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James Kiely

James Kiely was the seventh Fenian escapee - the one who didn't get away.

According to Zephaniah Pease, writing in 1897 (p. 140) (as quoted in Wikipedia), Kiely "was intentionally left behind because during his trial he had offered to divulge the names of comrades in an effort to obtain a reduced sentence for himself." But Liam Barry, in his 2006 book Voices from the Tomb, has a less scandalous reason: he was in prison:

It needs explaining at this point that although eight Fenians were convicts in Fremantle jail, only six of them were included in the escape plans. During Wilson's secret meeting with Breslin at the prison stables, it was arranged that the escapees, along with Wilson, would be Martin Hogan, Robert Cranson, Thomas Hassett, Michael Harrington and Thomas Darrah. The other two not included were Thomas Delaney and James Kiely.
At the time of the Catalpa rescue Kiely was in confinement in Fremantle jail and therefore could not be included in the arrangement for escape. He became resentful of having been left behind. Delaney was also in close confinement in Fremantle jail with hard labour during the rescue bid. He received a conditional pardon in March 1878.
Years later when Kiely settled in the Vasse district, he used to narrate a face-saving yarn that on the morning of the escape he had reached Rockingham Beach only moments too late to join his comrades on the Catalpa. Old inhabitants of the Vasse district, as late as the 1950s, used to refer to him as the man the Fenians left behind.
After nine years as a political prisoner, Kiely was granted a ticket-of-leave on 6 March 1877, and at various times resided in the Perth, Swan and York districts. Twelve months later, Queen Victoria granted him a free pardon. His first free job was working on the Geraldton lighthouse. While he was employed in the town, a general cargo passenger ship sailed into Geraldton. It was reported that the crew had mutinied prior to arrival in port. On board was a consignment of young Catholic Irish orphan girls who had been sent out to Australia to become maids and assistants. Some of the girls became afraid and jumped overboard. This is where James Kiely met Mary Ann Roach. The ship concerned was the Lady Louise, which eventually arrived in Fremantle on 21 April 1883. (Barry 2006: 142)

West Australian (Perth, WA : 1879-1954), Wednesday 29 November 1905, page 2:
Despite his distressing infirmity of exceeding deafness, Mr. James Kiely, ex-Private of Her Majesty's 53rd Foot Regiment, ex-military prisoner de-ported to West Australia, is a dis-tinctly interesting man to chat with or, to be accurate, to listen to. Duly elated at the unexpected receipt of a Royal pardon for an offence committed 40 years ago, he reflects aloud that he now has liberty of speech; but just when the prize of sensational reminis-cences seems within the grasp of the interviewer, Mr. Kiely, grateful for benefits bestowed even at so late a day in life, opines that it would be ungraci-ous for him to utter anything detri-mental to the fair fame of West Aus-tralia - even of the West Australia of the days of the "system." With this reservation the big, square-shouldered Irish fighting man of a full generation ago, talked freely to a reporter. 'Yes, I'm mighty glad to be in every way free again, but I'd rather have heard of Home Rule for Ireland than of my pardon. Now you make a note of that, young man. I would much rather hear that there was be-tween England and Ireland that unity, tranquillity and general contentment that there is in the relations between England and Australia - and there would be if they would only give Home Rule to the dear old land." Early Experiences. "About 72 of us soldier-prisoners came out together. When we landed we wanted to keep together and work together but they wouldn't allow this. We were distributed among other parties and gangs, although the civilians who were sent out in the same ship were brought up to Perth in a body and put on a road which has ever since been called the Fenians' Road. Well, as you have learnt, John O'Reilly, one of our soldiers, soon made good his escape, and sent a schooner from America to give the other seven or eight of us "lifers" a chance. My companions got away in her, but my luck was out, and I had no opportunity of eluding the warder, and making my way across to where a horse was ready saddled for me. As soon as the escape of my companions was discovered, I was handcuffed by the water-police and put into the cells. Mr. Doonan, the Superintendent, came to me with warders Hawkins and George, the present Superintendent of the Fremantle prison. They tried to pump me, promising me my release if I would tell all I knew. I told Doonan that he had a button off his coat, and that the coat would come off him next: and the very next thing I heard was that he had cut his throat over the business, but not fatally." Getting a Ticket-of-Leave. "Some of the prisoners were treated well enough in those days, but some, again, were not. For myself I was treated very well right up to the time my companions got away. From that hour, and for years after, I suffered a persistent persecution at the hands of the prison authorities. It started with their giving me oakum to pick and stockings to darn, which, of course, as I had committed myself in no way, I refused to do. So they gave me solit-ary, and put me on bread and waterand kept me on it. This was what they were reaching for, and I sup-pose if I had done the oakum and the socks they would have found some other pretext for the bread and water nourishment. Well, at last, getting hold of a little bit of information, I kicked up a row for half-a-dozen sheets of foolscap paper. When Principal Warder Johnson asked what I wanted it for, I told him I knew all about the arrears of the goods sent out for the convicts of West Australia, and that I was going to turn the settlement up-side down about it. Johnson goes and brings Mr. Fauntleroy, the Comptrol-ler-General, and Fauntleroy asked me if I wanted to see him. I told him I would see him in due time: that there was a button off his coat and that I would take the coat off him. He sent then a message to Governor Robinson, who came down the same day and ask-ed me if I wanted to see him. I had never seen him before, so I merely said- "I don't know who you are." Fauntleroy roars out, "The governor, sir! -speak properly to him." "Oh, well," I says, "if you are the gover-nor, you've got a very good billet.'" He just smiled and says, "What can I do for you?" I says, '"I don't know; I never asked for you, but as you are here now I'd like to know what class of prisoner I am - State prisoner, poli-tical prisoner, or felon? What have I done," I asked, '"that I should be punished in this manner?" '"Well," he says, "I will communicate with the Colonial Secretary, and see if it would be safe to let you out on ticket-of-

