18 September 2023. Prof Anna Johnston speaking on the Irish and Australian poetry of Eliza Hamilton Dunlop (1796-1880), who emigrated to New South Wales in 1838 from Coleraine. Dunlop's best known (and highly controversial) poem, 'The Aboriginal Mother', was written in response to the 1838 Myall Creek Massacre, one of the only massacres of First Nations people by settlers that were prosecuted in the colonial Australian courts. More conventionally, Dunlop's sentimental elegies mourned Anglo-Irish family members and members of colonial society. Connecting Dunlop's literary and family history back to Northern Ireland reveals how she used a sentimental poetic discourse, popular with women publishing in new periodicals and literary albums, to grapple with 'the uncanny persistence of violence in a globalised liberal society' (Hensley, Forms of Empire, 1). The bloody history of revolution and its suppression in Ireland remained potent metaphors through Dunlop's writing career. She joins a cadre of poets who imagined liberal forms of colonialism, while also finding themselves deeply implicated in its contradictions and complicities.
12 September 2023. Limerick lace veils were used in ceremonies designed to introduce Sisters of Mercy to often-suspicious Australian communities while Perth-based Sisters wrote back to Ireland requesting coloured eyeglasses be sent to enable them to maintain their health and therefore their work. Across the world, women religious swapped tips and materials to help them to sustain their emerging communities. In turn, the Irish diaspora used the built environment to encourage a sense of belonging abroad. Looking at these religious and ethnic communities through a material culture lens allows for greater insight into the tools that women across the Irish diaspora, especially women religious, used to establish and crucially, to sustain, communities during the nineteenth century. In this paper Dr Sophie Cooper will use material culture to explore connections between women, and particularly women religious, across the Irish diaspora.
22 August 2023. In 2018 the Board of the Queensland Irish Association appointed Rodney and Robin Sullivan as Honorary Historians, and commissioned a history to mark its 125th anniversary in 2023. When they asked President Jeff Spender what sort of book he had in mind he replied, ‘a comprehensive history, warts and all.’ They endeavoured to fulfill this request without incurring legal consequences, investigating themes that threaded their way through the history of the Club and Irish Queensland. These included sectarianism, commemoration, and gender. Club premises were a further preoccupation. This paper surveys their presence in A Hundred Thousand Welcomes, and the vistas they offer on Irish Queensland.
25 July 2023. The period between the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries saw the Australian-Catholic middle classes grow in both size and confidence. Those developments were aided in part by the temporal progress of élite Jesuit schools in Sydney and Melbourne. This paper will explore these developments, and place them within the wider context of middle-class Catholic identity, and social and sectarian divisions between the 1890s and 1920s.
9 May 2023. Prof. Stephen Regan speaking on "W. B. Yeats: Culture and Politics in 1921". 1921 was a crucially important year in modern Irish politics. It was the year in which Ireland was partitioned under the Government of Ireland Act, in which a ceasefire brought an end to the most intense phase of the War of Independence, and in which the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed. It was also a crucially important year in the life and work of W. B. Yeats. It marked the publication of one of his most powerful books of poems, Michael Robartes and the Dancer, containing ‘Easter 1916’ and ‘The Second Coming’. The birth of his son Michael amid political violence prompted some of his most ambitious work, combining tender family sentiments with anxious fears about the future of civilisation. This talk will look at the key events in Yeats’s life in 1921 and assess the significance of the work he produced in that momentous year. It will close with a critical analysis of one of the great poems that Yeats composed in 1921: ‘Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen’.
18 April 2023. Many Irish who settled in Australia wrote about their desire to go ‘home’, if not permanently then at least to visit and see familiar people and places. However only a small number of the estimated 400,000 Irish who settled in Australia between 1788 and the 1920s actually did undertake the long and expensive voyage back. Using the Irish census returns for 1901 and 1911, we will showcase some of the Australians and their families who were living in Ireland in the first decades of the twentieth century. Census data however does not include those Irish Australians who returned to Ireland for visits at other times. Newspaper and family archives show that the dream of return to Ireland was achieved by a few Irish settlers and their families.
7 February 2023. This talk will give an introduction to the life and work of the Polish count Paul (Paweł) Edmund Strzelecki, a figure significant in the 19th century history of Australia and Ireland. As a global traveller, in Australia Strzelecki is best-known as the one of the earliest European explorers and mappers of Gippsland, which he named, along with Australia’s highest peak, Mount Kościuszko. In Ireland, Strzelecki played a major role in humanitarian aid during the Great Famine of the 1840s, as one of the primary agents of the British Relief Association. Strzelecki was the subject of an exhibition produced by Professor Peter Gray (Queen’s University Belfast) and Associate Professor Emily Mark-FitzGerald (University College Dublin), in collaboration with the Polish Embassy of Ireland and launched at the Royal Academy of Ireland, which has toured in both Ireland and Australia.
11 October 2022. Rhys Ryan’s creative fellowship at the State Library of Victoria examines original manuscripts documenting the annual céilithe held in Melbourne in the early twentieth century. By focusing on the specific dances performed at these concerts and the context in which they occurred, his research considers how, in a period of burgeoning Gaelic cultural consciousness, these choreographies both preserved and promulgated Irish identity throughout the diaspora.
11 September 2022. Fr John Joseph Therry, one of two official Roman Catholic priests appointed to colonial New South Wales in 1820, is widely credited as the 'Founder of the Catholic Church in Australia'. This presentation draws upon correspondence and case studies from the extensive Fr John Joseph Therry Collection held at the State Library of New South Wales to challenge dominant themes in early Irish-Australian historiography, including the religiosity and contributions by convicts and emancipists to the fledgling Catholic Church, and Therry’s role as a community as well as spiritual leader.
23 August 2022. Andrew George Scott was born in County Down, Ireland in 1845. He was raised in a privileged family and as a member of the Irish Church. After moving to New Zealand with his family, his father was employed as a lay reader for the Church of England. Shortly afterwards, Scott relocated to Australia and was himself employed as a lay reader in Victoria. Scott’s father would go on to be ordained a priest and would serve his community in that capacity until his death. Scott would go on to become one of Australia’s most notorious bushrangers (Captain Moonlite) before being hanged in Sydney at the age of 35. This paper explores how a young man who began his career in Australia in the service of the Church ended up as a convicted criminal. It will be demonstrated that no account of the extraordinary trajectory of Scott’s life is adequate without regard for his personal religiosity.