Sunday, 31 October 2010
Dead Men Talking - Magpie 38
100,000 Irish sail to British North America
in a flotilla of coffin ships destined for Quebec.
One out of five die from disease and malnutrition.
4000 young female orphans
from Irish workhouses are shipped to Australia
to meet a demand for domestic servants.
The girls frequently die in poverty
The last convict ship lands at Fremantle
carrying the final 279 of 160 000 felons
transported from Britain over a period of 80 years.
40 000 Irish - many transported for political activity.
What terrible times
drove you to seek a new life
risking death and starvation.
What harsh political regimes
to these desperate solutions
What environmental disasters
provoked this exodus
from your native lands.
A mere three or four generation past
yet we have lost contact -
your voices buried and silent.
Gravestones marked and unmarked
ravaged by storm and tempest and time
your stories broken and fragmented.
And now a generation too late
I'm listening for your voices
Your dialect carried on the winds
Tangled tales lost in overgrown fields
I am following the rivers to their source.
I meditate on your fate
I am a vessel waiting to resonate with the sound of your voice.
For more from the Magpie Tales diaspora of writers click here.
217 Italian migrants arrive in Sydney
100 less than had embarked on their ill-fated voyage
seeking a new life in the South Pacific.
The Irish and Italians of New South Wales intermarry
My heritage lies buried in the lush forests
and coastal sands of the Richmond River Valley.