The launch of Terry Reilly’s latest book, “Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls – From Workhouse to Australia (1848-50) & Convict Journal” takes place in Mayo County Library, Ballina this Friday 27th October at 8pm.
Real people, real events, excruciating hunger, death and destruction, workhouse life, voyage to Australia, and what became of the girls …
When the Famine struck Ireland, the consequences were horrific. It was our holocaust, our Rwanda, our Syria. Between 1846 and 1855, somewhere between 1.1 and 1.5 million were to die out of a population of 8.5 million. Another 2.1 million would leave, of whom 1.8 million crossed the Atlantic to America and Canada. Many, too, went to Australia, some as convicts, some as fee paying passengers.
And then there were the 4014 orphan girls who jumped at the opportunity to escape the awful grimness of the workhouse for, as they were told, ’a land of milk and honey’.’This is the story of the brave 137 girls from Mayo (87 from Ballina PLU, 10 from Westport, 15 from Castlebar and 25 from Ballinrobe) who overcame great challenges – including abuse and deadly diseases that would claim many of their children – to leave their mark on the other side of the world. Today, their descendants in Australia run into hundreds of thousands. Within the book, there is also plenty of information on a cross section of Mayo convicts sent to Van Diemen’s Land!
Of the book, former President Mary Robinson says: “I recall being moved by seeing the memorial to Irish orphan girls in Australia in 2002, but Terry Reilly has done more to restore their dignity and worth with a poignant account of the stark circumstances, and how these girls coped with both resilience and courage.”
Leading historian Turtle Bunbury describes the book as featuring “real people, real events from the Irish Famine and how the resilience of the orphan girls shone through in the end in far away Australia.”
One of the great experts on the orphan girls story, Australian historian and writer, Trevor McClaughlin in tribute says: “A lifetime’s labour of love that is so compelling you can relive the young women’s sadness, and their dreams.”
Mayo’s Forgotten Famine Girls, by Terry Reilly. 360 pages; hardback. Retail price €20. Also to be published on Kindle. Further details shortly on www.terry-reilly.com .
Launches in Mayo:
Thursday, October 26th, Mayo County Library, Castlebar, 8pm Friday, October 27: Ballina Library, 8pm. ALL WELCOME.