This festival actually immortalises his departure for Boston, where he became a newspaper editor and champion of human rights. O'Reilly's other major contribution to Australia was his work Moondyne, which was a novel about Western Australian life and which was first published in 1880. It is believed to be the very first novel ever published about Western Australia.
He also helped to organise and fund the purchase of the Catalpa which arrived years later to rescue the remaining Fenians from Fremantle Prison.
About the Festival This year is the 150th anniversary of this event. On the 10th January 1868, the last convict ship arrived in Australia. This ship was called the Hougoumont, and she sailed into Fremantle.
This was a historic maritime event and was commemorated by Fenians Fremantle and Freedom (Inc) with a 10 day Irish Cultural festival in January 2018. And now another 150-year milestone of this story will take place in February/March 2019!
John O'Reilly was both a poet and a writer, who whilst on board this ship wrote poetry and helped edit a hand-written newspaper, The Wild Goose, which is now a national literary treasure.
He was then moved to the Bunbury/Australind area where, with the help of local Irish settlers and a Catholic priest, he escaped in February. He then hid in the bushes till March 1869, when he boarded an American whaler, the Gazelle. From there, he landed in Boston later that year.
Although O'Reilly's time in the colony was little more than a year, his influence remains right up to this day. He was an educated and cultured man and whilst on board the Hougoumont, together with John Flood, he wrote 7 editions of the newspaper with articles, poetry and comments about onboard life. The original of this document is now considered to be an Australian national treasure and is kept in the Mitchell Library, State Library of NSW. FFF Inc worked with the Fremantle Prison to bring this document to Fremantle for display in the Prison museum during the festival and for the duration of the Fremantle Prison's Transportation exhibition.
John O'Reilly became a prominent writer, editor of the Boston Pilot, influential statesmen and champion of human rights.
More About O'Reilly O'Reilly was a handsome charismatic 22-year-old Irish poet when he was transported to Fremantle. He had been in the English Army 10 Hussars and was tried for treason-felony. His crime was supposedly inciting his fellow Irishmen and women to imagine a Republic. He was convicted, then held in English prisons, where he attempted to escape three times before being taken back to Western Australia, together with 61 other Fenians.
On board the Hougoumont, he and fellow prisoner John Flood would read their work aloud each Saturday evening to their companions. He also wrote and recited poetry at regular concerts.
In Fremantle, the authorities, concerned about his influence and great effect on others, transferred him to Dardanup, near Bunbury to build roads. He was able to be observed and later wrote about Aboriginal culture.
O'Reilly made it to Boston where he worked as a journalist, expressing his ideas through poetry, fiction, lectures and essays in the Boston Pilot, which then made him the editor. He was a great orator, reciting poems at large public gatherings, or debating others on civil rights, human rights and civil liberties.
He also had an interest in the plight of African Americans, immigrants and other downtrodden people seeking to live the American life. He also championed the rights of Chinese and Jewish immigrants and objected to the way Native Americans were treated in America's west.
He died suddenly from an accidental overdose of medication at the age of 46 and he was mourned by thousands who attended his funeral. His death was all over the newspapers around the world. John Boyle O'Reilly was even remembered by President John F Kennedy as a great leader whose trials and tribulations brought him to a "higher understanding of humanity to which he devoted his life".
Irish Music legend Sharon Shannon will feature in concert with Susan O'Neill for this festival. It will be on at John Curtin College of the Arts, Ellen Street, Fremantle, from 7.30 pm to 10 pm.
Sharon is both a talented Irish accordionist and a fabulous entertainer. Sharon together with her band will perform in this one-off Perth concert.
Susan O'Neil is a very gifted singer and performer and Susan will play the guitar, harmonica, trumpet and a loop pedal.
The closing event features a Gaelic Gumbo concert on the lawns of Kidogo Arthouse with Lucky Ocean, The Zydecats, Fiona Rea and Tommy O'Brien.
For more information and bookings for the concerts, please click on this link.
Bring the family to Fremantle to join the free fun day at the Maritime Museum, with activities including:
Follow the Shamrock Trail
View Free Family Films
Watch performance of Irish dancers
Listen to stories of daring escapes
Venue: WA Museum - Maritime Museum, Victoria Quay Fremantle
Sunset Ceili Dance
Bring your dancing shoes and the family to this all ages fun event. You will be shown how to do this dance by Hilary McKenna.
Bookings: Eventbrite Sunset Ceili
Reading O'Reilly's Moondyne
This is an all-day event reading the entire novel written by John Boyle O'Reilly about Western Australia and published in Boston in 1880. The entire book will be read in public over this one day at various historic locations throughout Fremantle.
Date: Sunday 24th February 2019
Time: 7 am to 8 pm
Venue: Streets of Fremantle – various locations throughout the day
First Reading: In front of Fremantle Prison 7 am
Final Reading: Kidogo Arthouse 7.30 pm
Bookings: Eventbrite Fenians Festival Reading O'Reilly's Moondyne
Settle in for a great evening's entertainment featuring Lucky Oceans and the Zydecats playing spirited Irish music from Fiona Rea and Tommy O'Brien.