ERIN-go-Bragh set sail from Cobh, Cork, carrying 400 Irish Catholics, on what would be the deadliest migrant voyage to reach Brisbane 160 years ago.Descendants mark 160 years since Irish Catholic families braved deadly voyage to Brisbane – The Catholic Leader
Erin-go-Bragh descendant Michael Nayler said many of the families on board had been evicted from their homes by Lord Digby of Geashill.
With nowhere else to go, Tullamore parish priest Fr Patrick Dunne, who had been to Australia before, struck a deal with Bishop James Quinn and the Queensland Immigration Society to gain passage for the families.
Fr Dunne accompanied them on their passage.
Out of 400 people aboard, 54 had died before reaching Brisbane, including 41 children.
Scarlet fever and colic were the main killers.
For the past few years, Erin-go-Bragh descendants have gathered on St Patrick’s Day to read the names of the dead and lay flowers for those who died.
The deadly journey took three months longer than normal, battling a strong headwind and a leaking hull.
Aboard, rumours had spread about English sabotage – passengers who hopped off at Liverpool drilling holes in the hull – but the common consensus today seems to be the ship was simply old and leaky.
Passengers had nicknamed her the “Erin-go-slow” and she became the first ship to be quarantined at St Helena Island.
Many stories survived from the Erin-go-Bragh’s journey including the tale of St Patrick’s Day on board, Mr Nayler said.
He said Fr Dunne was presented with a newborn baby for baptism and, naturally, he baptised the child “Patrick” for the feast.
Little did he know, it was a baby girl.
The parents waited the full day before telling him and the child was quickly renamed Mary Patrick.
It is unknown how many descendants of the Erin-go-Bragh live in Australia today, but it is likely many thousands.
Some of the well-known descendants include international tennis star Patrick Rafter and Australia’s most-capped footballer Clare Polkinghorne.
Many of the descendants were given land around Logan and through to the Granite Belt.
If you are interested in finding out if you are descended from a passenger, you can find passenger lists on the Erin-go-Bragh Facebook page.
Event organisers are hoping to pay tribute to the ship in August, when the ship arrived, and are looking for those interested to join them for St Patrick’s Day this year.