Historical legend of the Catalpa remembered in Rockingham

Jim Ryan at the Catalpa Memorial with City of Rockingham Deputy Mayor Deb Hamblin and Mayor Barry Sammels. Picture: City of Rockingham.
Jim Ryan at the Catalpa Memorial with City of Rockingham Deputy Mayor Deb Hamblin and Mayor Barry Sammels. Picture: City of Rockingham.

ONE of the most exciting chapters in WA’s colonial history involving whaling ship Catalpa continues to inspire people from around the world.

In 1876, there was a bold and daring mission to liberate six Irish political prisoners on the American whaling ship Catalpa.

The legacy of the Catalpa was remembered when Jim Ryan, great-grandson of the Catalpa’s Captain, George Anthony, visited the iconic “Wild Geese” monument in Rockingham as part of a wider trip across WA to see sights that are significant to his family heritage.

During his visit from New Bedford in the US, Mr Ryan also visited Bunbury and the Fremantle Maritime Museum to discuss the enthralling rescue with a live audience.

City of Rockingham Mayor Barry Sammels said the story of the Catalpa was one of the most colourful and stirring events in the City’s history.

“The epic adventure of the Catalpa and the six outlaw Fenians who broke out of prison and fled to America is arguably one of the world’s greatest escapes,” Mayor Sammels said.

“The City was delighted to welcome Mr Ryan and his family during their visit to the Catalpa Memorial, which occupies the place where the prisoners left these shores forever.

“The sculpture stands as a reminder of the value of freedom and it was an honour to meet a direct descendant of one of the key players in this inspiring story.”

In 1876 six Irish political prisoners escaped from prison in Fremantle and made their way down to Rockingham.

They rowed a small boat out to the whaling ship Catalpa, which had sailed from Boston to rendezvous with them.

Trailing police fired shots at the vessel, but when the American flag was raised the chase ended and the prisoners sailed away to freedom.