Irish Queenslanders

The Irish have played a significant part in the history of Queensland since they first started arriving in the late 18th Century.
We have had an effect on everything from the local architecture to the famed local beer. Here are just some of the Irish men and women who have had a huge influence on life in Queensland.

Elizabeth Hamilton Dunlop

Writer, suffragist, social reformer

Elizabeth Hamilton Dunlop (1842-1929) was born in County Tyrone and migrated to Queensland in 1862. She quickly became involved in social causes and was one of the first women in the colony to advocate for women’s suffrage. She also campaigned for improved working conditions for women, and was a founding member of the Women’s Literary Association, which provided educational opportunities for women.

As a writer, Dunlop was a prolific author of poetry, short stories, and novels. She was known for her ability to capture the beauty and complexity of the Australian landscape, and her writing often focused on themes of love, loss, and identity. Her most famous work is the novel “The Vagabonds,” which was published in 1884 and is considered a pioneering work of Australian literature.

Dunlop was also an accomplished musician and composer, and wrote numerous songs and pieces of music throughout her life.

Elizabeth Hamilton Dunlop passed away in Brisbane in 1929, leaving behind a legacy as a trailblazing advocate for women’s rights and a significant contributor to Australian culture.

Thomas Joseph Byrnes

Premier of Queensland from 1898 to 1901

Born in 1860 in County Wicklow, Byrnes immigrated to Australia with his family in 1868.

He became a prominent figure in Queensland politics, serving as Premier of Queensland from 1898 to 1901.

During his tenure as Premier, he implemented strict measures to combat organised crime, such as the formation of the Criminal Investigation Department and the introduction of fingerprinting for identification purposes.

His tough stance on law and order made him popular among the public and earned him the nickname “Black Tommy” referring to his stern demeanour and the black suit he often wore.

He also played a key role in the Federation of Australia, working to unite the colonies into a single nation.

Byrnes passed away in 1898 at the age of 67, having contracted measles. He left a lasting legacy in Queensland politics.

He is buried at Toowong Cemetery. Two statues were erected of Byrnes, one in Centenary Place, Brisbane, and one in Warwick.

Nicholas Fitzgerald

Opened Castlemaine Brewery and created XXXX beer

Galway-born Edward Fitzgerald came from a brewing family who owned a distillery at Nun’s Island in Galway.

Edward emigrated to Australia during the Victorian gold rush, in 1854, and he opened a brewery in the gold field town of Castlemaine, Victoria two years later, in 1856. 

He decided to expand operations to Queensland, where he was joined in business by his brother Nicholas, a former law student at Trinity College who had migrated to Australia in 1859. They purchased the site of a failing distillery on Milton Road and together they started producing Castlemaine XXX Sparkling Ale in Brisbane in 1878. 

The name came from X symbols which were used on beer barrels to distinguish strong beers from lighter ales. 

Edward Fitzgerald died in 1896. Nicholas went on to become a prominent politician in Victoria, where he died in 1908. 

Richard Gailey

Architect who invented the Queenslander style of architecture

Born in Donegal in 1834, Richard Gailey moved to Queensland in 1864 and became an influential architect in colonial-era Brisbane.

He would add finely detailed arches and wide verandahs to his buildings to shield them from the effects of the midday sun. As a cost-effective alternative to arches, he would use wrought-iron filigree lacework on verandahs, which came to be known as Queenslander architecture.

A prolific worker, you’ll find examples of Richard Gailey’s work still surviving all over Brisbane, including Tara House, Brisbane Girls’ Grammar School, Wickham Hotel, Regatta Hotel and Jubilee Hotel.

Richard Gailey died in 1924 and is buried at Cleveland Cemetery.

Patrick ‘Patsy’ Durack

Pastoral pioneer

Patrick Durack was born in Scarriff, County Clare, in 1874 the eldest son of eight
children. His family emigrated to New South in 1853 in the hope of a better life but tragedy struck when Durack’s father was accidentally killed only weeks after their arrival, leaving the young man to support his large family.

Durack worked hard and within two years purchased
a small holding near Goulburn, where he continued to build
his assets.

By the early 1860s, south-west Queensland was opening up and in 1868, Durack established Thylungra and Kyabra stations on a tributary of Cooper’s Creek. He pegged out claims across 17,000 square miles, stocked and then sold them to friends and new settlers.

Profits paid for other ventures – a butchery at Roma, holdings at Thargomindah, Adavale and Windorah, and hotels to service the influx of opal miners and Cobb & Co. services. By the close of the 1870s, Durack was a wealthy man with substantial business interests in both New South Wales and western Queensland.

He died at Fremantle in 1898 and was reinterred in 1901 beside his wife in the pioneer cemetery at Goulburn.

Sister Elizabeth Kenny

Nurse who invented a new way of treating polio and saved many children’s lives

Elizabeth Kenny (1880-1952), was a self-taught bush nurse and daughter of Michael Kenny, a farmer from Ireland, and his wife Mary Moore.

In 1910 Kenny was working as a nurse from the family home at Nobby on the Darling Downs, riding on horseback to give her services, without pay, to any who called her. In 1911 she used hot compressions and passive movements to treat symptomatically puzzling new cases, diagnosed as infantile paralysis (poliomyelitis). The patients recovered. Kenny then opened a cottage hospital at Clifton.

During World War I, she was appointed staff nurse in the Australian Army Nursing Service.

Her controversial method for treating Polio patients, which she promoted internationally while working in Australia, Europe and the United States, differed from the then conventional medical practice which called for placing affected limbs in plaster casts. Sister Kenny’s principles of muscle rehabilitation became the foundation physiotherapy.

Sister Kenny was buried beside her mother in Nobby Cemetery. You can visit the Sister Kenny Memorial House in Nobby, Clifton, Queensland to find out more.