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

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’.

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

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.

Now St Mary’s Secondary School Choir, from Ballina, Co Mayo have recorded their version to coincide with the unveiling of another permanent memorial.

The new memorial will be unveiled in Ballina on Oct 19th 2018, to commemorate the 137 Mayo Forgotten Famine Girls who travelled to Australia from the workhouses.

St Mary’s Choir will perform the song live at the unveiling.

Regina Deacy of St Mary’s is the director of the choir and produced the video.

She said: “We recorded and released it on social media last week as a build up to the unveiling. The recording itself took just one day to do in various locations around Ballina.”

The video is going down a storm on social media and has had over 60,000 views in the first week since being uploaded.

Take a look at the video below.

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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.

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