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Post Western Australia Report: Eddie Mears Tours Infamous Fremantle Prison
Created by John Eipper on 01/28/20 7:00 AM

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Western Australia Report: Eddie Mears Tours Infamous Fremantle Prison (Patrick Mears, -Germany, 01/28/20 7:00 am)

My son Eddie has just visited the Fremantle prison in Western Australia. He writes:

"I spent the day day exploring Fremantle, outside Perth, including a tour of the notorious prison, which was the prison involved in this brave escape involving some Fenians."


I have read about the Catalpa Rescue before in the non-fiction book, The Great Shame, And the Triumph of the Irish in the English-Speaking World by Thomas Keneally (1998). Keneally, an Australian himself, is best known for his novel, Schindler's Ark, for which he won the Booker Prize in 1982. Later, Spielberg adapted this novel for his screenplay in Schindler's List.

All in all, the Catalpa Rescue is thrilling story and was a triumph for the Fenians back in the day. John Devoy, whose role in the rescue was mentioned there, had been exiled earlier to the USA, where he continued with his Fenian work. During the Irish War of Independence (1919-1922), Devoy was a great supporter of Michael Collins but was called upon to host Eamon DeValera on his tour of the US during the war, during which he raised funds for what was then envisioned as the "Irish Republic." To say that he and DeValera didn't quite get along is a massive understatement. A good non-fiction book detailing DeValera's stint in the US is DeValera in America: The Rebel President and the Making of Irish Independence by Dave Hannigan (2010).

I suspect WAISers will be interested in this tale of "resurrection" via the Catalpa as well as in the people involved.

JE comments: Eddie Mears forwarded these images from Fremantle. He adds, "The Fenians were likely imprisoned in one of the five-person cells (pictured) or something similar to segregate them from the rest of the prison population (so as not to infect them with their radical ideas), or so we were told on the tour."

There's an almost medieval look to the Fremantle accommodations.  Hammocks, and no plumbing into the 1990s?  This sounds like a violation of some UN Human Rights statute, but I guess not...

Thanks, Eddie!  You've introduced us to a fascinating place very few of us will ever get to see.



The prison, outside view


Eddie Mears, Fremantle prison


A standard cell, with just enough room for a cot and a door. no plumbing due to the limestone walls and foundation--all human waste was deposited in a pail even until the last days of the prison's operation in the early 1990s.


Cell block


Protestant chapel


Five-person cell; this is likely where the Fenians were kept



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  • Greetings from Perth; "Batavia" Shipwreck (Martin Storey, Australia 01/30/20 4:25 AM)
    For the past 18 years, I have been living in Western Australia, first in Fremantle and now just west of Kings Park, near Perth.

    While in Fremantle, Eddie Mears (January 28th) should not miss the (free) guided tour of the Batavia wreck, at the Wreck Museum, on the waterfront. It brings to life the amazing story of the Batavia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Batavia_(ship) , also told well by wreck discoverer Hugh Edwards in his book Island of Angry Ghosts.

    JE comments:  A pleasure to hear from Martin Storey!  I was thinking of you, Martin, when posting Eddie's Fremantle report.  If I may pester you a bit, what is the latest in Western Australia with the bushfires?

    The Dutch ship Batavia is a thrilling and chilling tale of intrigue, class warfare, rebellion, slaughter, hardship, adventure, you name it.  Some survivors of the 1629 shipwreck became the first Europeans to live permanently in Australia.  The Edwards book is a classic, from 1966.  I'd love to read it.

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