The Catalpa Rescue Mission

Peter Stevens on the voyage of the Catalpa.

As the three-masted bark Catalpa sailed out of New Bedford, Massachusetts, on the morning of April 29th, 1875, she seemed like any other whaler on her way to the Atlantic and the Pacific. Nothing could have been further from the truth. George Smith Anthony, the thirty-one-year-old captain of the 90-foot-long, 200-ton vessel, was hiding the whaler’s true mission from his crew. The Catalpa was bound for Western Australia to rescue six Irish rebels from Fremantle Gaol.

Anthony – a man with no Irish blood and with a young wife and infant daughter to support – was ready to defy the mightiest maritime power in the world, with a lone, unarmed whaler. A confidante of Anthony’s wrote, ‘… the commission which these Irish patriots proposed, of … snatching a half dozen men from the jaws of the British Lion, was a supreme test of pluck.’

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