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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Claire Dunne. Courtesy Claire Dunne.
Claire Dunne, born in Ireland in 1937, was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to multiculturalism, particularly through the promotion of Celtic culture, and to ethnic broadcasting' in 1999. She also played the love interest, Kay Kelly, in the 1966 film They're a Weird Mob. The film was a national and international success, but Dunne feels that, given her many other achievements since then, she 'could kill anyone who calls me an actress'.
John Moriarty's fishing rod and reel, 1928
A fishing rod and reel which John Moriarty's father left in Ireland in 1928. On loan from John Moriarty.
Reconnecting with Ireland: John Moriarty's fishing rod
Top sportsman, activist for Indigenous rights, federal public servant, designer and successful businessman – John Moriarty has been all of these. Like many Indigenous Australians he has an Irish surname, indicating his family links with that country. Moriarty was also one of the Stolen Generation, taken away from his Yanyuwa mother in the Northern Territory when he was four, and brought up in homes and schools in southern Australia.
John Moriarty's search for the Irish part of his identity took him to County Kerry in 1980, and to a meeting with Pat 'Aeroplane' O'Shea. O'Shea, aged 92, had been a star Gaelic footballer for Kerry before the First World War. After a 20-minute conversation with Moriarty in the doorway, O'Shea asked him in. He told him about a visit by Moriarty's father in 1928, even remembering how many trout they had caught when they went fishing together. From the back of a cupboard, O'Shea retrieved an old fishing rod, tied together in three pieces, and a separate brass reel. Apologising for the fact that the line had rotted away, he handed the rod to Moriarty with these words: 'He left it here for you'.
During his visit to Kerry, Moriarty met many of his Irish relatives for the first time, and found himself readily accepted by them. When 'Aeroplane' O'Shea died, a local paper recalled Moriarty's visit, confiding how the old family fishing rod was now 'safe in the hands of the Moriarty clan of Australia'.
John Moriarty, 1940s
John Moriarty as a small child with his mother Kathleen, 1940s. National Museum of Australia.
Like many Indigenous Australians John Moriarity has an Irish surname, indicating his family links with that country. The sportsman, Indigenous rights activist, public servant, designer and businessman was also a member of the Stolen Generation. He travelled to Ireland in 1980 to search for his Irish father's family.
Beale factory workers, 1920s.
Female workers at Beale factory, 1920s. Leichhardt Municipal Council.
The Beale Piano Factory in Annandale, Sydney, was once praised as the 'largest piano factory in the British Empire'. It was founded by Octavius Charles Beale, who came as a child from County Laois during the gold rush of the 1850s. By the mid-1920s the factory had turned out more than 60,000 instruments, and Beale himself was a prominent businessman and public figure, confidante of politicians and active in manufacturers' associations.
At its peak in the 1920s the Beale company employed over 300 people. The majority of workers would have been male, including forge men and carpenters, but the fine fingers of women were considered ideal for the delicate task of stringing pianos.
The Beale company boasted that its pianos, which featured an innovative iron tuning system, were made by 'Australian workmen from Australian materials'.