Tag Archives: Irish in Australia

Irish V.C. honoured in Western Australia

The Irish tricolour flutters in Perth Western Australia. (Image ©thesilvervoice)

Something very special happens when you turn a corner 15,000 kilometers from home to see the Irish tricolour fluttering in a stiff breeze! Such was my experience yesterday as I attended a wreath laying event at Western Australia’s State War Memorial in King’s Park in Perth.

Regular readers will be aware of my journey of discovery of tragic Co.Tipperary man Martin O’Meara, winner of a Victoria Cross while in the service of the Australian Imperial Force in World War 1. See earlier posts here and here.

The Western Australia State War Memorial is dramatically located on Mount Eliza which overlooks Perth Water and consists of a main obelisk and a Court of Contemplation that includes the Eternal Flame.

A series of plaques surround the Eternal Flame. These commemorate V.C and George Cross Recipients (Image. ©Thesilvervoice)

Irishman Martin O’Meara V.C is included on these plaques.

The plaque dedicated to Martin O’Meara V.C (Image ©thesilvervoice)

The Irish Minister of State in the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton was over from Ireland for St Patrick’s festivities and joined members of the RSLWA  (Returned & Services League of Western Australia) in honouring the State’s War Dead by laying a wreath at the eternal flame. This was followed by the laying of a wreath at the plaque in honour of Martin O’Meara V.C.  Minister Stanton,who was accompanied by Mr. Marty Kavanagh – Honorary Consul of Ireland, Western Australia, co-incidentally is the public representative for my constituency of East Cork, Ireland.

The beautifully simple ceremony was attended by people with an interest in matters Irish, and was facilitated by the former soldiers of the RSLWA, many of whom I believe had served in Vietnam. They looked resplendent in their medals and uniforms.

Minister Stanton paid tribute to the many Irish who served Australia and other nations across the globe.

Minister Stanton lays a wreath of laurel from the Government of Ireland on the plaque dedicated to Martin O’Meara. (Image Ⓒthesilvervoice)

 

The Last Post is sounded…always a poignant moment!

It is really heartwarming that so many emigrants from Ireland and their descendants remain very proud of their roots and celebrate, commemorate and honour  fellow countrymen whenever the occasion arises. The Irish Community in Western Australia is particularly active in this way!

References

http://www.bgpa.wa.gov.au

 

 

 

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From Kilfinane to Kalgoorlie

On April  27, 1926  two policemen from the special Gold Stealing Detection Unit boarded their bicycles and pedalled off  to carry out surveillance on an illicit gold plant in the  goldfield area of Kalgoorlie in Western Australia. They were Detective-Inspector John Walsh  and  Detective-Sgt. Alexander Henry Pitman. On a recent trip to Australia, I happened on their graves in the Catholic section of Karrakatta Cemetery, outside Perth, Western Australia.

The monuments on these two graves are high and imposing, but as they lie very close to, and face a very high boundary hedge, it was not possible to take clear photographs of the front of the graves.

Pitman's Grave concealed by foliage

Pitman’s Grave partly concealed by foliage

These two graves are marked as part of an Historic Trail , with Walsh listed as Irish-born on the adjacent plaque.  I was therefore compelled to discover more.

The plaque  referred to a monument to the men that was originally in Perth City,at the front of the Police Headquarters building in East Perth, but had been relocated to the Police Academy at Joondalup, just minutes from my sister’s workplace on the adjacent Edith Cowan University Campus. I set about finding it, and wanted to check if I could get access to it, so I wrote to the Western Australia Police Department asking for permission to photograph the monument at the Police Academy campus,and I was thrilled to bits when permission was granted to visit and take photographs. And so, on my last full day in Australia, between torrential thundery showers, I walked across the huge parade ground towards  the statue commemorating the two policemen.

Between the flagpoles on the Parade Ground, is the memorial to Walsh and Pitman

The flagpoles on the Parade Ground frame the memorial to Walsh and Pitman on the far side of the water

Crossing the water feature at the Police Academy was  almost surreal as I felt I was coming to a very special place.

The Memorial to Pitman and Walsh dominates this area which is dedicated to all WA Police Officers who have died in the line of duty.

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The Memorial was made in Italy with funds raised from policemen all over Australia. It is of the goddess Themis, familiar to many as the ‘scales of justice statue’ usually blindfolded,holding scales aloft in one hand a sword in the other.  In this case however, the ‘Justice’ figure has eyes downcast and holds the sword downwards, bearing a wreath. There is a Swan emblem on the shield,representing the black swans of  Perth.

