The Great Famine of 1845 -1849/50 was not the first famine to hit Ireland but its duration and severity made it more significant. During the course of the famine over one million people died and another one million emigrated. The dependence of the Irish poorer classes on the potato meant that the failure of the crop over successive years had devastating consequences.
At this time no social welfare system existed. The only option for destitute families was to enter the workhouse. On entry to the workhouse families were separated, males to one side, females to another. Inmates of workhouses were made to carry out laborious tasks. Food while more readily available than outside was not good. Overcrowding lead to the spread of disease and resulted in many deaths in the workhouse- frequently leaving children orphaned. The responsibility for funding the workhouse fell to local rate payers - large farmers and business people. Many of these rate payers resented supporting orphan children especially girls for the rest of their lives.
The British government devised a scheme of voluntary emigration to Australia for such orphan girls in 1848. Between the years 1848 and 1850 4175 orphan girls volunteered to emigrate to Australia from Irish workhouses. The girls aged between 14 and 18/19 years of age saw the opportunity for a new life. New settlers and freed convicts desperately needed women to work as domestic servants and for marriage.
477 girls from Tipperary emigrated. The numbers from each of the workhouses throughout the county can be seen in the table below.To set them up for their new life the girls were provided with all the necessary clothes and other items. The list below shows what they were given.The journey from Tipperary to Australia was long and arduous. The girls travelled by Bianconi coach to Goolds Cross or Thurles railway station.
From there a train journey to Dublin, followed by ship to Liverpool and then train journey to Plymouth. The final leg of the journey was a 3 month sea voyage to Sydney, Australia. On arrival to Sydney the girls were taken to Hyde Park Barracks to a hiring room where they were selected for work, signed agreements and then travelled on to their new homes and lives.