Michael McGirr reviews 'A New History of the Irish in Australia' by Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall

Michael McGirr reviews 'A New History of the Irish in Australia' by Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall

A New History of the Irish in Australia

by Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall

NewSouth, $34.99 pb, 444 pp, 9781742235530

There is much to admire about this detailed and painstaking book. The authors have entered a field that is replete with stereotypes and even gags. They will have none of it. The result is an account of the Irish in Australia subtly modulated and insistent on evidence. It is suspicious of the lore and yarns that have sometimes been made to take their place.

Elizabeth Malcolm and Dianne Hall make countless references to this book’s spiritual godfather, Patrick O’Farrell, whose The Irish in Australia, published in 1986, is still a delicious reading experience. Indeed, a number of the chapters in this new book begin with references to O’Farrell as a starting point. The authors are a little in awe of him, which is easy to understand. They treat him like an elderly ancestor whose stories may need to be toned down a bit.

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Published in March 2019, no. 409
Michael McGirr

Michael McGirr

Michael McGirr is the Dean of Faith at St Kevin’s College in Melbourne, a school that was started by the Christian Brothers. His most recent book is Books That Saved My Life (Text, 2018).

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