This wonderful quilt was made in Ireland in 1843 by a young woman called Martha Bergin, probably as part of her dowry. Martha's father was a draper which probably explains the wonderful range of textiles which she’s incorporated into the quilt - there were just so many wonderful designs and rich colours.
Martha and her husband came out to Victoria as assisted immigrants on a ship which was almost entirely full of young women, and Martha's husband was paid as a constable to keep them all in order.
Andrew and Martha arrived in Melbourne in 1852 at the height of the goldrush - they had already lost two sons before they left Ireland and after they arrived, Martha gave birth to three more children in reasonably quick succession, two of whom also died - at that stage I think they decided it was time to move up to the goldfields and try their luck up there. They had a pretty rough time of it there too - Martha gave birth to a couple more children, and sadly they died as well. It was a pretty common story that high level of infant mortality out in the goldfields.
Eventually the family did do alright and they were able to buy a farm and lived to a reasonably ripe old age.
Martha’s one surviving son really adored his mother and I think he must have really treasured this quilt which she'd made as a young girl, and the quilt was actually passed down through the generations of the same family, and was donated to the museum only two years ago, so after about 170 years.
For us it's one of the absolute treasures of the collection and a really important link to Melbourne and Victoria's goldrush period.