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President Michael D Higgins explores haunting history of Ireland's 'Famine Brides'

10 October 2017 07:51
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President Michael D Higgins explores haunting history of Ireland's 'Famine Brides'

A chance for her to leave the dismal workhouse in Galway where she was incarcerated as an orphan, and start a new life in Australia.

Both her parents had died in the 1840s during the Great Famine, and she would become one of thousands of Irish women to be shipped to Australia to marry a convict.

Yesterday, as Micheal D Higgins continued his exhaustive 24 day tour of Western Australia, he unveiled a new famine Memorial which paid tribute to women like Mary-Anne.

“It is a sobering to think of the desperate situation that these girls faced, where the option of travelling to the other side of the world… to a future that they could scarcely comprehend was preferable to what was around them,” he said.

The statue, which shows a woman bent over and keening, was created by Charles Smith and Joan Walsh-Smith and sits in the suburb of Subiaco Park.

“She died in 1926”, he said, "and was survived by 45 grandchildren, 92 great grandchildren and two great great grandchildren”.

According to Bill, “These women who came here created the backbone of Western Australia.”

President Higgins added that it was heartening that the communities remembered the women’s contribution to Irish society following their ‘traumatic departure’ from Ireland.

Hazel Antonio, from Sligo but living in Perth for 10 years, arrived with her children Maeve (2) and Conor (eight weeks).


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