Green Threads of Kinship! Aspects of Irish Chain-Migration to New South Wales, 1820-1886

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"Growing up in Ireland the image of America loomed large for me as THE Irish emigrant destination. Australia was a distant echo in a solitary family letter from somewhere called Toowoomba in 1866.

Written by my great, great uncle to his brother at Reskatirriff, County Tyrone, it spoke of exotic fauna, farm prices and the sorrow of family tragedy experienced in exile:

"I got your long looked for letters. I shut myself up in my room and read them a dozen times, but sorrowful news did they bring to me, your poor little namesake met with a sad end, such a fine bright boy as he was.

I cannot restrain the tears from running down my cheeks when I think of it. My letter to you could not convey the tenth part of my sufferings."

Years later in a N.S.W. Municipal Cemetery I encountered again this 19th century immigrant sense of exile. Carved on the gravestones were words and phrases revealing an enduring Irish identity with home."

This article looks at the chain-migration to New South Wales in the 19th century, and how it functioned as a social mechanism.

Richard Reid

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