HEMA Map reference 74/D2
32 03' 00" S 115 44' 23" E
Fishing Boat Harbour, North Mole, Leighton Beach, Old Fremantle Gaol, Maritime Museum, Roundhouse, Fremantle Market, E Shed Markets, Army Museum in Burt Street, History Museum Cnr. Ord and Finnerty Streets.
Buildings of note
Easter: Fremantle Street Arts festival. August: Craft antique and collectors fair. October: Blessing of the fleet. November: Fremantle festival, Golden west antique fair.
Famous Sons & Daughters
Premier Newton James Moore.
Captain Charles Howe Fremantle,
who claimed possession of the whole west coast in the name of His Britannic
Majesty on the 2nd of May 1829. (Somewhat after the Frenchman with the
rather grand name, Louis Francois Marie Aleno de St. Allouram,
took possession of the coast for France on March 29th 1772.) The area was
known as Wolyalu by the Aboriginal inhabitants.
(Note: HMS Challenger was the second choice as a ship to 'stand guard' off the coast of W.A. The ship originally destined for that duty was HMS Tweed. If this had taken place, Fremantle would in all probability have been named Churchill after the Captain of HMS Tweed.)
An American ship's Captain (D.B. Shaw) said of the port before the bar was removed:
'It is a terrible place. No place to put a vessel. No shelter whatever. It is certainly the worst place I or anyone else ever saw. And any man who would come or send a ship a second time is a damned ass.'
Once the rock bar had been removed the harbour was officially opened in 1897 with the first ship to dock there being the SS Sultan. Even though the harbour was opened in 1897, it was not until 1900 that it became the official 'mail port' for Western Australia and the mail steamers stopped deliveries to Albany.
In April 1900 there was an outbreak of bubonic plague in Fremantle that was to spread around the state for the next six years. During this time 80 people died of the disease.
In 1870 many
political prisoners who had been civilians at the time of their convictions,
had been released, but these men had all been members of the military and
their actions were viewed much more seriously.
Captain Anthony was recruited to take the ship to Australia and rescue the men and he alone of all the ship's crew, knew of the real purpose of the mission until he let the First Mate, Smith, into the plan some time after they sailed. Anthony was a strange choice as he was a protestant, an American and a temperance (anti-alcohol) man.
So as not to arouse suspicion (and to help pay for the cost of the rescue), the Catalpa was fitted out for a whaling voyage and she took several whales during the passage. After calling in at Fayal and Tenerife the ship set sail for Australia.
On the way
they chanced to cross paths with the British ship, Ocean Beauty. Captain
Anthony went aboard and asked about obtaining better charts of the
Australian coastline. The Beauty's Captain was happy to provide charts
stating that he had used them when he was Captain of the Hougoumont
transporting convicts to Australia. Anthony later realised that by pure
chance he had obtained the charts from the very ship used to transport the
men he was setting out to rescue. Due to a number of delays the Catalpa was
running late but eventually she did arrive in West Australian waters.
It turned out that there were three separate rescue attempts underway at the same time. One originating from America, one from Sydney and one from Ireland. This posed great security risks. British intelligence had got wind of the rescue attempt originating in Dublin. The local authorities in Fremantle dismissed the British warning insisting that no one could escape and survive.
Breslin had a
number of men helping him to arrange the escape and some of the conspirators
travelled by cart to Rockingham to look for a suitable place for the
prisoners to be picked up by a small whale boat from the Catalpa.
A site was found near Cape Peron and a date arranged for the escape. Breslin returned to Fremantle and Anthony to Bunbury. While Anthony had been away his crew had decided to aid in the escape of a ticket-of-leave man who was found stowed away on board. Anthony, fearing this would place the rescue of the Irish prisoners in jeopardy, notified the local authorities who came aboard and arrested the stow away.
Heavy weather set in and realising he could not set sail in time for the rescue, Anthony rushed to the telegraph office only to find if closed due to a public holiday. He managed to locate an operator and convince her to send a telegram to Fremantle and his luck held as there was someone at the other end to receive the message.
A day late, the Catalpa set sail for Rockingham and at around 8pm on Sunday night Anthony and a few hand picked men came ashore to wait for the prisoners arrival. The Catalpa was left outside the three mile limit and therefore outside British jurisdiction.
Meanwhile Breslin and his men had been busy organising clothes, weapons and supplies for the escape. At the appointed time the Irish prisoners simply walked away from their assigned tasks and made their way to a waiting wagon. They had been able to do this so easily because they had known for some time about their impending rescue and had been on their best behaviour. In return they had been granted a measure of greater freedom and were able to get away without complications.
By mid-morning on April 17th 1876 (Easter Monday) the wagon arrived at the rendezvous on the beach and the men were hurriedly taken on board the whaling boat and told to keep down and out of sight. A local who saw the men boarding the boat rode to Fremantle to raise the alarm. Only a short time after they had taken to the water a party of armed police arrived. The escape had been uncovered!
Breslin left the Governor a cheeky note telling him of the escape and the part he (as J. Collins) had played in it.
