This year-long project explored the poignant stories of 110 girls from Skibbereen who escaped the famine for Australia in 1850. Artist Toma McCullim investigated how various people sharing Skibbereen Community Hospital campus today – staff, service users, residents and visitors – contribute to the development of a permanent site-specific artwork to mark this moment in history.
‘Far away in Australia’ is a series of paintings made at Skibbereen Community Hospital in response to the 110 Skibbereen Girls story of leaving Skibbereen Workhouse during the famine to sail away to new lives in Australia. Artist Liz Clark and Toma McCullim explored Australian Aboriginal artist techniques to create our own paintings of familiar animals and places at home in Ireland.
This project is part of the year-long residency with artist Toma McCullim, where Toma works with residents and staff of the hospital campus to create a permanent artwork celebrating the lives and bravery of those 110 Skibbereen Girls.
A series of 110 bronze spoons were cast to signify the 110 Skibbereen girls. A stone donated by the Australian Embassy was brought from Australia to incorporate into the artwork which will be located near the Famine burial ground on the Hospital Campus. Work from, and documentation of, the project will be exhibited alongside Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger, an exhibition of historical and contemporary artwork from Ireland’s Great Hunger Museum, Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, USA which is being shown at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre from July to October 2018. An online documentation with photographs, sound clips and film will document the process, the artwork and emergence of a story.
“As a daughter of a resident patient Ethel McCarthy in Skibbereen Community Hospital, I’d like to ‘sing my praises’ for Liz Clark. For her dedication and commitment to all the residents whose eyes brighten up when they hear her play the guitar and sing their favourite old time Irish songs. It’s great that she knows them all by name and also knows each person’s party piece song. I myself have had the honour of taking part with my mother and Liz on Monday sessions and was delighted to take part last Friday to sing the two beautiful songs; Far away in Australia and Dear Old Skibbereen as part of the 110 Girls Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger commemoration. Well done Liz and keep up the great work you are doing.”