12-DSCF5560On either side of the base are beautifully worked  images of Pitman and Walsh

Immediately behind the Memorial is a Remembrance Garden  in memory of all Western Australian policemen who have lost their lives while on duty.

13-DSCF5563The contrast between the classically styled  Pitman/Walsh memorial and the ultra modern design of the Memorial garden is quite stark, but adds to the sense of sombreness and certainly adds to the story that law enforcement people have been losing their lives across decades and generations.

The list makes sobering reading and I was struck by the high number who have died in road traffic accidents

On returning home to Ireland, I began researching the story of Walsh and Pitman, to put with the photographs I had taken in Western Australia. I was quite horrified to discover the horrible details of their deaths. Having been missing for some time, a search was mounted and following reports of a terrible stench and many flies near a mineshaft, their decapitated, dismembered and partly burned bodies were discovered 60 feet below ground. Three local men were arrested. One turned King’s Evidence and the other two, William Coulter and Philip Treffene were hanged for the double murder of Detective-Inspector John Walsh  and  Detective-Sgt Alexander Henry Pitman.

I was then very surprised to find that John Walsh was a native of County Limerick, Ireland, not far from where I live. He was born in Kilfinane, to Ellen nee Bourke and James Walsh on 14 February 1862. He attended Ardpatrick National School,  studied medicine in University College Cork for a couple of years, but by 1881 he was in Sydney Australia where he joined the police force. He eventually arrived in Western Australia, after serving in Queensland and the north-western part of New South Wales.

This streetscape of Kilfinane may well have been familiar to the young John Walsh.

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Ardpatrick is a small village just minutes from Kilfinane. Until 1861 they were in the same parish. The church in Ardpatrick dates from 1835 and is adjacent to the school. There are many original features still remaining in the school, which is now used as a community centre.

Ardpatrick National School adjacent to the Church

Ardpatrick National School next to the Church

The fine church bell dates from 1856, and the young John Walsh probably heard it peal on many an occasion.

Original window on Ardpatrick school

Original window on Ardpatrick school

Ardpatrick schoolhouse is a protected  two storey building. The boys classroom was on the upper floor, with access via stairs on the church side of the building nearest the bell.

I stood looking at this for a long time. I  couldn’t help but contrast the image of a small boy who climbed these stairs to learn and who ran down them to play, passing  that beautiful small window and perhaps glancing at the church bell, with the image of  the gruesome, horrible way in which his life would end, thousands of miles away in Kalgoorlie.

My grateful thanks to Beth Naylor, Public Affairs Officer at Police HQ, Perth, Western Australia, for her help, courtesy and kindness in facilitating access to the Walsh-Pitman Memorial at the Police Academy Campus at Joondalup, WA

I am also indebted to the Ardpatrick Community worker (whose name I do not have) who was watering flowers,and  allowed me access the school building.

Notes:

*When making this post that I noticed the shamrock embellishment on Pitman’s headstone, indicating some link  with Ireland. I have been unable to prove a direct connection, but it is possible that his wife’s family was Irish. His mother -in-law, Margaret Shepherd Fitzgerald  who sadly died on May 18th, 1926, only one day after her son-in -law’s funeral, was buried in the same grave. Perhaps the headstone reflects her direct link to Ireland. More research required.

References

Australian Dictionary of Biography

http://monumentaustralia.org.au

Newspaper report of Inquests 

Newspaper report May 16, 1926

Gruesome details of the discovery and retrieval of the  bodies

Western Australia Police Historical Society

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Filed under Emigration from Ireland, Ireland, Irish Australian, Irish Diaspora, My Travels

Shamrock and Celtic Crosses

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A typical Celtic Cross Memorial at Karrakatta Cemetery

I recently enjoyed an extended trip to Australia. During my time there, I was struck by the strong connection to Ireland expressed by Irish ex-pats, the great pride they have in their Irishness, and the esteem in which many of these Irish emigrants are held by Australians.I hope to share some of my great and unexpected experiences in the coming weeks. Towards the end of my visit, I had to visit Karrakatta Cemetery, just outside Perth, in Western Australia in search of a particular grave.

