School choir record ‘Orphan Girl’ to honour Famine victims shipped off to Australia

St Mary's Secondary School Choir perform haunting rendition of ‘Orphan Girl’

A school choir have recorded a haunting version of the song ‘Orphan Girl’. The song was written by Irish composer Brendan Graham and tells the story of a young Irish girl who left Ireland for Australia during the Famine.

Around 4,000 Irish girls were sent to Australia under the ‘Earl Grey orphan scheme’.

The son of the famous tea merchant sent the girls to Australia in a bid to correct a ‘gender imbalance’ that had been created when the British shipped male convicts to Australia.

Many immigrants were detained in a penitentiary at Hyde Park Barracks in Sydney often for vague reasons such as ‘general misconduct’.

Around 250 Earl Grey girls were detained and separated from the other immigrants so as not to ‘contaminate’ them.

They were made to pick oakum and had to work, sleep and eat in the same room.

The Irish faced a lot of prejudice in Australia. With the girls being from rural backgrounds they were not seen as being suited to civilised society in Sydney.

Graham wrote Orphan Girl especially for the unveiling of a memorial to the Famine girls in Sydney, Australia in 2012.

St Mary’s Secondary School Choir, from Ballina, Co Mayo recorded their version to coincide with the unveiling of another permanent memorial, at Ballina in Ireland, to commemorate the 137 Mayo Forgotten Famine Girls who travelled to Australia from the workhouses.

St Mary’s Choir performed the song live at the unveiling in 2018. Regina Deacy of St Mary’s is the director of the choir and produced the video.

She said: “The recording itself took just one day to do in various locations around Ballina.”

The video went down a storm on social media and  had over 60,000 views in the first week after being uploaded.

Take a look at the video below.

Check out some of our other greats posts.

Why is Fairytale of New York a Christmas song…a shot of reality

When Dolly Parton sang in Irish pub while on holiday in Co Kerry

Categorized as Blog

By Michael Kehoe

Michael Kehoe is a writer for Irish Music Daily and Ireland Calling. His favourite Irish Music bands are Flogging Molly and the Dropkick Murphys.