New Directions: Maps & Journeys

In 2019, I had the pleasure of attending an International Women’s Day sewing and embroidery session in Malahide, County Dublin. Hosted by Mary Ryan (prominent in many women’s groups nationwide), the morning was organised by The Headford Lace Project (HLP), a vibrant county Galway voluntary community group seeking to research, revive and reimagine  the story of an almost forgotten local lacemaking tradition which has been traced back to mid-1700s. HLP have embraced many interesting journeys and new directions in their quest to highlight Headford Lace, projects which connect them to events on a national and global stage.  One such connection is ‘Irish Roses, Bride Ship Lasses’, a project initiated by Australian artist, Dr. Christina Henri, which aims to commemorate the 4,114 young women who in the mid-nineteenth century were given assisted transportation to help regenerate and boost the population of Australia.

mary goffs bonnet

Mary Goff set out from Ballina Workhouse to sail to Australia on the Inchinnan in 1849, mapping out her own new directions, her own dreaming. As did most of the Orphan Girls who travelled, under Earl Grey’s Scheme, from Irish Workhouses during the famine. Little could Mary Goff know how nearly two centuries later, her name would be sewn onto a bonnet at Mary Ryan’s house, Malahide. On that day, little did I know how Mary Goff’s story and the story of Orphan Girls in general would ignite new creative directions and journeys. Sewing was such an important skill to have when seeking work in those times. A girl who could sew had a much better chance of easier employment in a fine house. I wrote a sequence of poems about Orphan Girls (‘Berries for Singing Birds’, Arlen House, 2019) and in Mary Goff’s case, in collaboration with my son, I set some of these poems to music. 


‘Mary Goff’ (song) will feature in a Poetry Day, 2021 event, details below.

berries for birds