Galloping tales of colourful colonial women

Best-selling writer Hannah Kent will make a return to Flinders University next week during the 24th Australasian Irish Studies Conference.

The Flinders University graduate will launch a new novel called Unsettled (2019) written by adjunct Flinders academic in Creative Writing and English Gay Lynch.

The book, based on real places and people in Melbourne and South Australia’s South East region – including Adam Lindsay Gordon and Father Tenison-Woods (of Mary St MacKillop fame) – borrows from Dr Lynch’s PhD study set in the mid-late 1800s.

The project was first mentored by Irish writer Niall Williams, with input from Flinders colleagues, including Danielle Clode who has described the book, below.  

Inspired by the imagined life of early settler Rosanna Lynch, who raced the stallion on which her brother competed in steeplechases against famous Australian poet Adam Lindsay Gordon, Unsettled is a “passionate and uncompromising exploration of the Irish, the feminine, the Indigenous, the nonconformist and the rebellious in our history,” says historical novelist Dr Clode on the cover.  

“(Gay) Lynch seamlessly weaves art, culture, literature and science through the fabric of her story, brilliantly evoking the complexities of early Australian settlement with its crude harsh realities and its finely wrought artistic and cultural aspirations.”

The dramatic and tragic plot draws on apocryphal Galway stories, and Irish-Australian literary themes like horse trading, cattle duffing, pregnancy, lost children, church abuse and illicit stills.  

Dr Danielle Clode (centre) and Dr Gillian Dooley (right), co-editors of ‘The First Wave’ (Wakefield Press), which tells of Australia’s colonisation from Indigenous writers’ perspectives.

Dr Lynch, who previously worked with Hannah Kent  (author of Burial Rites and The Good People), Dr Clode, Dr Patrick Allington, Dr Robyn Cadwallader, Dr Gillian Dooley and other successful writers and critics at Flinders, also will present at the conference on the topic ‘Too Sexy to be a Settler: missing Irish diasporic girls”.

In this research, she seeks to understand why girls disappear from many family stories, right up to the present time, and how representations of Irish girls and their sexuality can be contested.

Under the theme of ‘Foregrounding Irish Women: The Antipodes and Beyond,” the ISAANZ (Irish Studies Association of Australia and New Zealand) conference features many Flinders presentations, including sessions chaired by the conference organisers Dr Stephanie James, Susan Arthure, Dr Fidelma Breen and Dr Dymphna Lonergan. 

Keynote speakers are Professor Regina Uí Chollatáin (University College Dublin) who will speak on the Women of the Gaelic Revival: ‘Influencers’ or ‘dilettantes toying with this strange archaic language, who had little else to do and were just following a whim or fancy’ and Dr Sharon Crozier-De Rosa (University of Wollongong) who will cover ‘Irish women’s history and the emotional politics of nation and empire’.  

The ISAANZ conference runs at Flinders Victoria Square from 9-12 December.

Depiction of Molly Reilly, a young rebel, who was chosen to hoist the new flag over Liberty Hall, Dublin in 1916 during the Easter Rising. In this sculpture, created by Stuart Dunne in 2016, she is depicted pulling the struggling men of the four provinces out of the mire.
Posted in
College of Humanities Arts and Social Sciences