This is the story of Catherine Mary Kirwan but it could be the story of any single female immigrant who survived the Irish famine, had seen her family turned out of their home and had been forced to bid farewell to brothers as they left to find a life in better circumstances.
There was no future of any kind for Kate if she remained in Ireland. And so she arranged to become part of an Australian government immigration scheme. In the land down under she found a job, made her way to the goldfields, married and gave birth to six children. Kate taught herself how to manage living in the Australian bush. She became skilled at running a gold-mining hotel at the height of the lawless gold rush era. From her miner neighbors, she learned to plant a subsistence garden and what would grow best at certain times of the year. She produced tasty meals out of whatever was available. She buried her first husband and was left a pauper with six children under age ten. Eventually she remarried and produced yet another child.
This chronical of Kate’s life is a tribute to her and to all women who took responsibility for their own lives, who were willing to travel to faraway lands, learn new skills, and who were determined to survive and prosper.
Mary Balle is a rehabilitation psychologist and author of the biography, Mary Lamb; An Extraordinary Life. She is a descendent of the American branch of the Kirwin family, a great-great niece of Catherine (Kate) Mary Kirwan and lives in Stockbridge, MA. Several members of the extended Kirwan family on both sides of the Pacific have worked on the genealogy for this book.