leave. " Two days later, I was let out. The Ways of the System. "No, that wasn't the last of my per-secution. 'I came up to Perth, and got a job as cook at the 'Horse and Groom' hotel - that's the Cremorne now - kept by Ted Connor. But the police used to come round so often to make sure I was still there that Conner told me I'd have to get out. After I left Connor's I went to lodge with a Mrs. J- - - in Murray-st., at the bottom of the Sham-rock lane. James McCoy, another military prisoner, went with me. But the police continued to shadow me round just as often, and at last I got so desperate - and I was not drinking in those days - that I said to McCoy - 'It must be very annoying to Mrs J- - - to have the police coming here after me morning, noon and night; I'll put a stop to it.' So I takes the poker out of the fireplace that night and puts it in the bed with me to knock the first man on the head that might come and disturb me. McCoy, he gets out of bed and goes off quietly and tells my landlady. She comes in'How are ye getting on, boys? Are ye comfortable ?' And with that she grabs the poker. She says 'I promise ye that ye will not be annoyed in this house.' And, sure enough, when the police came that night she wouldn't let them in. She told them she would answer for me, but that she didn't want no murder in her house." Sick and out of Work. "Well, after that I engaged with a man, John Dewar, at Gingin as plough-man. I met him at James' hotel, where De Baun's is now. I stopped nine months with him ploughing and fallowing at £4 a month. Then I got rheumatics and lumbago, and had to come down to Guildford for treatment. But I found I couldn't afford to pay my board and lodging, and the doctor too. So I told Dr. Scott how I stood, and that I didn't dare go into Perth or Fremantle because there was an order against my leaving the district. Dr. Scott saw Mr. Gull, the magistrate at Guildford, and he gave me a pass to Fremantle that I might see the Comp-troller-General. At first the Comptrol-ler was going to put me in prison, but he thought better of it, and told me to go back and say the bills would be paid. The Long Arm of the Law. "When I got better I went to York, where I worked for Mrs. Craig. Then I met a man named Ned Cahill, a far-mer under Mr. Monger. I went with him at £4 a month. One day a mount-ed trooper came alone, and took me down to Fremantle, where I was put back in prison, and kept there for six weeks. It appeared that an American vessel had come into Fremantle, and, remembering the escape of com- panions, the authorities had me drag-ged down out of the bush and kept in confinement until she went out again. A considerable time elapsed before an-other American vessel came into port but I was again brought down from York, and again kept in confinement until she had left. I asked them for some compensationfor the money I would have earned had I been left alone during these periods, and the Comptroller said I could have a little clothing if I liked. Sure enough I liked. I stopped with Cahill until the very day that a police constable came out to take me into York before old Mr. Cowan, who had secured a conditional release for me. Mr. Cowan received me most kindly with a decanter and a glass on the table before me. And he called his wife and three daughters to have a look at the Exile from Erin." From that day till Wednesday last, when Mr. Kiely received a notification that he had been granted a Royal par-don, he has been working out his destiny in and around Perth.

References and Links

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

Trove (as above)

Garry Gillard | New: 15 July, 2021 | Now: 15 July, 2021