ODS Lunchtime Lecture: John Boyle O’Reilly and the Fenian Escape from Fremantle Gaol

Old Drogheda Society
The Old Drogheda Society will be hosting a free lunchtime lecture entitled John Boyle O’Reilly and the Fenian Escape from Fremantle Gaol on next Thursday June 18th in Drogheda Tourist Office in the Tholsel, West Street .

The speaker will be Brendan Woods, an Irish born historian and musician, now based in Western Australia, who has written The Catalpa Rescue an epic tale of truly international proportions, linking Ireland, Australia and the United States of America, with local Fenian John Boyle O'Reilly playing an important part.

This was the most successful prison break in Australian history. It was an international rescue effort that took years to organise, and which finally freed six Irish prisoners from Fremantle gaol. The rescue ship was an American whaler called The Catalpa. The escape was so dramatic that it's now a symbol of human resilience, even resurrection

John Boyle O’Reilly, had escaped in 1869 by getting a berth on a whaler, on his recommendation the Fenians raised 25,800 American dollars and bought the Catalpa to mount a rescue mission under the guise of whaling.

Six Fenians broke away from their work gangs at the appointed time, met up with pre-arranged trap and horses and were taken to Rockingham beach, where they were rowed out to the Catalpa waiting in International waters. It was a race against the water police and the steamship Georgette, which gave chase in a huge storm, and it took them 28 hours to get to the safety of the Catalpa, flying the American flag.

Brendan Woods has worked in Fremantle Gaol and is recognised as an authority on the subject and his account of this famous escape will be well worth hearing.  The lecture starts at 1.00 pm.
Drogheda Museum Millmount

History, Archaeology & Heritage, 

Governor's House,



Co. Louth,




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