Mandy Moore’s Hyde Park Barracks ancestor


Hyde Park Barracks is in the family history spotlight again, with the premiere of season 10 of the US series of Who Do You Think You Are? featuring American singer-songwriter and actress Mandy Moore.

In mid-2017 Sydney Living Museums assisted the program’s producer Warner Bros with historical information and facilitated the on-site filming; we were intrigued to hear that a US celebrity had a Hyde Park Barracks ancestor.

Previously unaware of her connections to colonial Australia, Mandy Moore was filmed in the Museum’s Immigration Depot exhibition, where she heard about the experiences of her great, great, great grandmother, Ellen (Eliza) Flynn, born in Cashel, County Tipperary, Ireland about 1833.

In 1848, during the Great Famine in Ireland, Ellen and her sister and mother (both named Mary), fell into poverty and had no choice but to endure the dreadful living conditions at Cashel workhouse. Mary senior died in the workhouse and the girls’ father James had already emigrated to America, leaving the girls effectively orphaned. But in 1849, the Earl Grey Scheme offered them a free passage to New South Wales, and the chance of a new beginning. Ellen and Mary were two of 2253 orphan girls on this scheme, who were housed temporarily at the Immigration Depot at Hyde Park Barracks, between 1848 and 1852.

Ellen was a nursemaid who could read and write; when she left Ireland, she was just 15 years old. After four months at sea, her ship the Lady Peel, pulled in to Sydney on 3 July 1849, and two days later the girls were conducted up the hill from Circular Quay to the Immigration Depot. That day in her daily report, depot matron Eliza Capps recorded that she had:

Received from the “Lady Peel”, 173 unmarried females. 1

Ellen was one of many thousands of Irish women who were temporarily housed at the Immigration Depot at Hyde Park Barracks, having fled the immediate and long-term effects of the Great Irish Famine, from 1848 and well into the subsequent decades. The Immigration Depot provided temporary accommodation, protection of the women’s physical and moral welfare, allocated rations, and oversaw their hiring as domestic servants.

By 1851 Ellen was employed as an indentured house servant and in 1855, she married Englishman Frederick Barney at St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney. Ellen and her husband left the colony permanently for England in 1856.

Watch an excerpt from the WDYTYA episode on YouTube: 

  • 1. Immigration Agent’s Correspondence, Hyde Park Barracks Daily Report, 5 July 1849, SRNSW 9-6192
Ornately lettered report headed: Immigration | Hyde Park Barracks Daily Report. with subsection headed Matron's report with name of ship.
Excerpt from daily report from Hyde Park Barracks, dated 5 July 1849, which indicates that the orphan girls from the ship arrived that day. Immigration Agent’s Correspondence, Hyde Park Barracks Daily Report, 5 July 1849, SRNSW 9-6192

About the Author

Fiona seated in hammock in Hyde Park Barracks.
Dr Fiona Starr
The Mint and Hyde Park Barracks Museum
Fiona claims her love of Australian history, genealogy and world history is hereditary – passed on by her mother and grandmother.

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