ISAANZ Delegates at the Global Irish Diaspora Congress held at UCD, Dublin, 15–19 August 2017.

The Global Irish Diaspora Congress, held at University College Dublin, presented an excellent opportunity for Irish historians in Australia and New Zealand, as well as historians and archaeologists of the Irish in Australia and New Zealand based elsewhere, to connect with scholars from elsewhere. There were at least 19 papers presented by scholars from Australia and New Zealand, or based on the Irish experience in Australia and New Zealand, and this strong international showing was noted on a number of occasions. These papers were largely live-tweeted by Sophie Cooper (@SophcoCooper) and Fidelma Breen (@DivaDiaspora), and then re-tweeted by the ISAANZ twitter account (@ISAANZ).

As well as facilitating new connections and the overlaps in research that’s being carried out around the world – particularly with studies into the Pacific World and the British Empire – the GIDC suggested ways that scholars within and outwith the academy could work together. Overall, it was a useful and enjoyable conference which helped to raise the profile of Irish Studies in Australia and New Zealand, and promote the variety of experience in the Irish diaspora over a long period of time. It was also excellent to see Richard Andrews, Australian Ambassador to Ireland, at the wine reception and for him to meet a number of the scholars who had travelled across.

A number of the presenters who touched on ISAANZ-related subjects in their papers have kindly provided their contact details and abstracts to help to continue the connections made at the Global Irish Diaspora Congress. We will continue to add to this list.


Susan Arthure


Affiliation: Flinders University.

Title: A Hidden Ireland: Uncovering Australia’s First Clachan.


In the mid-nineteenth century, the Great Famine altered the Irish landscape, triggering mass migration and the creation of the Irish diaspora. Many Irish migrated to Australia, some of them to the new colony of South Australia, established as a Utopia of the south. Here, according to the histories, the Irish blended into the landscape, indistinguishable from their British counterparts.

Archaeological investigations at Baker’s Flat, a nineteenth century Irish settlement in rural South Australia, are telling a different story. We have uncovered the remains of a community that conformed to a distinctively Irish identity pattern, the traditional clustered settlement system of the clachan. This is the first recorded instance of a clachan in Australia. The excavations are exposing the complexities of Irish lives at Baker’s Flat and shedding light on the customs and lifeways the people brought with them from Ireland. Preliminary results, from two field seasons that included geophysical survey and excavations in 2016 and 2017, are reported here.

Patrick Coleman

Contact: and

Affiliation: University of Otago University/Lincoln University

Title: ‘The Orange Diaspora’: Loyalist Communities Abroad.


Since its beginnings in the agrarian conflicts between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland in 1795, the Orange Order spread rapidly across the British World. With its mix of loyalism and pan-Protestantism, the Orange Order adapted to a variety of countries from Australia to Togo. The term ‘Orange diaspora’ has been used to express its spread.

But to what extent can we conceptualise an overarching Orange diaspora? This paper addresses that key question by examining Orange sources and other archival research in an international comparative context. How different was the Orange diaspora compared to Ireland? Who belonged to it? And to what extent were transnational ties maintained between Ireland and the Orange diaspora and why?

These issues are important for they illuminate aspects of Irish Protestant migration, enable exploration of the fraternity’s ideology, and facilitate reflections on broader conceptual issues relating to diaspora and transnationalism.


Sophie Cooper

Contact: and @SophcoCooper

Affiliation: University of Edinburgh/Northumbria University

Title: Moments of convergence: Irish lives in Melbourne and Chicago, 1850-1890.


Melbourne and Chicago in the nineteenth century were worlds apart. One was a proud part of the British Empire, a beacon of imperial loyalty and made up principally of emigrants from Great Britain and Ireland. The other was quickly becoming the second city of the United States, a heartland for crime and wealth, and increasingly ethnically pluralistic. However, the Irish-born communities in Melbourne and Chicago made up a very similar size relative to the local population throughout this time period. Sizeable Irish populations were also present when these cities were settled by Europeans, and benefited from the social and economic booms that both cities experienced during the 1850s.  They are therefore useful case studies for a comparison of the ways that Irish communities carved their place in the diaspora, and how elements of each community maintained links to organisations and family members elsewhere in the world.

