Fenian's Escape, The (The Catalpa)
DESCRIPTION: 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
EARLIEST DATE: 1957 (Paterson/Stewart/Keeting, Old Bush Songs)
KEYWORDS: rebellion prisoner escape ship whaler
1876 - The Catalpa Rescue
FOUND IN: Australia Ireland
REFERENCES (10 citations):
O'Conor-OldTimeSongsAndBalladOfIreland, p. 55, "The Fenian's Escape" (1 text)
OLochlainn-MoreIrishStreetBallads 48, "The Fenians' Escape" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fahey-Eureka-SongsThatMadeAustralia, pp. 56-57, "The Catalpa" (1 text, 1 tune)
Fahey-PintPotAndBilly, pp. 50-51, "The Catalpa" (1 text, 1 tune)
Manifold-PenguinAustralianSongbook, pp. 20-21, "The Catalpa" (1 text, 1 tune)
Paterson/Fahey/Seal-OldBushSongs-CentenaryEdition, pp. 64-66, "The Catalpa" (1 text)
Stewart/Keesing-FavoriteAustralianBallads,pp9-10, "The Catalpa" (1 text)
Huntington-TheGam-MoreSongsWhalemenSang, pp. 341-342, "The Noble Ship Catalpa" (1 text, 1 tune)
Hylands-Mammoth-Hibernian-Songster, p. 101, "The Fenian's Escape" (1 text)
cf. "Here's Adieu to All Judges and Juries" (tune)
NOTES [318 words]: 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 threatened 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.
According to Ruth Dudley Edwards, The Seven: The Lives and Legacies of the Founding Fathers of the Irish Republic, Oneworld Books, 2016, p. 47, the Catalpa incident had an interesting side effect: "The propaganda value in Ireland and America ensued that Clan na Gael rather than the Fenian Brotherhood was henceforward seen as the voice of Irish America, although "Fenian" remained the catch-all term to describe militant separatists. - RBW
Last updated in version 6.1
Go to the Ballad Search form
Go to the Ballad Index Song List
Go to the Ballad Index Instructions
Go to the Ballad Index Bibliography or Discography
The Ballad Index Copyright 2022 by Robert B. Waltz and David G. Engle.