Last week the Dictionary of Sydney, with assistance from the Irish Consulate General – Sydney, launched the Old Irish Sydney walking app for smart phones. The app follows a path of twelve stops, tracing the history of people and places connected to Sydney’s Irish heritage, starting with St Patrick’s Day riots in Hyde Park and ending at St Patrick’s Church, Church Hill. The tour stops at the Irish Famine Memorial at Hyde Park Barracks, a beautiful and moving monument to the lives of young Irish women and girls who took the long journey to Sydney to start a new life in the colony.
The Great Irish Famine is a dark part of Ireland’s history, lasting from 1845 -1852. It brought drastic change to Irish society, claiming the lives of over 1 million people and leading to a mass exodus of over a million more. In total, Ireland lost over 25 per cent of its population to famine.
Hyde Park Barracks, originally built to house convict men and boys, was converted in 1848 into an immigration depot for thousands of Irish girls and women who arrived for poor houses and orphanages in Ireland. By 1863, over 30,000 single Irish women and girls followed, taking up domestic roles in a women-starved colony. Many stayed in Sydney while others were sent out into what must have felt like a hostile country. Considering the age of some of the girls, it is a daunting thought to most of visiting the memorial todya.
You can read more about the history of the memorial in Perry McIntyre’s article for the Dictionary of Sydney’s Greening the Dictionary project in 2013, as well as visiting www.irishfaminememorial.org.
Click here to download the Old Irish Sydney walking app. The app is available on Android and Apple devices.
And don’t forget to listen in next week for more Sydney history on 2SER Breakfast with Tim Higgins, 107.3.