The Irish people who made their lives in Melbourne and Chicago interacted with politics and Irish nationalism in different ways, and filtered their Irish identities through different lenses. However, there were a number of ways in which these Irish communities converged: through their interaction with ethnic associationalism, their generosity to constitutional nationalism, and through their engagement with the Catholic Church. Using these communities as case studies, this paper will compare these two distinct groups of Irish emigrants to understand some of the transnational influences and links across the diaspora. While this paper will highlight the differences of the communities, it will also explore the ways that these very distinct groups were similar by focusing in on the ways that Ireland was portrayed in the press and speeches, and the reactions of the Irish in Melbourne and Chicago to this imagery.


Dianne Hall


Affiliation: Victoria University, Melbourne.

Title: Gender, Irishness and the Chinese in Australian popular culture 1880-1930.


This paper analyses how Irish and Chinese were portrayed in popular plays, poetry, cartoons and newspaper reports from 1880 to about 1930. Mainstream fears about the place of Chinese in Australian communities were often expressed through popular stereotypes of relations between Irish women and Chinese men that particularly emphasised aberrant gender roles. The political and social contexts of hostile interactions between Chinese and Irish men were elided in these stereotypes which served to further emphasise the feminisation of the Chinese.


Stephanie James


Affiliation: University of Flinders.


Felix M. Larkin

Contact: and @felixmlarkin


Title: Edmund Dwyer-Gray, An Irishman in Tasmania.


There are many connections between Ireland and Tasmania, and not only because of the latter’s status as a penal colony in the first half of the nineteenth century. My paper will focus on the career of probably the most significant Irishman in Tasmanian political life in the twentieth century, Edmund Dwyer-Gray (1890-1945). It will draw on some recent research conducted in Hobart.

A scion of the Gray family who owned the Freeman’s Journal newspaper from 1841 to 1892, Dwyer-Gray was the grandson of Sir John Gray, whose statue stands in O’Connell Street, Dublin. He emigrated to Australia when his family lost control of the Freeman as a consequence of the ‘Parnell split’. He eventually settled in Tasmania, where he became a journalist and politician of note. Elected to the Tasmanian parliament in 1928 for the Labour Party, he was treasurer and deputy premier from 1934 until his death, except for six months in 1939 when he served as interim premier.

The Gray family had some prior connections with Australia. Dwyer-Gray’s mother was a daughter of Caroline Chisholm, the philanthropist celebrated as ‘the emigrants’ friend’ for her work with female immigrants to Australia. His great-uncle, Moses Wilson Gray, had emigrated to the colony of Victoria in 1855 and was associated with Sir Charles Gavan Duffy in the land reform movement there. My paper will outline their life stories, as well as that of Edmund Dwyer-Gray.


Elizabeth Malcolm


Affiliation: University of Melbourne.

Title: Britons, Catholics, Anglo-Celts and Whites: searching for the Irish in histories of Australia.


In 1901, when six colonies federated to form the Commonwealth of Australia, around 22 per cent of the total population was of Irish birth or descent—a proportion larger than that found in other major diaspora countries at the time. Given the substantial size of the Irish-Australian minority, it is surprising that histories of Australia have not devoted more attention to the Irish. The massive 1,200-page Cambridge History of Australia (2013) has, for instance, little to say about the Irish and does not cite in its 44-page bibliography the standard study, Patrick O’Farrell’s The Irish in Australia (1986, 1993, 2000). The Cambridge volumes follow a practice common to Australian historiography by treating the Irish as ‘Catholics’ and confining them largely within the field of religious history. Tensions between Irish and English are then seen as essentially sectarian. During the twentieth century, many histories had ignored the Irish altogether by subsuming them into the category ‘British’, while more recent studies of race and ethnicity have tended to replace ‘British’ with the term ‘Anglo-Celtic’. Well-publicised debates among scholars in the USA and Britain concerning the racialisation of the Irish have not been taken up by Australian historians, who class the Irish as ‘white’. Yet there is certainly evidence of Irish racialisation occurring in colonial Australia. This paper will discuss a new history of the Australian Irish currently being written, which addresses, among other questions, why they have been obscured, ignored and sometimes even mocked in histories of Australia.


Barry McCarron


Affiliation: New York University.

