Looking Out To Sea

Mary Ryan facilitated a group of women to gather at her home in Malahide, Co. Dublin on International Women’s Day 2019. This was organised by the Headford Lace Project to remember and honour the lives of the girls who were transported from Ireland to Australia on the ship, The Inchinnan, in 1849. The girls came from Mayo Workhouses and were aged between 16-18. This forms part of the ‘Irish Roses, Bride Ship Lasses’ Tribute Project being organised by Christina Henri, Artist in Residence at The Cascade Falls Female Factory Historic Site in Tasmania.

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The girl’s name and the ship on which she was transported was inscribed on each individual bonnet. They were then embelished by the group with recycled items of lace. There was chat and singing, sadness and happiness. We enjoyed a delicious lunch while contemplating the starvation that ravaged Ireland in the 1800s which culminated in these girls ending up in workhouses.



We finished the morning ‘looking out to sea’ while thinking about all the emotions the girls must have experienced and their last glimpse of Ireland’s shoreline as they ship departed the pier.


Eileen Casey penned the following piece during the morning.

Mary Goff, Inchinnan, 1849,
Eileen Casey, 8th March, 2019

I’m a thread in the story of Mary Goff.  
My needle stitches over the map of her
letters; as she must have traced the
outline of the shore as the Inchinnan
pulled away. She left in cold November,
when the ground was hard, the taste of
frost on her lips. She crossed an ocean
whose waves formed a rolling pattern
she braided into her own small fabric
of a world existing beyond the walls
of Ballina Workhouse. She hadn’t known
the comfort of filigree shawls or how
fine lace felt against her skin.
Instead, she’d suffered the sharp prick
of hard labour and a hollow void caused
by hunger. Mary Goff was a link in the
chain of young women and girls who
sowed and then reaped the bounties
that a New World and a new life offered.
She left in cold November, arriving in
February when the sun shone,
wildflowers bloomed and the air was
alive with birds such as the flame
breasted robin, cockatoos and starlings.
I’m a thread in the story of Mary Goff.
My re-imaginings of her life course
through my fingers into the cloth of her
bridal bonnet.

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