The Irex was the name of a boat that used to transport people from the mainland of Queensland over to Palm Island, many of those who travelled on this boat we displaced and removed as punishment under the Protection of Aborigines Act. This also included young children who are now considered part of the Stolen Generation.
‘The Irex’ was a song that was sung in memory of those lost children and loved ones, as families did not know if they would ever see them again. With the author unknown, it is assumed the song was sung on Palm Island since the 1920s-1930s, with many elders still familiar with the tune and its sentiment today.
The same song was also sung up on Thursday Island during the time of the second world war but under the name of a different boat, the Melbadia. The Thursday Islanders were forced to evacuate due to the threat of the Japanese invaision, and of course as they left on the Melbadia this song was used to tell the story.