“The Fenian's Escape (The Catalpa)”


The Catalpa, an American whaler, wanders by Perth on regatta day. (Six) Fenians, having spent years in chains, flee for the ship. Although the Georgette tries to interfere with the escape, the Irishmen get aboard and are taken to America


This is one of the more successful of the various crazy Fenian exploits.

To start with the prisoners: Thomas Darragh, Martin Hogan, Michael Harrington, Thomas Hassett, Robert Cranston, and James Wilson had been transported for life in 1866 for their role in the United Irish Brotherhood's planned uprising -- not really a fair sentence, given that nothing much actually happened, but the British didn't want any more interference in Ireland.

The _Catalpa_ (a three-masted bark built 1844) alternated between merchant service and whaling until 1874, when she was purchased by John T. Richardson. In that year, under the command of George S. Anthony (Richardson's son-in-law), the ship set out on what was ostensibly a whaling trip.

By this time, the six Fenians had earned their tickets-of-leave (i.e. the right to work on their own), and had been contacted by four rescuers. On April 17, 1876, the ten boarded a rowboat sent out (and commanded) by Anthony. It took them 28 hours to reach the _Catalpa_, pursued by the mail steamer _Georgette_, but they made it.

The _Georgette_ later overhauled the _Catalpa_, and threated to stop her, but Anthony claimed the protection of the American flag, and actually got away with it. The ship made it to New York on August 19, 1876, and was given a hero's welcome at New Bedford a few days later.

Ironically, Anthony ended up in a certain amount of trouble because he hadn't done enough whaling on the trip to cover expenses. - RBW

Historical references

  • 1876 - The Catalpa Rescue

Cross references


  1. O'Conor, p. 55, "The Fenian's Escape" (1 text)
  2. OLochlainn-More 48, "The Fenians' Escape" (1 text, 1 tune)
  3. Fahey-Eureka, pp. 56-57, "The Catalpa" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Manifold-PASB, pp. 20-21, "The Catalpa" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Paterson/Fahey/Seal, pp. 64-66, "The Catalpa" (1 text)
  7. Roud #5480
  8. BI, FaE056


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1957 (Paterson/Stewart/Keeting, Old Bush Songs)
Found in: Australia Ireland