This research collection of Irish place names is a bi-product of Dr Dymphna Lonergan's research into the Irish language in Australia.
The Irish people have always had a strong sense of place. The Irish attachment to place (the word dúchas reflects this meaning) was recognised as something to address when both Derry-born Colonel Robert Torrens and his Cork-born son Robert Richard suggested the names ‘Loughrea’ 1, ‘New Erin’ or ‘St. Patrick’s Land’ 2 as prospective names for Irish settler places in South Australia 3.
An Irish place name in the New World could enhance the migrant experience and diminish the effects of displacement if it evoked home, and the familial and social comforts of home. Although none of the Torrens’ suggested place names eventuated in South Australia, hundreds of place names in Australia express the Irish migrant experience. They are worth documenting as an intriguing addition to Australia’s settlement story.
The 2006 Australian Census reports Irish ancestry as being the third highest in Australia after Australian and English. The Irish Embassy in Canberra claims that 30% of Australians can claim some degree of Irish ancestry. The South Australian figures mirror these: the 2006 Census showed Irish ancestry ranked third after Australian and English.
For all that, little has been recorded of the Irish contribution to South Australia. Being a smaller component of the nationwide Irish diaspora may account for some of this neglect, but how do we explain the omission of the Irish from studies that include ethnic groups with smaller populations? In the face of this silence about the Irish in early South Australia, how do we explain place names such as Cavan, Clare and Kilkenny? Why were these places named as such? What can this naming tell us about the people involved?
This research looks at those Irish pioneers whose history is reflected in place names in South Australia. It looks especially at the first ten years when many of the recognisable Irish place names in South Australia evolved. These place names tell an important story of pioneer Irish people who chose South Australia as their New Erin in the South Seas.
South Australian, 2 Apr 1840, p. 6.
‘Australian Emigration Society’, Dublin University Magazine, Vol. 14, September 1839 online http://www.libraryireland.com
Robert Torrens, Ireland saved without cost to the imperial treasury, n.p. London, 1937.