According to family records, it was during the potato famine that my father’s great-great grandparents left their place at Bansha in County Cork.
They loaded everything they owned including their children on a horse & cart and travelled to Dublin where they sold their possessions to buy tickets to travel to the new world.
One can only imagine what a long, uncomfortable and frightening trip that must have been. I wonder too how strange Australia must have seemed to them with its rugged beauty, gum trees and strange animals. A great big wide brown land, as the poet Dorothea MacKellar described it.
The details of the family’s activities once they reached Australia are sketchy to say the least and little is known about those early days. Sadly, most of the old folk who could tell the stories are long gone. It is known that our father’s branch of the family, now known as Roache, moved to the North Coast of NSW around Lismore and Kyogle where they became successful dairy farmers.
Thus far, I know very little about how and why my Grandmother’s family came to be in Australia. I do know however that she was described as a gentle, poetic well-read woman who valued education highly. She was small of stature and strong as an ox. Of her eleven children, nine were boys and two were girls. Many of her sons went to war; her eldest is buried in a small war cemetery in Ploegsteert in Belgium. He was killed in action during WW1. My father was her youngest son. It is said that our grandmother could sing like an angel and that everyday without fail she opened the bible and read to the family.
My grandparents whose family came from Ireland passed on to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren a great love of literature, music and ‘the gift of the gab’; a great love of humour and a fierce sense of social justice. Many in our family have become educators, musicians, authors and most possess that wonderful ability to turn their hands to any task. Most are friendly openhearted types who will get in and do what needs to be done and ask the questions later. Almost all like nothing better than a good few drinks and a tall story or two! Ask me why I think I am Irish? I would answer; it is in our genetic makeup to be so!