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Derry Girl Mairéad, Keeps Orphan Girls Story Alive at Christmas

December 20, 2022

Former Celtic Woman soloist, Mairéad Carlin has released as her first, solo career single, Brendan Graham’s Orphan Girl.

Derry girl, Carlin formerly part of Grammy-nominated Celtic Woman, has decided on Graham’s plaintive re-telling in song of the Earl Grey scheme of the mid 1800’s, to launch her solo career. The Earl Grey scheme saw over 4,000 young Irish girls, orphaned by An Gorta Mor sent from every corner of Ireland, including Derry, to Australia. The plan was to ease pressure on overcrowded workhouses, but also to help ‘populate the colonies.’

Graham wrote the song specifically for the 2012, Sydney Great Famine Commemoration at Hyde Park Barracks, where the first shipload of Irish Girl Orphans arrived in 1848. Descendants of the Orphan Girls attended the ceremony carrying photographs of their own ancestral Orphan Girl.

Branded as ‘workhouse sweepings’ and accused of ‘Tipperarifying’ the moral atmosphere of Australia, they were also  said to be ‘A Decent Set of Girls’, by the town of Yass in New South Wales.

The Irish Orphan Girls did help to populate the colony, with up to two million Australians today owing their lineage to those girls, who sailed in hope to Australia.

As Carlin so achingly sings…’Sail me away…sail me, I pray…to Australia’, with songwriter Graham saying he was ‘spellbound’ by her interpretation of his song.

‘I am delighted that Mairéad chose Orphan Girl to launch her solo career. She so obviously relates to the song and the plight of the Orphan Girls and, with her wonderfully emotive expression of the story…helps keep their story alive and before us’.


Release Date: 23rd December 2022

Label: Paper Boat Records


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