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Deportation of Famine Orphans from Omagh, Gortin & Strabane, Co. Tyrone Workhouses to Melbourne, Australia, October 1848

Transcribed, Compiled and Submitted by
Len Swindley, Melbourne, Australia

A little-known consequence of the devastation caused by the Great Famine (1845-50) was the large numbers of young orphans admitted to workhouses across Ireland and a scheme of emigration to the Australian colonies devised in Westminster to alleviate overcrowding: approximately 5,000 female pauper orphans emigrated 1848-50. Passages were paid by the colonials who were in great need of house servants, farm servants and dairy maids and potential brides for the many emancipated transported convicts desperate to marry. The girls disembarked in the ports of Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney and Moreton Bay (Brisbane).

Many of the girls had a living parent, but being unable to provide food and shelter, had no other recourse than to seek admittance to a workhouse.

Extracted from the Tyrone Constitution, October 5, 1849

The Omagh girls arrived in Melbourne on board the Diadem, disembarking January 10, 1850



Surname Firstname Age Residence/Workhouse Religion
ABRAHAMS Eliza 16 Barnscourt, Tyrone C of E
ADY Eliza 14 Drumgorman, Tyrone C of E
BLACK Sarah Anne 16 Tyrone C of E
CALDWELL Margaret 18 Omagh, Tyrone C of E
COWLEY Margaret 16 Duffley, Tyrone Presb
DEVELIN Margaret 17 Glenoch, Tyrone RC
FOREMAN Catherine 17 Omagh, Tyrone RC
GEATINS Isabella 15 Milecras, Tyrone RC
GIVINS Jane 16 Omagh, Tyrone RC
GWYN Jane 16 Omagh, Tyrone Presb
HALLADAY Catherine 18 Tyrone C of E
JOHNSTON Catherine 16 Cooke Town, Derry & Cookstown, Tyrone RC
KEAN Catherine 17 Crosly, Tyrone RC
KEAN Mary 18 Tyrone RC
MARSHALL Eliza 17 Tyrone Presb/ C of E
MAYNES Margaret 18 Omagh, Tyrone RC
McCONWAY/ McCONONNONY Isabella 16 Drumraw/ Drumrain, Tyrone RC
McELHILL Jane 16 Omagh, Tyrone RC
McGAWLICH Catherine 16 Omagh, Tyrone RC
McKOWN Jane 18 Omagh, Tyrone RC
McLOUGHLIN Elizabeth 17 Tyrone RC
McNALLY Margaret 15 Crosk [Crosh?], Tyrone RC
MULGREEN Catherine 17 Asbon, Tyrone RC
MURDOCK Martha 16 Tyrone Presb
QUINN Jane 14 Addstow [Ardstraw?], Tyrone RC
QUINN Mary 17 Tullymuch, Tyrone RC
SHARKEY Elizabeth 17 Omagh, Tyrone RC
TAYLOR Elizabeth 17 Creevin, Tyrone Presb
THOMSON Mary 15 Glenargh, Tyrone C of E

(State Records and Archives New South Wales 4/4817, Reel 2145)


A fortnight later, the Strabane, Co. Tyrone, workhouse was cleared of a number of girls who arrived in Melbourne, February 25, 1850 on the Derwent


Surname Firstname Age Occupation,Residence/Workhouse Religion
ARBUCKLE Ann 18 Houseservant, Tyrone [Strabane]. Taken home by her brother-in-law George Hunter of Flinders Lane [Melbourne] Presb
ARBUCKLE Mary 23 Housemaid, Tyrone. Taken home by her brother-in-law George Hunter of Flinders Lane [Melbourne] Presb
ARBUCKLE Sarah 16 Never in service, Tyrone [Strabane]. Taken home by her brother-in-law George Hunter of Flinders Lane [Melbourne] Presb
GORMELY Helena 18 Houseservant, Strabane Tyrone RC
PATTERSON Mary 16 Houseservant, Tyrone Presb
SHARKEY Sarah J. 17 Houseservant, Strabane, Tyrone RC
TAYLOR Isabella 16 Houseservant, Newtownstewart, Tyrone C of E
TAYLOR Mary Jane 19 Houseservant, Tyrone C of E
WASON Jane 16 Farmservant, Barnscourt, Tyrone RC
WOOLAGHAN OR OULAGHAN Elizabeth 17 Houseservant, Strabane, Tyrone Presb/ C of E
WOOLAGHAN OR OULAGHAN Martha 20 Houseservant, Strabane, Tyrone C of E/ Presb

(State Records and Archives New South Wales 4/4817, Reel 2145)

There has been much research undertaken in Australia regarding the origins and circumstances of each orphan, especially by Dr. Trevor McClaughlin. His seminal publication, Barefoot and Pregnant? Irish Famine Orphans in Australia (Genealogical Society of Victoria, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) was published in 2001, containing a complete register, but has regrettably been out of print for many years.

NOTE: This submission is an abridged version of my article submitted to the 2017 Directory of Family History Research (Ulster Genealogical and Historical Guild, Belfast) where the complete text may be consulted.