Title: The Irish and Chinese in the Pacific World


This paper examines the nature and significance of relations between the Irish and Chinese in the Pacific world during the second half of the nineteenth century. The mid-nineteenth-century gold rushes in California, New South Wales, Victoria, Otago, and British Columbia brought thousands of Irish and Chinese into close proximity and over the next half century the labor and ingenuity of both groups helped expand Britain’s Anglophone empire and paved the way for the rise of the United States to world-power status. At the same time, this paper argues that the Irish diaspora was also a significant force behind anti-Chinese movements that gave rise to Chinese immigration restriction laws in Australia, Canada, and the United States, caused major friction in U.S.-Chinese and Anglo-Chinese relations, and threatened to undermine the interests of the British Empire and the United States in China and the broader Pacific world. There is a sizeable body of literature on the Irish diaspora and extensive scholarship on the Chinese diaspora, but no study has thoroughly examined the combined experience of, and interactions between, both groups in comparative and transnational contexts. This paper demonstrates that although the dominant pattern in relations between the Pacific Irish and Chinese was racial conflict and economic competition, there were cases of intergroup cooperation and solidarity.


Mary O’Connell


Affiliation: UNSW Sydney.

Title: How the Diaspora Won the War: Revisiting the Global Irish Land War, 1879-1882.


They shall not perish, while we, whose bread is sure

Have hearts to pity, hands to help the poor,

And eyes in Ireland’s hour of need to see

Australia’s opportunity
(Brisbane Courier, 28 Jan 1880)

Precipitated by poor weather conditions, rural depression, widespread crop failure and the terrible threat of another major famine, the Irish Land War of 1879 – 1882, led by the Land League has been credited with laying the foundation of the independent Irish state.
Organising mainly rural communities in a cross class alliance against ‘landlordism’, and armed with the vague yet incendiary slogan, ‘the land of Ireland for the people of Ireland’, the League developed a network of hundreds of participatory local committees across the country where great numbers of people – including women –  tasted the power of action, democracy, public speaking, and the joys of intricate meeting procedure  – many for the first time.

The mass political struggle of civil and uncivil disobedience led and shaped by the League was astonishing in its courage, its effective rousing of the dispossessed and the depressed, its vital changing of the Irish narrative, its legacy to other anti imperialist and anti–elite movements around the world, and above all in its efficacy.  The relentless, brave and increasingly bold activity eventually brought Gladstone’s government to table some significant land tenure reforms, and as Michael Davitt put it, saw the fall of feudalism in Ireland.

What may have been lost from view, however, is the global nature of the war and the Land League – not just in its conscious connections with other anti -imperialist movements across the globe from India to New Zealand Maori – but in its networks of diasporic committees as the Irish emigrant populations in Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand and the United States also organized, fundraised and agitated for change, not [just] charity.

There is no doubt that the awful spectre of famine in Ireland, the threat of its re- occurrence just one generation after An Gorta Mor electrified the diaspora, possibly even re-traumatising it.  In Australia famine relief committees were formed in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney as early as January of 1880.  Adelaide and Tasmania were swift to follow.  According to the final report of the Dublin Mansion House Famine relief committee, Australasia contributed almost 95,000 pounds for famine relief, generous and timely aid, which the Ctte said “saved the famishing Irish peasants at the most critical moment of the year.” (Geary, ‘The Australian Response to the Irish Crisis, 1879 -1880’, p16). Beyond famine relief committees, branches of the Land League were established throughout Australia – the first in Queensland in 1880.   At the same time the League was established within Irish diasporic communities around the world.  Davitt estimated that by the end of 1881, the League globally had one million members with as many branches overseas as in Ireland. (Fall of Feudalism p 301). There were 854 branches in North America by 1883.  The Ladies Land League, whose political efforts were absolutely vital to the struggle, had 500 branches by the end of 1882 – of which nearly half were located overseas.  All these overseas committees were a crucial element of the successful pursuit of the Land War – indeed it is fair to say that the Land War would not and could not have been won without the participation of the irrepressible (anyone say indomitable?)  diaspora.

Dianne Snowden AM


Affiliation: University of Tasmania.


Rodney and Robin Sullivan

Contact: Rodney: and Robin

Affiliation: University of Queensland.

Title: Monuments and Diasporic Memory in Southeast Queensland, an Australian case study.


This paper investigates Irish-Australian memorialisation in Southeast Queensland from 1872 to 2017. It focuses on three funerary monuments over the graves of Irish rebels: those commemorating the Fenian John Flood (1911), the Young Irelanders, Kevin and Eva O’Doherty (1912), and the Easter 1916 Dublin GPO Volunteer, William Ryan (2017). It also examines a memorial book, the 1909 edition of Eva O’Doherty’s Poems.

The paper considers the commemorative salience of temporal context as well as the varying memory roles of individuals, families and organisations. It highlights the transnational and diasporic dimensions of Irish-Australian memorialisation in Southeast Queensland. The conclusion points to some implications of these memorials, and their attendant processes, for the interplay between history and memory.

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