The Wild Goose: A Collection of Ocean Waifs (AUS, 1867)

The Wild Goose: A Collection of Ocean Waifs (AUS, 1867)

Publication History:

Place of Publication: Shipboard the Hougoumont, the last ship to transport convicts from England to Fremantle, Australia

Frequency:  Seven issues of the newspaper were produced, each issue carefully laid out and decorated by hand. Only one copy of each issue was made, which was then read to the convicts aloud.

Volume and Issue Data:  Vol. 1, no. 1-7, 9 Nov. – 21 Dec. 1867

Size and Format:  Ledger (7 3/4 x 12+)

Editor/Publisher:  Irish “Fenian prisoners:” John Flood, John Boyle O’Reilly and John Casey

Title Changes and Continuation:  None

General Description and Notes:

The Wild Goose was, according to a Wikipedia article, a

“handwritten newspaper created in late 1867 by Fenian prisoners aboard the Hougoumont, the last ship to transport convicts to Australia.

“Seven issues of the newspaper were produced, each issue carefully laid out and decorated by hand. Only one copy of each issue was made, which was then read to the convicts aloud. The aim was to provide entertainment and encouragement aboard the ship during its long and arduous voyage to Fremantle. The title refers to the Wild Geese: the Irish soldiers who had left to serve in continental European armies since the 16th century.

“The major contributors were John Flood, John Boyle O’Reilly and John Casey.

Irish Fenian Volunteer Poster (re. Wild Goose [AUS, 1867])

Irish Fenian Volunteer Poster (re. Wild Goose [AUS, 1867])

The documents provide a fascinating insight into life aboard ship. The documents contain songs, stories, articles, advice, poems, and even comedy. In addition to the diaries of Denis Cashman and the journals of John Casey and Thomas McCarthy Fennell, the journey of the Hougoumont was well recorded.

“One passage describes Australia and its history with more than a little sarcasm:

“This great continent of the south, having been discovered by some Dutch skipper and his crew, somewhere between the 1st and 9th centuries of the Christian era, was, in consequence taken possession of by the government of Great Britain, in accordance with that just and equitable maxim, “What’s yours is mine; what’s mine is my own.” That magnanimous government in the kindly exuberance of their feelings, have placed a large portion of that immense tract of country called Australia at our disposal. Generously defraying all expenses incurred on our way to it, and providing retreats for us there to secure us from the inclemency of the seasons…

“All seven issues survive, and were passed on by John Flood’s granddaughter to the Mitchell Library in 1967. The papers are bound into one book and are now part of the State Library of New South Wales collection.”John Boyle O’Reilly penned several poems for the paper, including The Flying Dutchman and The Old School Clock.

“On 9 September 2005, a memorial was unveiled at Rockingham beach to commemorate the Catalpa rescue. The memorial is a large statue of six Wild Geese.”

According to the Freemantle (Australia) Prison historical website,

“The Fenian movement, or Irish Republican Brotherhood, was a secret society that flourished during the 1860s. Its activities included an armed rebellion against British rule in Ireland, which failed for a number of reasons. In 1865 hundreds of men were arrested in Ireland on suspicion of complicity. There were two elements amongst the men charged and convicted: those who were civilians, and those who were currently serving in the British military services. The civilian element were treated as political prisoners, whilst the military element were treated as ordinary criminals. In 1869 the civilian element were granted clemency and freed, whilst such consideration was denied the military element (Erickson pp.115-156).

John Boyle O’Reilly [emphasis added] was an NCO in the 10th Hussars (the prestigious regiment of the Prince of Wales) when arrested in 1866 for assisting fellow soldiers to join the rebellious Fenian movement. Found guilty at his court martial, his death sentence was commuted to one of 20 year’s penal servitude which automatically meant transportation (anyone sentenced to seven years or more was transported).

“He sailed, along with 280 other convicts — 62 of them Fenians — on board the Hougoumont from Portland in October 1867. They arrived at Fremantle in January 1868, the last convicts to be sent to Western Australia. Their arrival also signalled the end of the convict era in Australia.”

Information Sources:                            

Bibliography:  Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wild_Goose;  Laubenstein, William J. The Emerald Whaler London: Deutsch, 1961; Stevens, Peter F., The Voyage of the Catalpa (ISBN 1-84212-651-2); Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, 1969, volume LXXIV; http://www.fremantleprison.com.au/History/theconvictera/characters/thefenians/Pages/default.aspx

Locations:  Wikipedia: “All seven issues survive, and were passed on by John Flood’s granddaughter to the Mitchell Library in 1967. The papers are bound into one book and are now part of the State Library of New South Wales collection.”

 

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