, their first child, died of tuberculosis. The couple went  on to have six other children, including twins.

On of the twins, Ellen, gave birth to James Cannane, who was the father of John Cannane, Trinder’s father.

Trinder is looking forward to the commemorative event set to take  place on August 25, at the Hyde Park Barracks, where the Irish orphans were first housed. Ireland’s Minister for Heritage  Jimmy Deenihan will attend the event.

For more information or tickets visit www.irishfaminememorial.org/events.

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