History of Irish in Geelong

The Irish community has long been present in Geelong. Many of our towns early settlers came from Ireland and played a major role in making Geelong the beautiful, prosperous and fast growing city it became. Geelong, now a thriving city of 225,000 people did not exist 175 years ago. The early arrivals set about constructing homes, businesses, schools, entertainment venues, streets and parks making. Many of these early settlers came from Ireland and contributed to this bustling metropolis.

During the nineteenth century our town grew to be a large and thriving town. Whilst not alone in ensuring the growth of the town in its many facets, the Irish settlers played a major role in its development. Many of the most prominent citizens were Irish born or the children of those who had recently left there. Ireland supplied many of the professional men of early Geelong, from the doctors to the lawyers; the architects to the teachers; the clergy to the journalists and artists. Ireland also supplied the thriving town with many of its entrepreneurs in trade; the carriers, the hotel keepers and owners, the retailers and trades people, and of these many became the leaders of the town; the town councillors, the directors of companies, the chairmen or committee members of new organisations, members of hospital boards, cemeteries and charitable trusts, the providers of hospitals, orphanages, schools and churches and its Magistrates, District Surgeons, Health Officers and Government Officials.

The Irish were at the forefront of the Eureka Rebellion and while the rebellion itself took place in Ballarat, it was the Geelong Irish who transported, hid and in the case of Alicia Dunne, nursed and then married, Peter Lalor after the event.

There were as many or more who were not prominent citizens of the town but who simply went about their day to day lives without causing trouble to anyone. Many more no doubt who lived and worked in the town whose names never appeared in the newspapers and whose lives have never been recorded for posterity but they too made their contribution.

Many of today’s Geelong families can trace their heritage back to the Irish settlers and founders of the city. A legacy of beautiful buildings, industry, town planning, hospitals, schools, charitable institutions and churches owes its existence to these public spirited, hardworking and generous men and women and Geelong can rightly thank them.