Fenians, Fremantle and Freedom Festival


Between 5th – 14th Jan 2018 a unique Irish cultural festival will happen in Fremantle, Western Australia, called “Fenians, Fremantle & Freedom Festival” – showcasing the richness of Irish culture and it’s lasting impact on Australia.

The Festival is commemorating the 150th anniversary of the arrival into Fremantle of the Hougoumont – Australia’s last convict ship carrying 62 Irish Fenian freedom fighters.

The visual and performing arts, music and literary program will highlight the extraordinary fact that many of these Irish convicts were educated and cultured men who despite their wretched conditions and grim fate wrote poetry, taught each other songs, organised music concerts and published a weekly, hand written “newspaper” called “The Wild Goose”. They brought this fighting spirit, grit and love of their culture firmly across the ocean to Australia and, those who escaped, on to America.

A remarkable story retold by contemporary Irish & Australian artists, writers, musicians, historians and scholars that brings to the fore the enormous contribution that Irish men and women have made, and continue to make, to Australia and America’s cultural landscape.

Program, Sponsorship & Donation details:
+61(0) 401333309

The Festival will incorporate the following events:

Music – Visiting Irish and American artists as well as local musicians and singers will perform a series of concerts to celebrate the fact that the Fenians held concerts and performances on board the Hougoumont. If they could do, in such difficult circumstances, we certainly can!

Family Day – Explore Fremantle’s connection to the Fenian story through walks, talks and family friendly activities, watch the sailing boats at Bathers Beach and bring the whole family along to enjoy the fun of a Ceilidh Dance

Literature Festival – {in partnership with Notre Dame University, Fremantle} enjoy readings from the Wild Goose, the poetry of John Boyle O’Reilly and the work of contemporary Irish writers. Explore the contribution the Fenians made to Australian literature. The festival will encourage young writers to explore how this voyage shaped John Boyle O’Reilly’s later advocacy for human rights.

Art – Exhibitions of historical and contemporary art and photography. In association with Fremantle Prison, we are seeking to display the original Wild Goose newspaper as part of the prison’s exhibition of Transportation.

Story Telling and Walking Tours– Listen to Fremantle’s very own ‘Great Escape’ story, see the places where this drama unfolded and get to know about a centenary old ‘crowd funding’ scheme that helped free these Fenians and take them to the USA.

History – A story where fact is more amazing than fiction! Hear how Fremantle’s residents feared an invasion to free the Fenians, how these cultured and educated men survived alongside the last of England’s criminals to be transported and how the Stars and Stripes saved the day. Take a bus tour to recreate John Boyle O’Reilly’s escape and visit the place where the crew of the Catalpa snatched the Fenians to freedom.

Film – Exclusive screenings of contemporary Irish films as well as locally produced documentary, Waiting for the Vigilant (in conjunction with the John Boyle O’Reilly Association).

Commemoration Walk – Join with descendants of these Irish Fenians and remember those who supported them, as we take a ‘Walk of the Ancestors’ from Bather’s Beach to Fremantle Prison.

‘O generation of Freedom,
Remember us,
The generation of the Vision’

Liam Mac Uistin, Wall of Remembrance, Dublin

We welcome all contributions in cash or kind. Remember the daring escape of the 6 Fenians from Fremantle Prison in 1876 was funded by donations from the greater community – and they had to buy a whaling ship! Contact us at info@kidogo.com.au and we’ll get you involved.

What is the Hougoumont?

The Hougoumont was the last convict ship to arrive in WA.
It left Portland, England on 12 October 1867. The voyage to Western Australia took 89 days and the Hougoumont arrived in Fremantle on 10 January 1868 with 108 passengers and 280 convicts, including 62 Fenians.

Why were they transported to WA?

The English defeated the Fenian rebellion and two groups were charged and convicted – civilians (45) and those who had served in the British military (17). The arrested civilians were treated as political prisoners while the military men were treated more harshly as traitors and criminals, and charged with treason for betraying the British army.

The military Fenians were sentenced to either life in an English prison or 20 years hard labour in the the Swan River Colony in Western Australia.
While the civilians were eventually able to become ‘ticket-of-leave’ men, the military Fenians were sentenced to prison for at least 20 years and some for life.

What was the Catalpa Escape?


So why commemorate this event?

These men were arrested, imprisoned and transported for fighting for the freedom of Ireland. They were political prisoners and went on to make major contributions to the cultural and political life of Australia, Ireland and the USA. As the poem on the wall of the remembrance memorial in Dublin says...
O generation of freedom
remember us,
The generation of the vision. Liam Mac Uistín


Celebrate with us!

So why not join us in celebrating both these monumental events that helped shape our history and heritage: the arrival of the 62 Fenians on the convict ship Hougoumont in 1868 + the escape of the 6 Fenians from Fremantle Prison in 1876!

For more information:

https://www.kidogo.com.au/fenians-festival/ and https://www.facebook.com/feniansfestival/
+61(0)401333309 (Australia)