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Above the Starry Frame

Above the Starry Frame by Helen Townsend
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William Irwin was an Irish farm boy who came to Australia alone in 1849, aged 18. As a refugee from Ireland's Potato Famine, he left behind a world of hunger and poverty, and a culture steeped in oppressive tradition. Young and adventurous, and with the will to make something of his life, William set himself up in the heart of gold rush Ballarat, one of the wealthiest 19th century cities in the world. A digger and publican, he was swept up in the events leading to the Eureka Stockade, both as a witness and a player in this landmark event that shaped colonial society.

William's family were left behind in Ireland. He never returned home, though his family continued to write to him. His great grand-daughter, Helen Townsend, recovered 54 of these letters which span 40 years, and it is from them that she draws powerful inspiration for this book.

Above the Starry Frame re-imagines the life of William Irwin. It was inspired by those letters, as well as painstaking archival research. It is also a biography of one of the first truly modern cities, and a moving examination of the impact of migration on those who leave and those who stay behind.

Pan Macmillan Australia; November 2007
385 pages; ISBN 9781742625980
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Title: Above the Starry Frame
Author: Helen Townsend

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