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McCabe memorial for May 18 Minnesota unveiling

Father Patrick McCabe


By Irish Echo Staff

The voyage of the Catalpa enjoys deserved legendary status in the story of Irish America.

But in a sense its mission is not yet fully complete.

The Catalpa, a whaling ship, sailed from New Bedford, Massachusetts with the intent of rescuing a small group of Fenians who had been sentenced to a life of penal servitude in the infamous Fremantle prison in Western Australia, this for offenses considered treason against the crown, which of course were acts of patriotism in Ireland’s name.

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Six men were rescued and brought to America in 1876.

They eventually distributed themselves, with the help of supporters, throughout different states, including Rhode Island, where James McNally Wilson settled, lived out his life, and was buried. Many “secret” heroes helped all of this come true, says George McLaughlin, who has been campaigning over the years to have the Catalpa Six honored with grave markers.

And then there is Father Patrick McCabe who, according to McLaughlin, was “essential” for these six men, as he had been for John Boyle O’Reilly who had earlier escaped from the same Fremantle prison.

“After the Catalpa escape, McCabe had to flee Australia and eventually he found a home in the wilds of southern Minnesota tending to mainly Irish immigrant farmers,” said McLaughlin.

Fr. McCabe’s escape was aided by a fellow Irishman, Archbishop John Ireland from Burnchurch, County Kilkenny.

“The Fenian Memorial Committee of America has placed markers and tombstones at the graves of four of the Catalpa Six and is now raising funds to do the same for Father Patrick McCabe, of Gowna, County Cavan. He is buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery, outside Waseca, Minnesota,” said McLaughlin.

Fr. McCabe is about to get his long due marker.

The committee has now erected a memorial stone at Fr. McCabe’s resting place and he will be honored with an unveiling and commemoration on Saturday, May 18 at 11 a.m. at St. Mary's Cemetery with a reception to follow at the Waseca County Historical Society in Waseca.

More from George McLaughlin at (401)688-2463 or

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