Greening the Dictionary

Greening the Dictionary was a project undertaken in collaboration with the Irish Consul-General, Caitriona Ingoldsby, and the Aisling Society to boost the amount of Irish history in the Dictionary. The project was brought to fruition in March 2013 and can be found on the site here.

Sydney’s Irish community has been important from the beginning of European settlement, and retains a strong influence over Sydney’s culture and history. Writers from the Aisling Society and elsewhere have contributed entries about Sydney’s Irish places, people and events, and these have been published as part of the St Patrick’s Day festivities in 2013.

Greening the Dictionary traces the paths of immigrants brought to Sydney’s shores through famine, poverty, political turmoil and opportunity. Their legacy is marked out across Sydney in monuments, buildings, societies and festivals that are brought to life in a series of fascinating historical essays.

Among them is Perry McIntyre’s article on the Irish Famine Memorial at Hyde Park Barracks. The history of the 2,214 young women brought to Sydney from Ireland’s orphanages and workhouses during the period of the Famine is a poignant one.

Not everyone came to Sydney destitute. Anne Cunningham describes the arrival of John Hughes and his parents in 1840 on passage assisted by the colonial government. Hughes become one of Sydney’s most prominent philanthropists raising £8,000 for the building of St Canice’s Church, Elizabeth Bay.

In fact, the Irish community in Sydney has always covered a broad spectrum of society according to Dr Richard Reid‘s article, Irish in Sydney from First Fleet to Federation. Two of the first arrivals to the new colony were Irish convict Hannah Mullens and Surgeon-General John White. Immigrants who arrived as ‘felons or rebels’ didn’t always remain so; many did well for themselves creating a life of opportunity in their new country.

A history of the Irish in Sydney wouldn’t be complete without mention of St Patrick. Jeff Kildea tracks the changing mood of the Irish community in Celebrating St Patrick’s Day in nineteenth century Sydney. The exuberant revelries of 1795 and ‘acts of excess and violence’ of 1814 find a surprising counterpart in the Temperance tea parties of 1843.

There is so much interesting material in the Greening the Dictionary project it is impossible to do it justice in one reading. Few would know that the Statue of Queen Victoria in Druitt Street spent years languishing in County Offaly before being ‘transported to Sydney’ in 1986. Peter Moore explains why.

Nor, as Michael O’Sullivan explores, would many be aware that the Wicklow Chief, Michael Dwyer, is buried under the 1798 Memorial at Waverley Cemetery. The Irish National Association, whose colourful history is recounted by Anne-Maree Whitaker, maintains the memorial.

Both the INA and the Aisling Society have a long history of fostering Irish culture and heritage in Sydney. As Jeff Kildea relates, the Aisling Society began when three learned friends met for a drink at Pfahlert’s Hotelin Sydney in 1954. Their love of Irish literature, history and culture has kept generations of Irish-Australians connected to their heritage.

Our thanks go to the Consulate General of Ireland and the Aisling Society for supporting the project and to all of the writers who contributed such interesting and diverse material.

Cover of ‘The Irish Emigrant Quadrilles’ by Marmaduke H Wilson 1859, National Library of Australia (nla.mus-an5397180)2

Detail from MS Hill's 1888 map 'The City of Sydney',  a birds-eye view over the city looking to the south and west across Darling Harbour.