Catalpa Productions

Catalpa Memorial

The incidence of 1876 was not one to be forgotten in a hurry, it rode on waves through the local and international community, the story of brave men who left the comfort of America to go seek their brothers in Western Australia, even after many years of departing. The event of that year became a memorial that exists even to date.

The Fenians were likened to wild geese, who gained their freedom on the water of Western Australia. A memorial called the wild geese was arranged to celebrate the escape of the Fenian prisoners. A memorial statue was set up to symbolize 6 wild geese in flight, a symbolic representation of the Fenians. The statue was initiated by Francis Conlan, an Irish-Australian citizen.

Another significant part of the memorial is the reminder of the bravery of Captain Anthony, the captain of Catalpa, who had no immediate attachment to the Fenians, but believed in their story and decided to help them. He risked his life and comfort in America to come with a crew of 22 to Western Australia, most of the crew members were not aware of the true mission. The highest peak of Captain Anthony’s bravery came when he raised the American flag after the ship was shot at and his famous response “If you shoot at this ship, you are shooting at the American flag”, this statement saved every life on the ship as the ship was allowed to sail freely back to Boston in America.

The selflessness of John O’Reilly cannot go unmentioned as he played an indelible role in the 1876 prison break in Fremantle, starting with his initial successful escape and the zeal over the years to see to the release of his brothers. This act has been commended by several international figures and was quoted by the President of the United States, John F Kennedy in one of his speeches. John was famously known for one of his poems as well, titled “The penalty of which is death”, a poem that gave an insight into the life of an inmate at Fremantle and the desire for freedom.

The monument of the wild geese is set up at the Esplanade Road, Catalpa Park in Rockingham, Western Australia. The monument was erected with 6 sculpted geese in a flight, to represent the six freed Fenians in 1876. The names of the freed Fenians are James Wilson, Robert Cranston, Thomas Darragh, Thomas Hassett, Michael Harrington, and Martin Horgan.