A continuing presence
The Not Just Ned exhibition developed by the National Museum of Australia features objects which help to tell a story of the contribution of Irish immigrants to Australia through culture and sport. It also explores people's reconnections with Ireland.
The old prejudice against the Irish has all but gone. In its place is an acceptance of the central role of the Irish in Australian history since 1788. Today 'Irishness' is seen as contributing to a sense of fun, humour and enjoyment that lightens the burdens of life.
Stories featured here include those of boxer Les Darcy, footballers Jim Stynes and Tadhg Kennelly, champion horse trainer Dermot Weld, centenarian nun Sr Brenda Browne, Rose of Tralee winner Kathryn Feeney, broadcaster Claire Dunne and leading Indigenous artist and businessman John Moriarty.
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Irish piper John Wayland, 1911
John Wayland, 1911. Dease Studio, Perth. Courtesy Ormonde Waters Jnr.
The craic: John Wayland, Irish piper
John Shaw Wayland died, forgotten, at Nazareth House Nursing Home, Geraldton, Western Australia, in May 1954. Once he had been the toast of the town: during the First World War, he would play his pipes as he escorted local recruits for the Australian Imperial Force to the station. The townspeople gave him a little medal for that.
Wayland was born in Ireland in 1868, the year the last convict ship, carrying Irish Fenian rebels, went from Britain to Western Australia. By the late 1890s Wayland was one of Ireland's best known traditional pipers, playing the Irish or uillean pipes, and a founder of the Cork Pipers Club.
In 1912 he came to Perth, bringing with him a set of rare uillean pipes. For many years his playing was a feature of events such as St Patrick's Day, first in Perth and later in Geraldton, where he settled. On Anzac Day 1938 Geraldton residents were moved when they heard Wayland play the old lament, 'The flowers of the forest'. Perhaps he had seen again some of those young faces of men he had accompanied to the station but who never returned home.
Monstrance belonging to O'Shea family, 1928. On loan from Peter and Maureen Dunham.
The craic: A place to pray
In the Catholic church a monstrance is a most religious and highly significant vessel. This modest monstrance was used in the 1920s and 1930s in O'Shea's Railway Hotel in Katherine in the Northern Territory. Once a month the Catholic priest from Darwin would travel down to Katherine to say mass in the O'Shea's hotel, where the monstrance was placed on the bar, which served as an altar.
Tim O'Shea came to Australia in 1900 and acquired mining and bush skills in northern Queensland. In 1907 he returned to Ireland to marry Catherine O'Keeffe. The couple later settled in the Northern Territory where O'Shea worked as a prospector, blacksmith and, finally, owner of pubs including the one at Katherine and Tattersall's Hotel at Borroloola. Good Catholics, the O'Sheas had mass said in their hotel by visiting priests, and their simple family monstrance is a relic of those days, still treasured by their descendants.
Winnie O'Sullivan's mourning locket, 1917
A locket belonging to Winnie O'Sullivan, containing an image of her sweetheart, the boxer Les Darcy, and a lock of his hair. National Museum of Australia.
Irish in sport: In loving memory
On 24 May 1917, in a room in a hospital in Memphis, Tennessee, Australian boxing champion, Les Darcy, aged 21, died from pneumonia contracted after a bout of septicaemia. At Darcy's bedside that day was his sweetheart, Winnie O'Sullivan, who cut off a small piece of Darcy's hair that she kept, along with her favourite photo of him, in a small golden locket. When O'Sullivan died in 1974, the locket was discovered among her possessions; her family had been unaware of its existence.
It later came to light that O'Sullivan's brother, Maurice, a great mate of Les Darcy, carried the locket at the end of his watch chain for many years and would show it to anyone who asked.
Of Irish Catholic descent, and a faithful Catholic himself, Les Darcy rose to boxing fame in the early years of the First World War. This success allowed him to build a house for his mother and to assist his poor family. In the heated atmosphere of Australia's conscription debates in 1916, Darcy slipped secretly away to America where he intended to make enough money from his boxing career to ensure his parents could live comfortably, and then to enlist for war service. Many in Australia, some in high places, accused him of cowardice, and in America he was unable to obtain fights that paid him well.
When Darcy's body was returned to Australia he was given a hero's funeral and buried under a Celtic cross. He was adopted by the Catholic community who saw him as unjustly persecuted, as he had only wished to help his family, and then do his duty for his country.
Winnie O'Sullivan, 1912
Winnie O'Sullivan, 1912. National Museum of Australia.
Irish in sport: In loving memory
Winnie O'Sullivan was the sweetheart of Australian boxing legend Les Darcy. Following her death in 1974 a small gold locket was was found amongst her personal effects. The locket contains a portrait of Australia's 'golden boy of boxing' and a lock of his hair and was donated to the National Museum of Australia by Father Kevin Hannan, the son of Winnie O'Sullivan.
Jim Stynes, 1998
Jim Stynes takes a mark, AFL Round 8 match, 1998, Melbourne versus Collingwood. GSP Images, Slattery Media Group.
Irish in sport: The 'Irish experiment'
The Australian Football League's so-called 'Irish experiment' began in 1982, when the Melbourne Football Club's legendary coach, Ron Barassi, travelled to Ireland to watch some Gaelic football. Barassi believed that the two games had many similarities, and that the Irish game could offer a source of untapped talent for the league.
One Irishman attracted to Australia by Barassi was Jim Stynes. And an exceptional recruit he proved to be. In 1991 Stynes became the league's first and only overseas player to be awarded the prestigious Brownlow Medal for the season's 'fairest and best'. An official 'legend' of the Melbourne Football Club, Stynes competed in 244 consecutive games. After he left football in 1998, he took on the cause of Indigenous players as the AFL's anti-racism officer, and today is well known for his work with young people through the Reach Foundation that continues despite his high-profile battle with cancer.
Another successful Irish recruit is Tadhg Kennelly.
Tadhg Kennelly, 2009
Tadhg Kennelly dances a jig on the podium after Kerry's All Ireland Football Final win over Cork 2009. Photo: Brendan Moran. Sportsfile.
Irish in sport: The 'Irish experiment'
Tadhg Kennelly famously danced an Irish jig for the television cameras as a member of the winning Sydney Swans team in the 2005 Australian Football League grand final. Returning to Ireland after the death of his father, he played in the County Kerry team that won the 2009 All Ireland (Gaelic) Football Final, so completing a unique double. He danced a little jig on that occasion too.
Kennelly is one of the more recent recruits in the AFL's so-called 'Irish experiment', which began in 1982 when Melbourne coach, Ron Barassi travelled to Ireland to watch some Gaelic football. One of the earliest recruits was Irishman Jim Stynes.