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Brendan Graham premieres new song at Aussie famine event
'Orphan Girls' will be heard for the first time in Sydney.
The Hot Press Newsdesk, 09 Aug 2012
Brendan Graham, internationally acclaimed Irish songwriter and novelist, will deliver this year’s address at the Australian Memorial to the Great Irish Famine, at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney, on Sunday August 26, 2012. The event is presented by the Great Irish Famine Commemoration Committee.
"We are very fortunate to have Brendan lead the proceedings at the 13th anniversary of the unveiling of the Australian Famine Memorial," a spokesperson said.
Graham will present 'From Famine to Freedom - Ireland to Australia', a commemoration in word and song of those who suffered during An Gorta Mór (The Great Irish Famine) and of those who fled the Famine to establish a new life in Australia.
Graham, who created the acclaimed 'An Irish Connection', a commemorative evening of narrative and song for the Titanic 100 centenary in Cork, has written a new song, 'Orphan Girl', which will have its premiere performance on the day. The song is dedicated to the memory of the 4,112 mainly teenage Irish orphan girls, who were given a free passage to Australia from 'workhouses' in every county of Ireland between 1848 and 1850.
"It is a great honour, indeed to be asked to speak on this occasion," Brendan Graham told Hot Press. "The 4,100+ orphan girls, most aged 14 - 18, came from every workhouse in Ireland under the Earl Grey, Paupers and Orphans Scheme (1848 - 1850). Over half came to Sydney.
"The scheme's design was to help populate the colonies. It was free passage and 'voluntary' – ie. you had to apply to be selected and then there was an inspection to ensure the girls were 'suitable'.
"They were well looked after en route and housed in what was the Hyde Park Barracks, where they were schooled to be suitable for employment. On 'hiring days' the ladies of Sydney would come and select those they wanted. Many went on to have fruitful lives in Australia... and today's Australian descendants of those same Orphan Girls will attend, as we remember them on August 26.
"The Great Famine memorial there, by artists Hossein and Angela Valamanesh is stunning in its beauty," Brendan adds, "and is in two parts, through which people can walk from the Old World of Famine and deprivation, into the New World of survival and hope."