The Town of Dardanup (200kms south of Perth and 20km east of Bunbury) is one of those WA towns you tend to drive straight through without giving much thought to its name or its history. However, this is all likely to change in May when its history and names of some of the characters who settled in the town begin to unfold in earnest.
Of course there is the Nyoongar people’s connection to the region which goes back thousands of years before colonial settlement. Sadly however, most of that history has been lost, except perhaps for the name of the town, which according to the Nyoongar was where a special type of plant grew.
Enter Irishman Fred Rea and editor of the Irish Scene magazine. Fred as most Irish people know is never a man to stand still and also well known for his passion in helping foster heritage and cultural links between Australia and Ireland (this brought Fred the prestigious Brendan Award on behalf of the Australian/Irish Heritage Association in 2012.
Fred’s latest project in helping keep those heritage and cultural links alive is all in a wooden box. That’s right a wooden box. Aptly named the Travel Box, the box was back in the mid 1800s in Ireland, a type of suitcase used by young Irish girls to house their worldly possessions before embarking on the 3 month voyage from Ireland to Australia on what was then referred to as the Bride Ships.
Most of these girls were sourced from Ireland’s Work Houses; a place where young girls (many orphans) during famine and political strife sought refuge. However, these work houses were also a source of prospective brides in faraway places such as Australia where in some rural districts men outnumbered woman almost 10 to 1. Between 1848 and 1850, over 4000 young Irish girls between the age of 14 and 18 were part of this emigrant recruitment scheme. In May last year the Town of York celebrated its own Travel Box in honour of Irishwoman Mary Anne Taylor. Taylor arrived on the Palestine in 1853 and with her travel box being her only possession, ended up in Toodyay where she married into a York farming family.
Another young Irishwoman who also arrived on the Palestine was Elizabeth Carbury. Elizabeth and her travel box would end up in the Town of Dardanup.
Fred’s meticulous research regarding Elizabeth’s arrival in Dardanup not only highlighted her 3 month torturous voyage to WA on the Palestine, but also her life in Dardanup as farmer James Maguire’s wife. Maguire is probably best remembered for his involvement in the escape of Irish political prisoner John Boyle O’Reilly to America in 1869.
Anyway, without giving too much away about Elizabeth and her connection to Dardanup, there will be a celebration of her life and her travel box as part of the WA Irish Famine Commemoration to be held in the Dardanup Catholic Church on Sunday May 2017 followed by a shindig at the Thomas Little Hall, named in honour of Irishman Thomas Little, one of Dardanup’s early influential settlers.