Irish orphans

Between 1845 and 1850 Ireland suffered its worst famine on record, “The Great Famine” (An Gorta Mor) and as a result many families became destitute and in some cases children lost one of both their parents. In other cases their parents were unable to provide for them. The only option was the local poor-house, which were established in 1838 under the Poor Law Act, under which Ireland was divided into 159 districts, each if which had a poor house
In Queens County there were three districts:

Mountmellick poor house
Donaghmore poor house
Abbeyleix poor house

 

In 1849, Early Grey, Secretary of State for the Colonies, devised a scheme under which orphan girls from both Ireland and England were sent to Australia to provide servants for the established settlers. The largest number of orphans arrived on the Pemberton in May 1849 as part of the Earl Grey Scheme. 305 orphans disembarked from this ship after a voyage of 113 days.  In the late 1840s many ships made the voyage to Australia bringing young girls travelling alone. Ships carrying orphan girls included the William Stewart in May 1848 with 51 aboard, followed by the Mahomed Shah in July 1848 with 12 orphan girls.  Overall, approximately 4014 girls were sent to Australia as part of the Early Grey Scheme during 1845-1850.

 

The orphans arrived in Sydney, Adelaide, Hobart and Port Phillip and from these ports were spread across eastern Australia

The scheme lasted only two years until 1050, as many protest groups saw Australia being flooded with Irish immigrants. The Earl Grey scheme, although the brain-child of the Irish Secretary of State for the Colonies was funded by the Australian people. In May 1850 the scheme was suspended. The life of these orphan girls was generally one of hardship, but some became successful in their own right after marrying men of means. There is now more public awareness and sympathy for the plight of these girls and much work is underway in tracing their ancestors, some of whom would like to trace their family roots. It is now understood that around 30% of Australians have Irish blood. As the colonies developed, many more Irish women made the journey under the assisted passage scheme and it is understood that around 3,00o more Irish women arrived in Australia between 1848 and 1863. Others travelled to the USA AND Canada, now collectively known as the Irish Diaspora.

As one of the poor-house was located in Mountmellick, we offer to provide assistance to any descendents of the orphan girls that originated from the Mountmellick poor-house to visit and see the Town from where their family originated from.   As the website is developed, the names of the Orphans will be posted. Some of the Ships which transported the orphan girls to Australia are as follows:

     SHIP NAME DATE OF ARRIVAL PORT OF ARRIVAL DATE OF DEPARTURE
Earl Grey 6 October 1848 Sydney 3 June 1848
Roman Emperor 23 October 1848 Adelaide 27 July 1848
Lady Kennaway 6 December 1848 Port Philip 11 September 1848
Inchinnan 13 February 1849 Sydney 4 November 1848
Digby 4 April 1849 Sydney 16 December 1848
Pemberton 14 May 1849 Port Philip 29 January 1849
Inconstant 7 June 1849 Adelaide 15 February 1849
Lady Peel 3 July 1849 Sydney 14 March 1849
New Liverpool 9 August 1849 Port Philip 25 April 1849
Elgin 12 September 1849 Adelaide 31 May 1849
William & Mary 21 November 1849 Sydney 25 July 1849
Lismoyne 29 November 1849 Sydney 22 August 1849
Diadem 10 January 1850 Port Philip 13 October 1849
Panama 12 January 1850 Sydney 6 October 1849
Thomas Arbuthnot 3 February 1850 Sydney 28 October 1849
Derwent 25 February 1850 Port Philip 9 November 1849
Eliza Caroline 31 March 1850 Port Philip 31 December 1849
John Knox 29 April 1850 Sydney 6 December 1849
Maria 29 June 1850 Sydney 7 March 1850
Tippoo Saib 30 July 1850 Sydney 8 April 1850