In the nineteenth century, the Irish population was halved. 'The Great Shame', a remarkable work of non-fiction, traces the three causes of this depletion: the famine; the emigrations; and the transportations to Australia. Based on unique research among little-used sources, this masterly book covers eighty years of Irish history, told through the intimate lens of political prisoners - some of them ancestors of the Keneally family - who served time as convicts in Australia.
Beginning with Hugh Larkin, a twenty-four-year-old 'Ribbonman' transported for life in 1833, 'The Great Shame' tells of the Ireland these prisoners came from and the Australia they encountered. We learn of the often desperate survival methods of 'transportation widowed' women left in Ireland. Throughout the nineteenth century, Australian and American organisations also participated in the extraordinary escapes or attempted escapes from Australia of some of the most famous Irish politicals, including William Smith O'Brien, Thomas Francis Meagher and John Mitchel.
Through many such lives, famous and obscure, we see not only the daily experience of famine suffers and Irish activists, but also the astonishing history of the Irish diaspora: to the St Lawrence, to New York, to the high plains of Montana and the bush towns of New South Wales. All of them are vividly present in this epic tale of Australian imprisonment, Irish disaster xand New world redemption.