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The Not Just Ned exhibition developed by the National Museum of Australia features personal objects and stories from some of the thousands of Irish people whose stories have become legends, or whose efforts have made Australia what it is today.
Learn more here about convict squatter Ned Ryan, controversial grazier Isabella Mary Kelly, dancer Lola Montez, copper magnate Charles Bagot and would-be political assassin Henry O'Farrell.
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Gold probe, 1868
Gold probe supposedly used on the Duke of Edinburgh, March 1868. Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Museum, Sydney.
Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, was Australia's first royal visitor. On 12 March 1868, at a charity picnic at Clontarf in Sydney, Henry James O'Farrell approached the duke and shot him. The wounded duke was brought to Government House, where the drawing room was converted into a makeshift operating theatre. A specially fashioned golden probe was used to remove the bullet from his back.
O'Farrell's bullet 'entered half an inch to right of spinous process of vertebrae on a line with ninth rib, burrowing deeply into the tissues'. Whisked away to a makeshift hospital in the front drawing room of Government House, the Duke was required to remain quiet for two days. During that time a special golden probe was fashioned to enable Royal Naval surgeons to safely remove the bullet. Later, Queen Victoria showed her gratitude by presenting gold replicas of the bullet to the surgeons.
O'Farrell, originally from Dublin, was tried within the month, sentenced to death and executed. He first claimed he was a Fenian; later he said he had acted alone. The incident increased tension between Irish Catholics and other colonists, although most of the former would have condemned O'Farrell. Sydney's Royal Prince Alfred Hospital was named as a memorial to the duke's safe recovery.
In Irish history Clontarf is famous as the name of High King Brian Boru's victory, on Good Friday 1014, over the armies of his Irish enemies, who were in league with Viking mercenaries. Boru, who had been trying to bring unity to various warring families and protect the country from the Viking threat, was killed in the battle. The Sydney harbourside suburb of Clontarf is undoubtedly named after the Dublin suburb that now sits on the site of the ancient battle.