110 Skibbereen Girls

Skibbereen Girls

This year-long project explored the poignant stories of 110 girls from Skibbereen who escaped famine for Australia c1850. Artist Toma McCullim worked with the community of Skibbereen Community Hospital campus today - staff, service users, residents and visitors -  to the develop a permanent site specific artwork to mark this moment in history. Attention was paid to how the process impacted on the participants' sense of place, their relationship with the location and with each other.

Toma explains, ‘Earl Grey's Famine Orphan Scheme sent 110 girls, aged between 14 and 18, from Skibbereen workhouse (now Skibbereen Community Hospital campus) to Australia between 1848 and 1850. It is now estimated that there could be 10,000 descendant diaspora from this group of girls, each with a story. History lives on through us. Narratives tell us who we are. Making new stories of the past can change how we feel about who we are in the present. By bringing people together to talk about the legacies we have inherited we can make new shapes of the future. The Skibbereen girls lived through the worst of the Great Hunger, they journeyed to on to build new lives on the other side of the world. A diaspora of relations can find their way back to celebrate these young women's courage. Modelling a spoon from beeswax, we feel that connection made in our own hands. Making together we are made one.’


The process included studio residencies at Uillinn, and on site in the Hospital Campus. The residencies gave time to research and develop ideas and support a number of public interactions including tours, talks, and participatory workshops, all investigating the theme of the 110 girls, their journey to Australia and diaspora that exists now.

A series of 110 bronze spoons were cast in bronze each representing one of the 110 Skibbereen girls. The artwork was placed on the former workhouse wall, at the arch of the doorway which led to the women’s section. 

A single spoon cast and placed on a brick from the former workhouse was named for Jane Leary, one of the documented girls, whose descendants attended the opening ceremony. This piece was gifted to Ireland's Great Hunger Museum, Quinnipiac University, Connecticut, USA to be exhibited in their Coming Home: Art and the Great Hunger, exhibition of historical and contemporary artwork which is being shown at Uillinn: West Cork Arts Centre from July to October 2018. 


To keep up to date with the progress of this project please see the 110 Skibbereen Girls Facebook page

Skibbereen Hospital Campus



110 Skibbereen Girls by artist Toma McCullim is a Cork County Council, West Cork Arts Centre and Cork Kerry Community Healthcare Famine Heritage Project, funded by the West Cork Municipal District Creative Communities Scheme and the National Lottery