THE last shipload of convicts to Australia arrived in Fremantle aboard the Hougoumont 150 years ago, and on Wednesday about 25 descendants of the 62 Irish Fenians aboard were at Bathers Beach for a re-enactment.
Transported for fighting against the English occupation of Ireland, six of the political prisoners famously escaped aboard the Catalpa.
As part of the re-enactment a couple of “prisoners”, a guard and two sailors were to be rowed ashore, but it was cancelled due to a fierce easterly and instead they marched from the beach through the whalers tunnel to the prison.
The strong wind whipped up a sandstorm, adding realism to the proceedings and it was easy to picture the bleakness those arriving in chains felt as they were met with heat, glare and dust.
Lynne Beggs’ great grandfather John O’Neil Goulding, was transported for treason aged 23.
Eventually pardoned, he moved to Berry NSW, married, and had seven children.
His descendants still live in Berry and flew to WA for the celebrations.
“It’s emotional,” Mrs Beggs said, adding she’d been in Ireland last year for a similar celebration.
James Kearney was just 21 when he was transported and great, granddaughter Lorna Vause was “excited” to mark the anniversary of his arrival.
“He married and moved to Nannup. I think he had a happy life, he had four sons,” she says.
The re-enactment was part of a 10-day Fenians Fremantle and Freedom Festival, which kicked off last Friday.
If you get your Herald in time, Lucky Oceans and his Gaelic Gumbo Band are performing at Kidogo Friday, January 12.
Or catch Irish singer/songwriter Declan O’Rouke, and local muso Rob Zielinski at the John Curtin College of the Arts theatre, Saturday January 13.
by JENNY D’ANGER