A significant part of my research at Baker’s Flat is about migration – where did these hundreds of Irish people come from, and how did they end up in a field in Kapunda? Why did they come in the first place – was it escape from famine, to rejoin family, for work, for adventure?
An Easter trip to Melbourne brought me to the Immigration Museum, which is currently showing an exhibition called Leaving Dublin. It features photos of people about to leave Ireland, captured over the last three years by Irish photographer David Monahan. Many of these new migrants have tried to explain why they’re leaving, and these quotes add depth to the pictures – stories of despair, hope, excitement, adventure, the basic need for a job.
What struck me were the similarities between these migrants and the last great wave of emigration from Ireland in the 1980s – when we and our friends left for Britain, America or Australia, driven by the same needs and feeling the same emotions.
Pondering further, I suspect that these drivers were similar for the Baker’s Flat people. Certainly, some needs are critical – a job and an income, being able to provide for yourself and your family. But amongst all of those migrants, there would be men and women seeking adventure or acceptance, to live somewhere they might fit better, or just to find a different place and see what it’s like.