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  • Writer's pictureBridget Walsh

Jane Leary: A Skibbereen Girl

Jane Leary was one of one hundred and ten girls sent out to Australia from Skibbereen Workhouse during the Irish Famine of 1845-50.

A prose poem about Jane Leary


Born in 1834, Jane was fourteen when she left Ireland on a ship to the other side of the world with one hundred and nine other girls. This was a grand scheme devised by the British Government - the Earl Grey Famine Orphan Scheme.

A first glance at your photograph; who would guess you were once a starving child in an Irish famine workhouse in 1848?

A closer look shows how starvation left you with a tiny body and narrow shoulders. You look straight at the viewer with haunted, defiant eyes.

Strong hands would raise eight, maybe nine children and lived to eighty years of age. Your descendants live in Australia today, proud of the life you made possible.

And did you ever see your brothers again? Or long to return to Ireland?

It's easy to separate children, from their family and country, for they are powerless. Yet many survive and leave their mark, as you did Jane Leary.


While researching characters for my novel about the Irish Famine, I came across a project by Toma McCullim at the West Cork Arts Centre in 2018 entitled 11o Skibbereen Girls.

Follow the links to read more:

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