Sydney to host Irish famine commemoration for first time

Sydney gets honour

This Sunday, Sydney will for the first time play host to the official international commemoration of the Great Irish Famine.

The famine, which claimed the lives of more than 1 million people in the 1840s, was sparked by a potato blight which impacted on the lives of the one-third of the population dependent on the starchy tuber for food.

It also forced more than another million people to emigrate to England, the US and Australia. Among those who came here were 4114 girls, orphaned in the famine, who had been subsisting in workhouses throughout Ireland.

The scheme to bring these desperate young women to Australia was devised by then British Home Secretary Earl Grey. As well as a lifeline to the girls, it also provided domestic labour  - and the prospect of marriage to the young men of the colony

A memorial at Sydney Hyde Park Barracks (where the girls were housed on arrival to the colony) was opened by then-Governor-General Sir William Deane in August 1988, and every year since descendants have joined hundreds of others in remembering the famine and its victims, including the Irish Orphan Girls.

RELEASE IN FULL Sydney to host Irish famine commemoration

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