This is a vast cemetery, covering some 98 hectares, with a mausoleum, a Crematorium, a Commonwealth Graves Commission Section , and a  Dutch War Graves section, in which the victims of the WW2 Japanese bombings in Broome are buried. (I have written about these latter two in an earlier  post here.) Since it opened in April 1899, Karrakatta Cemetery has been the last resting place for over 201,000 people,  and 189,000 cremations have been carried out here. On this visit I was looking for the  grave of an Irishman.The cemetery is divided into denominational areas  representing 37 different religions and ethnic groups. Prior to my visit I had identified the grave I wished to see online,and made my way to it along the well laid out paths, with the help of a map.

I returned by a different route and was surprised  to see so many Celtic Cross monuments close together, in an older part of the cemetery, I was in the Roman Catholic section, yet I was struck by the sheer number of these very Irish headstones. There are many different styles of  Celtic Cross  here, yet all embellished with Shamrock. There are no more Irish symbols than the iconic Shamrock and the Celtic Cross.

Gaynor Family Grave

Gaynor Family Grave

The majority of the crosses bear the IHS Monogram at the intersection of the arms and the upright sections, yet  it appears to be absent on  this very fine example in Gaynor Family monument, above

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Grave of the Cullity Family from County Kerry

My friend Chris Goopy, has a blog entitled Irish Graves – They who sleep in Foreign Lands where she accepts images of Irish graves for publication. She has published a number of images I sent from Karrakatta, on which an Irish origin  – town or County – was clearly stated. The Cullity’s from County Kerry memorial above is included on her website.

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A broken Celtic Cross lies abandoned

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One of my favourite Celtic Crosses on the McCarthy grave

The majority of these  Celtic Cross headstones did not have any mention of Ireland, but they surely are strong testament to the Irishness of the people who lie beneath them. There is  quite a variety of  Celtic Crosses but all have Shamrock entwined on or carved into them, requiring a certain amount of skill by the monumental masons.DSCF5357Even on plain headstones, the family names are resoundingly Irish. The sheer number of them is quite remarkable. In this photo above 7 Celtic Cross headstones can be seen. DSCF5359 As with the O’Dea headstone above, this image has a representation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, a Catholic symbol included in the design , with the image surrounded by Shamrock on the O’Callaghan memorial.DSCF5355 The Hon Timothy Quinlan was born in Borrisokane Co Tipperary in 1861 and emigrated to Australia with his family at the age of 2 years. His very Irish memorial records his rise to the top of Western Australian political life.DSCF5348Three different Celtic Crosses. DSCF5347 This memorial towers above the others, and exceptionally shows a harp, another iconic Irish symbol. (The one depicted here is the reverse of the official Irish symbol).  John Hardy was a native of County Antrim and a veteran of the Crimean War. He emigrated to Australia in 1866, at the age of 42,and ended up as a Pensioner Guard at Fremantle prison. His full (and colourful) military record can be seen here.

DSCF5351 These headstones with their Celtic Crosses date from the very early 20th Century. As such they would either be Irish-born or children of Irish-born emigrants who went here in search of a new life. The Daly monument here shows the link to Cork Ireland, in contrast to the image below of  a tragic pair of young men, possibly brothers and young  emigrants, or sons of Irish  emigrants , who lost their lives in accidents. Their headstone is a simple one yet included the Celtic Cross and Shamrock as testament to their origins.

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Emigration was no protection from grief and heartbreak. This Cantwell headstone is as sad as the monument to a 26-year-old wife below.

Julia Prendiville, a young wife who died at the age of 26

Julia Prendiville, a young wife who died at the age of 26

Julia sadly appears to lie alone in her grave. Inscribed at the  base  is this verse that provides an insight into the choice of a  Celtic Cross emblazoned with Shamrock as a permanent memorial for graves of Irish in this sandy place, 10.000 miles from home. It reads:

”A Celtic Cross raise o’er me,

and the Shamrock round it twine;

‘Twill tell the land that bore me

that the dear old faith was mine”

 

Further Information:

The IHS symbol

Hon. Timothy Quinlan Biographical Note

John Hardy Military Record 

Irish High Crosses 

Karrakatta Cemetery

 

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To Australia,with love – February 2012

It was foggy. It was wet. It was cold. It was a February afternoon in Cork Ireland, the starting point for my great excursion across the world. Soon, at a height of 31,000 feet above Wales, we broke free of the grey cloud and rain and cruised over a tapestry of snow-covered fields lit by the evening sun. From east of the Bristol Channel all the way over to London Heathrow, England, the countryside was iced in snow, making a beautiful ground pattern far below. This was  the first leg of what was to be a long journey.

Snow covered approach to London Heathrow on an Aer Lingus Flight from Cork, Ireland on a misty cold winter evening.

