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John Boyle O'Reilly

J.K. Hitchcock:
The most notable of the Fenian prisoners, John Boyle O'Reilly, escaped in 1869 in the American whaler Gazelle. He was a man of great literary ability, and after landing in America he became the editor of the Boston Pilot. He published a work of fiction treating with convict life in the colony under the title of Moondyne Joe. His poetical efforts included The Dukite SnakeThe Monster Diamond, and The Dog Guards at Rottnest, all being stories of a penal colony. Hitchcock: 62-63.

Police Gazette:
Absconders.
2. JOHN O'REILLY, Reg. No. 9843, Imperial Convict ; arrived in the Colony per convict ship Hougoumont, in 1868; sentenced to 20 years, 9th July, 1866. Description—Healthy appearance, present age 30, 5ft. 6in. high, black hair, brown eyes, oval visage, dark complexion; an Irishman. Absconded from Convict Road Party, Bunbury, on the 18th Febmary, 1869. It has been ascertained that the above absconder is at Boston, Massachussetts, U.S.A. He is at present co-proprietor of a newspaper named " The Pilot." Police Gazette, WA, Wednesday 10 January, 1877, p. 4.

J.K. Hitchcock:
Among the Fenian prisoners who arrived by the Hougoumont in 1868, the most notable of the band was J. B. O'Reilly, who made his escape from Bunbury in 1869—seven years before six of his compatriots made their memorable escape by the Catalpa in 1876. In his bold bid for liberty he was aided by a priest named Father McCabe, and a settler named Maguire. Father McCabe had arranged with Captain Baker, of the American whaler Vigilant, to take O'Reilly on board his vessel. To effect this the assistance of Maguire was secured, but before the vessel put in an appearance at the appointed place, O'Reilly was being hotly pursued by the police. They, however, were put upon the wrong track, and at last the Vigilant hove in sight. O'Reilly was rowed out to sea in a small boat, but to his bitter disappointment the long looked for craft passed on without noticing the boat with the fugitive. O'Reilly had to return to the mainland and secrete himself in the bush, where, for over a week he endured great hardships. His friends however, came to his rescue, and after most exciting experiences he was it length taken on board the American barque Gazelle. From this vessel he was subsequently transferred to the American ship Sapphire of the Cape of Good Hope, and eventually landed in Liverpool under the name of John Saule. From Liverpool O'Reilly obtained a passage to America, where his great literary ability secured him a leading position in the journalistic world As editor of the Boston Pilot he made his mark, and as a writer on political, social, and industrial topics he acquired a deserved reputation. He published a work of fiction, treating of convict life in Western Australia under the title of Moondyne Joe, and his poetical efforts included the "Dukite Snake," "The Monster Diamond," and "The Dog Guard at Rottnest," all being stories of the penal colony of Western Australia. He died in 1890, at the early age of 46.

References and Links

Achimovich, Lois 1989, John Boyle O'Reilly, musical play, performed in B Shed Victoria Quay.

Amos, Keith 1988, The Fenians in Australia 1865-1880, NSWUP.

Barry, Liam 1992, The Dramatic Escape of Fenian John Boyle O'Reilly, CFN Publications, Australind.

Barry, Liam 2006, Voices from the Tomb: A Biographical Dictionary of the 62 Fenians Transported to Western Australia, Murdoch University.

Heseltine, William 2004, 'The escape of the military Fenians from Fremantle Prison: the warders' perspective', Fremantle Studies, 3: 26-45.

Hitchcock, J.K. 1921d, 'Some notable convicts', Fremantle Times, Friday 18 February 1921: 2.

Hitchcock, JK 1929, The History of Fremantle, The Front Gate of Australia 1829-1929, Fremantle City Council.

Murray, Sandra 2007, 'Escape! Fremantle to Freedom: an exhibition on the Irish Fenian convicts and their bold escape from the Fremantle Prison to America', Fremantle Studies, 5: 74-86.


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