Attendance at Shamrock in the Bush at Galong is a highly competitive affair. Irish family historians descend on St Clement’s Retreat and Conference House, the old homestead of former-convict-made-good, Ned Ryan, for three days of talks, music, historical delights and good old Irish craic or fun. Shamrock 2011 has been eagerly awaited by former attendees as co-organiser of Shamrock, Richard Reid, is also curator of the Not Just Ned exhibition at the National Museum and has been regaling us with the delights ahead for the past conference or two. Do read his excellent essay on the Irish in Australia on the Australian National Museum website. Irish family historians will know Richard from his index of Irish immigrants to Australia…he has a wealth of knowledge about his topic.
The Shamrock in the Bush conference has an amazing ambience – perhaps it’s the location with Ned Ryan’s historic hospitality in the air, or perhaps it’s being away from the city with freedom from modern communications (mobiles and hence internet don’t work) but the delegates all seem to have a great time, many coming year after year. There is such an air of camaraderie and enthusiasm among the crowd with varying levels of knowledge and expertise being shared among the crowd. I enjoyed it so much in 2009 that it has become part of my annual travel planning despite the 4000km trek from Darwin. The speakers are knowledgeable and passionate about their topics which is infectious. You might think “oh that topic doesn’t interest me” but then you listen to it and are fully engaged. Most talks are introduced with music and poetry from minstrel John Dengate which adds an extra delight. On top of which this year we have a trip to the Ned exhibition and to the Irish Embassy! How much fun will all that be?!
Richard’s most able co-organiser, Cheryl Mangan, does a fabulous job of getting everything in place and running efficiently both before and during the event. Without her and her dedicated workers, volunteers and helpers, the event would not be the great success it surely is. If you have Irish ancestry, do yourself a favour and check out the site. I believe there are still some vacancies left for this year’s conference. And if you can’t be there this year, put it on your agenda for 2012 –it’s usually the first weekend in August.