Posts by michael

In Search of the Vigilant’ film launch & Catalpa Memorial Commemoration

Posted by on May 15, 2017 in News | 0 comments

By Peter Murphy – John Boyle O’Reilly Association Inc, Easter Sun/Mon 2017


It was one of those Easter weekends…you know…when you couldn’t have asked for anything more.

Easter Sunday evening at the wonderful heritage listed Kidogo Arthouse (Fremantle) saw folk music supremos Fred Rea and Phil Beck open the launch of the short film (30mins) ‘In Search of the Vigilant’ with a string of Irish melodies; some paying homage to the 62 Fenians who arrived on the last convict ship Hougoumont to Western Australia (WA) in January 1868. There was also a sprinkle of Australiana with Fred wooing the audience with Hugh McDonald’s classic ballad, ‘The Diamantina Drover’.

Kidogo owner Joanna Robertson and her sidekick Margo O’Byrne greeted the faithful while making sure their glasses weren’t half empty. Luminaries associated with the arts, heritage and media, such as Noel O’Neil, Barbara Kelly, Tom Perrigo, Tom Gilmore, John Dowson and Chloerissa Eadie mingled with the Fenian faithful.

Joanna introduced the film by mentioning the contribution Irish people including the 62 Fenians (who arrived on the Hougoumont) have made to the fabric of WA’s heritage and culture. She then reminded us that January 2018 will be the 150th Anniversary of the arrival of the Hougoumont off Fremantle, and that she’s already begun to put in place a week of festivities to celebrate the event, aptly named:  Fenians, Fremantle & Freedom Festival.

Then there was the showing of the film ‘In Search of the Vigilant’ based on the true story of Irish political prisoner John Boyle O’Reilly’s attempt to escape from the Swan River Penal Colony to America in 1869 on the Yankee whaler Vigilant.  The film was beautiful shot in the exact location where O’Reilly hid-out for over 2 weeks before his famous escape.

After a grand applause of appreciation for the film, young members of the cast, Lachlan Kelly, Bradley Troode and Chloerissa Eadie took questions from the audience. Incidentally, the film has now been entered into the WA Cinefest Oz Film Festival.

Next up was visiting Irish journalist and broadcaster Tom Gilmore from Galway who gave a wonderful rousing speech on how the Fenian connection to WA needs more international exposure. According to Tom, WA is doing more to commemorate the Fenian Rising of 1867, in this the 150th anniversary of the event, than Ireland. Tom ended his speech with some words of inspiration to the producers of the film, John Boyle O’Reilly Association, “To paraphrase the words of Pearse it is true to say that while Ireland holds the graves of The Fenians Ireland unfree will never be at peace. But even if they are often overlooked in Irish history while Western Australia produces films of the calibre of “Searching for the Vigilant” the legacy and the bravery of the bold Fenian men will never be forgotten.” Fred and Phil complimented the remainder of the evening with more Irish ballads that seem to keep to the rhythm of waves slapping on nearby Bathers Beach.

After the event, members of the cast and I headed back to where the WA part of the story all began nearly 150 years ago; to Fremantle Prison. That’s right; we all spent the night in jail (2 to a cell). The Youth Hostel Association have done a fantastic job of converting the old Fremantle Prison’s women’s section into a world class (low budget) accommodation facility.

The individual cells where we stayed had the women’s names who had been incarcerated pinned to the door of the cell including their ‘charge sheet’; providing a vivid mental picture on the tragic lives they led before ending up in prison.


Catalpa Memorial Commemoration, Rockingham


Easter Monday morning saw the faithful gather at the beautiful Catalpa Memorial at Rockingham. Well known Irish luminaries dotted the medium size crowd including Frank Murphy, Brendan Woods, Fred Rea, Tony Bray, Denis Bratton and Michael and Eleanor Nolan.

The morning was overcast, yet still, which added to the atmosphere as one reflected on one of the most amazing events to have occurred in WA’s colonial history: The escape of 6 Irish political prisoners (Fenians) from Fremantle Prison and their rendezvous with the Yankee whaler Catalpa off Rockingham beach on Easter Sunday 1876.

Australian-Irish Heritage Association’s (IAHA) Tony Bray and Denis Bratton opened proceedings by welcoming the faithful, whilst reminding us on the important role the IAHA do to help foster Australian/Irish relations. Fair credit must also go to the IAHA for keeping The Catalpa Rescue fresh in the minds of those interested in their Irish/Australian heritage.

Mayor of Rockingham, Barry Sammels (supported by his Deputy Mayor, Cr Joy Stewart) gave a speech reiterating Rockingham City’s ongoing support for the annual Catalpa Memorial Commemoration.

Fred Rea, along with Ormonde Waters (son of the late Ormonde Waters), added their haunting Celtic sounds to what someone commented was an overcast Irish sky. Luke McCrea (grandson of the late Ormonde Waters) read out a verse from his grandfather’s book The Fenian Wild Geese, and Bunbury teenager Lachlan Kelly read out one of John Boyle O’Reilly’s most popular poems, The Cry of the Dreamer.

The commemoration ended with a rousing speech from Irish radio personality and thespian Frank Murphy. Frank reminded us of the pivotal role John Boyle O’Reilly played in the escape of his 6 Fenian comrades from WA on the Catalpa in 1876 and how the escape would never have occurred if O’Reilly himself hadn’t managed to escape the shackles of colonialism 7 years earlier.

Frank (also speaking in the Gaelic tongue) reminded the humble audience of the importance of keeping the Gaelic language alive in Ireland (and Australia) whilst reminding us how in Ireland there is now resurgence in the language.

Fred finished off proceedings with Down by the Glenside and with all joining in the chorus to one of the most poignant of Irish ballads that pays tribute to those who sacrificed their all for their beloved Ireland. You know… it was one of those Easter weekends.


DVD copies of In Search of the Vigilant are available by contacting Peter Murphy on 043 997 6507 or by email


For more information or

Read More

In Search of the Vigilant Movie Premiere

Posted by on Jan 22, 2017 in News | 0 comments

Read More

John Boyle O’Reilly Weekend 2017

Posted by on Jun 27, 2016 in News | 0 comments

John Boyle O'Reilly Association.

The John Boyle O’Reilly Association announces that the 2017 Weekend will take place on Saturday 25th & Sunday 26th March 2017, as this is a busy weekend in Bunbury we advise people attending to book accommodation as soon as possible. Futher details will come soon when plans are finalised.

Read More
Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

Join our newsletter mailing list to get all the latest news and information about the John Boyle O'Reilly Association and our events.

You have Successfully Subscribed!