Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Taking the mick out of the Irish

Source: S.T. (Samuel Thomas) Gill (1818-1880) Coffee Tent & Sly Grog Shop, Diggers Breakfast 1852. From Victoria Gold Diggings and Diggers as They Are (Melbourne: James J. Blundell, 1852).

Apologies for the title of this post but I can't resist a bad pun.

A couple of my Cornish grandfathers left South Australia for the Victorian goldrush in around 1851 or 52. The story below about two Irishmen caught up in the gold fever comes from the Illustrated Australian Magazine, published January 1852.
The Irish copped a really bad time of it in early Australia, being the butt of jokes and generally thought of as the dregs of society. In the learned journals up until around the 1850s there was often paternalistic debate about the "Irish/Catholic question" in the colonies. But, in the immortal words of the bag lady who stuck her head into a small pub in Kilburn the other day, wheezing out at the top of her lungs: "The Oirsih built this focken country!" ("Straight home dear, you've had enough" came the general reply from the retired navvies).

They did build the country to a large extent. Though the Chinese helped later along the way too (and took the heat off the Irish). Is it bad form to link to your own stuff?

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