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The Catalpa

[ Roud 5480 ; AFS 21 ; Ballad Index FaE056 ; trad.]

Danny Spooner sang The Catalpa on his 2004 CD of Australian songs of toil and reward, ’Ard Tack. He noted:

This song refers to the escape of six Irish prisoners in 1876, assisted by the American whale ship Catalpa. The escapees reached Rockingham, south of the Swan River in Western Australia, where they were met by a whaleboat and taken off to the Catalpa. Had the British Georgette attacked the Catalpalatalpa, it might have provoked an international incident, which is probably why she backed off.


Danny Spooner sings The Catalpa

A noble whale ship and commander
Was called the Catalpa, they say,
Came out to Western Australia
And took six poor Fenians away.

Chorus (after each verse):
So come all you screw warders and jailers,
Remember Perth regatta day:
Take care of the rest of your Fenians
Or the Yankees will steal them away.

For seven long years they had served here
And seven long more had to stay,
For defending their country, Old Ireland,
For that they were banished away.

Well, you kept them in Western Australia
Till their hair it begun to turn grey,
When a Yank from the States of America
Came out here and stole them away.

And all the Perth boats were a-racing
And making short tacks for the spot,
But the Yank tacked into Fremantle
And he took the best prize of the lot.

The Georgette, armed with bold warriors,
Went out the poor Yanks to arrest.
But she hoisted her star-spangled banner,
Saying, “You will not board me, I guess.”

And now they’re safe in Americay
And there they are able to cry,
“Hoist up the green flag and the shamrock,
Hurrah for old Ireland we’ll die!”