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SECRETS OF THE DEAD Crime scene investigations meet historyFor Educators
Case File: Irish Escape

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The "Fremantle Six" were Irish political prisoners who made an audacious escape from the notorious British prison in West Australia aboard the U.S. whaling ship "Catalpa" in 1876. Following is a brief timeline of the events and related Irish history:

Photo of a reenactment of the ''Fremantle Six'' escaping from prison.

After running off from their work details, the prisoners rowed out to the Catalpa, their captors in hot pursuit.

1167-69
Normans arrive at Baginbun, County Wexford, setting off hundreds of years of conflict between the English and the Irish.

1798
Inspired by the American and French Revolutions, an Irish revolutionary group rebels against British rule in Ireland.

1845-49
The Irish potato famine kills more than a million people in Ireland and causes a mass exodus of a million more.

1858
James Stephens founds the Irish Republican Brotherhood, also known as the Fenians, a clandestine revolutionary group committed to Irish independence; the Fenian Brotherhood is founded in America.

1866
Six British soldiers secretly operating as Fenians - James Wilson, Robert Cranston, Thomas Hassatt, Martin Hogan, Thomas Darragh, and Michael Harrington - are arrested for conspiring against the crown.

1868
The six military Fenians are sent to Fremantle, Australia, to serve life sentences at the prison there for the crime of treason.

1871
John Devoy, a senior leader of the Irish Republican Brotherhood, arrives in America after being exiled for his role in the conspiracy.

1873
James Wilson, one of the "Fremantle Six" prisoners, writes a letter to John Devoy, who had recruited him to join the Fenians, pleading for help.

1875
George Anthony, captaining the American whaler Catalpa, embarks on a secret mission to rescue the Fremantle Six; Irish freedom-fighter John J. Breslin is dispatched from America to Fremantle to assist in the escape.

1876
Captain Anthony and the Catalpa arrive at Rockingham beach near Fremantle to rendezvous with the escaped prisoners; after a fierce confrontation with the Georgette, an armed British steamer, the Catalpa and the Fremantle Six finally head for America; four months later they arrive in New York to a hero's welcome.

1916
Militant Irish republicans rise up in Dublin, Ireland, during Easter week in an attempt to win independence from Britain by force of arms; the Easter Rising is the most significant uprising in Ireland since the rebellion of 1798.

1919-21
The Irish War of Independence is waged against Britain.

1921
The Anglo Irish Treaty is signed.

1922
Less than 50 years after the daring Catalpa rescue, the British are ultimately ousted and the Irish Free State is formed.

Sources: rootsweb.com; answers.com; historyplace.com; en.wikipedia.org



Published in May 2007
SECRETS OF THE DEAD is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York.
© 2007 Educational Broadcasting Corporation. All rights reserved.

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