Departure on the second leg  was delayed  for about 10 minutes as the pilot asked us not to be alarmed to see the wings of the plane being sprayed for de-icing purposes! A further delay ensued as the plane ahead of us became ‘stuck’ and we were  re- routed to another runway. Finally, almost an hour behind schedule, the great Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 with capacity for 850 passengers, lifted effortlessly and smoothly into  the night  sky. Below, London’s countless millions of lights sparkled and stretched for miles as we climbed higher and higher. 7,067 miles to go to our destination, Singapore!

Out over Biggin Hill, best  known for its role in the Battle of Britain in the second World War, we head  south towards  Dover to cross the English Channel into Europe and onwards across  Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, and the Czech Republic. South of  Bielsko-Biała in Poland we turn southwards into Slovakia, across Hungary and into Romania. We then head over the Black  Sea – once a blue blob on my geography school atlas, now a vast expanse of water  – indeed a ‘sea’,  miles below. Here, some 1,500 miles into our flight, we met the salmon- pink light of dawn of the following day, as the sun relentlessly made its way to Cork, Ireland where I had come from, some eleven hours earlier.

On the far shore of the Black Sea we fly over Georgia, with its capital Tbilisi, and on south of  the Caucasus Mountains to Armenia. We are now 6 miles high  in the sky over the crossroads between Eastern Europe and Western Asia as we leave Azerbaijan and cross the south-western part of the Caspian  Sea. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan – almost unknown to many when they were part of the USSR – now all too familiar as  they appear on our news bulletins from time to time. Iran, also so often on our TV screens, is below, and soon we are above Afghanistan, another of the world’s  troubled places. We fly on over neighbouring  Pakistan, and on into  India. I wonder if I might even catch a glimpse of the mighty Himalayas in the distant north!

Leaving India by the east coast, we reach the Bay of Bengal – the first major stretch of water we cross (a great relief to those of us who wondered about the usefulness of life vests in the event of falling out of the sky over dry land!) The next land we see is the Andaman Islands, of which I was vaguely aware prior to 2004, but since the devastating tsunami on December 26th the name is all too familiar.  Phucket in Thailand – familiar for the same reason- is now to our north as we head along the coast of Thailand  to Malaysia. With 600 odd miles to go I am conscious of clouds outside the windows –  clouds 6 miles high??!  Now in the tropics, we have a good ‘shaking’ as we meet  severe turbulence to remind us that nature rules!  Keeping west of Kuala Lumpur we head for Singapore on the southernmost tip of the peninsula. Dropping down, it is surprising to see so many cargo ships  – dozens and dozens  in rows – lying at anchor in the bay and it is easy to understand that Singapore is one of the top  three busiest seaports in the world! The passenger in the seat next to me wonders if Singapore, being ‘such a small place, will have steps of the proper height’  to allow us to disembark from our plane –  I smile knowing that a surprise awaits her! So, 13 hours after leaving London, we touch down safely at Singapore Changi, in exotic south-east Asia. The airport has a fabulous butterfly garden, flowing water features with exotic orchids everywhere and terrific  facilities for transit passengers.

Refreshed and soon on the way again, we climb into the sky out over the South China Sea  on the final 2,386 miles of the journey to Perth, Western Australia.  We cross the equator into the southern hemisphere as we  head towards Jakarta and across the Indian Ocean.  Some four hours  into the flight,to the  east high above  the west coast of Australia a misty reddish hue appears on the horizon, gradually spreading into turquoise , yellows, oranges and reddish golds. I have met my first  Australian dawn!

At about 4 30 am the sun begins to show on the horizon

Reflections from my aircraft seat as the sun rises over Western Australia

As we get closer to Perth WA, clouds sit above the golden new day.

In another hour, 33 hours after my journey began, I will step out into the Australian heat to meet my family – three generations of them – who have left Ireland for a new life in Australia. For generations, Australia has been a destination for the Irish diaspora-  many forcibly transported to penal colonies there, many emigrating by choice and many, as now , in the midst of an Irish economic depression emigrating through economic necessity in the hope of carving out a better future. Like many another parent, grandparent, brother or sister in Ireland today I have had to say goodbye to 3 of the 4 members of my direct family as they made that great migration across continents, across seas to far- away Australia. I am very fortunate that I have been able to make that long journey of 10,000 miles to visit them, and for  the next while their nearness will be thoroughly enjoyed and the vast distance that separates us will be forgotten!

Yet – in the still of the night, it is still hard to forget that  Australia is just too far away for those of us who have been left behind.

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