Free Heritage Week event about Kilkenny’s Famine orphan girls

Eighty-seven young women who left Ireland between June 1848 and April 1850 were from two Kilkenny workhouses

Famine orphans

File photo

As part of Heritage Week, the team at MacDonagh Junction are inviting people to join them online for a presentation from Sydney, Australia to reconnect to the stories of our orphan girls. The event will take place on August 19 at noon.

Eighty-seven of the 4,114 young women who left Ireland between June 1848 and April 1850 during the Irish Famine were from one of the two Kilkenny workhouses: 28 from Callan and 59 from Kilkenny itself.

Dr Perry McIntyre will join from Sydney to give an outline of the background to what has come to be known as the Earl Grey scheme and focus on the lives of a few of the Kilkenny girls in Australia. Dr Perry has worked as an historian, archivist and genealogist for over 40 years. She has published and spoken widely on immigration. Her PhD on convict family reunion, published as Free Passage by Irish Academic Press in 2010 was republished by Anchor Books Australia in 2018.

She has been researching the 4,114 young women who emigrated from the workhouses in Ireland during the famine but continues to update the life stories of these young women on the GIFCC website: searchable by name and/or county.

The Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee continues to hold an annual event onsite at the Irish Famine memorial at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney on the last Sunday in October, the day the memorial was unveiled in 1999. Details can be found on the above website as the day approaches.

“This event gives us the opportunity to continue our heritage and genealogy outreach to the families of the descendants of the young girls forced to leave Kilkenny in search of a better life in Australia during the darkest period in our recent history,” says centre manager Marion Acreman.

“Over the last ten years we have made meaningful and lasting connections to the families of some of the 59 girls who spent time in this Workhouse and we look forward to building more connections as a result of our ongoing work around the heritage of the Kilkenny Union Workhouse. The Kilkenny Famine Experience, a free AV tour, which is available daily at MacDonagh Junction has seen over 7,000 visitors to date and has become a very meaningful part of the recorded famine history of the city.”

To register for the free online event email

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