As the small boat got further out the weather started to deteriorate and by the time the catalpa was sighted a gale was rising and darkness was rapidly approaching. The Catalpa failed to see the whale boat and made for open sea to ride out the storm. Anthony and the escapees were now left to ride out the storm in an open boat for the entire night.
After what seem ages the winds began to abate sometime before dawn and with the coming of daylight there was relief as the Catalpa could be seen making her way back toward shore.
Suddenly alarm went through the boat crew and prisoners when they sighted the mail steamer Georgette steam out of Fremantle and begin making a search. Luckily they were not spotted as Anthony instructed everyone to get down out of sight.
The Georgette went out to the Catalpa and demanded permission to be allowed to search the ship but Sam Smith refused. The Georgette running low on fuel, sailed on towards Garden Island and returned to Fremantle as the coal began to run out. Now a guard boat full of armed soldiers appeared and spotted the whale boat. At about the same time the Catalpa also saw them and the race was on to see who got there first.
The Catalpa won the race and the men and small boat were taken aboard with only minutes to spare. The Officer commanding the guard boat knew he was beaten and gallantly saluted and called out a greeting.
The wind that had been so strong the night before now deserted the sailing ship and as darkness closed in again her sails hung limp and lifeless.
morning the Georgette was seen steaming out again, this time her decks
crowded with armed troops and armed with a 12 pound canon. She soon reached the Catalpa and the commander
called on the American ship to 'heave to'. Captain Anthony refused and
hoisted the American flag. With the breeze freshening the Catalpa now moved
off with the Georgette following. A game of cat and mouse went on for an
hour or so but finally the pursuit was abandoned and the Irishmen were free
A final word on the matter can be left to the London Telegraph newspaper that wrote:
'...the enterprising skipper of the Catalpa has, without meaning it, done us a good turn; he has rid us of an expensive nuisance. The United States are welcome to any number of disloyal, turbulent, plotting conspirators...'
The full fascinating story of this daring rescue can be read in Z.W. Pease's book 'The Catalpa Expedition' or seen on the DVD The Catalpa Rescue by the ABC.
John Devoy, exiled to America for so long, was finally able to return to an independent Ireland in 1922.
The steamer Georgette was lost off the West Australian coast near
Gracetown just 9 months after the Catalpa
Grace Bussell became famous for her part in the rescue of the crew and
Murder at the town hall
The Fremantle Town Hall was officially opened on the 22nd of June 1887. The ceremonies had been successful with only one small incident during which an unruly group were removed from the premises. The event progressed until about midnight and it was not long after this that the sound of a gunshot was heard.
W. Conroy, the landlord of the National Hotel in High Street had shot W.J. Snook. Snook had apparently been involved in the earlier removal of Conroy from the celebrations. Conroy had gone home, picked up a gun and returned to take revenge for being thrown out.
Snook was badly wounded but did manage to survive for about 3 months before passing away. Conroy was tried, found guilty and executed in the old Perth Gaol. He had the dubious honour of being the last person to be executed there.
This is not quite what you might expect based purely on the name. The 'Freo' Doctor is a cool afternoon wind that blows in from the sea on hot summer afternoons. The term 'Doctor' seems to have originated in South Africa.
Records show that the Freo Doctor blows on about 70% of summer days.
The whole incident seems to have been over some business matter as Clark had written to Johnson:
'It is to be regretted that so much angry feeling should be mixed up with business matters, but I have to say once and for all that no threat on your part will deter me from doing my duty to those who employ me and trust my exertions.'
The matter was examined by the local magistrate, George Leake, almost as soon as it occurred. Johnson was still alive at the time although mortally wounded. He refused to make a complaint against anyone and died the following morning.
The surviving participants in the duel were committed for trial but in view of the (by now) deceased's decision not to make a complaint, the jury found them not guilty and they were released.
The only other evidence of a duel we have found was at Fly Flat near Coolgardie.
Message by albatross
In September 1887 a group of young boys were walking along a beach north of Fremantle when they found a dead albatross lying on the sand. When they had a look at the bird they found a tin strip, 9 inches long by about and inch and a half wide. When they took the tin off and opened it up they could see a message scratched on it and a date, August 1887. The message was in a foreign language so they took the piece of tin to John Murphy at the post office. He recognised the language as French and took the tin to Mr. Clay who could read French. The message read:
"13 shipwrecked sailors are taking refuge on the Corozet Islands. 4th August 1887."
The message was reported to Governor Broome who had it relayed to London by telegram and from there it was sent on to France. The warship La Meurthe was sent to investigate and early in 1888 reported that one of the islands showed signs of where the sailors had been and a message was found stating that the men had run out of supplies had left on September 30th 1887 to try to reach another nearby island. Sadly no further trace of the men could be found.
what we have seen in other states (like SA) this is the benchmark of how a
Maritime Museum should be. There are all sorts of interesting displays,
interactive areas and many full sized boats including the yacht Australia II. The
collection is housed in an imaginative building set right beside the
harbour. A more appropriate setting would be hard to find.
This is in
fact two tours with the first taking around an hour and encompassing the
men's section of the prison. The second part (currently included) is the
women's prison - or at least part of it.