The Western Australian times/21 April 1876
|The Western Australian times (1876)
21 April 1876
... a man named Bell came galloping from Rockingham, and informed the police that he had seen an American whale boat, manned and armed with rifles, take on board from the beach nine men, some in prison clothes, and pull off from the shore. The police boat was then manned with five of her crew and two land police, all armed. Coxswain Mills was put in charge and the boat prceeded along the coast; this happened about midday. Towards the evening the mail steamer was chartered by His Excellency; a party of pensioners with Major Finnerty, under the charge of Mr John Stone, Superintendent of the Water Police, proceeded on board to follow the vessel and if possible recover the prisoners.
On Tuesday about 4pm, the Georgette returned and reported having spoken with the whaler lying about nine miles off shore. It is states that Major Finnerty enquired for the master of the American craft, when the mate, after some prevarication, replied that the vessel was waiting the return of her boat in which the skipper had gone to Fremantle. The Major is then said to have asked "Can I come on board"; to this the Yankee mate answered "I guess you won't, I have orders from the skipper not to allow any one on board." The boat's crew under coxswain Mills then watched the whaler while the Georgette steamed back to Fremantle....
About 8pm the police boat returned and reported that the whale boat with the prisoners came in sight soon after the Georgette got well away. There were about 18 men altogether armed with rifles. Mills pulled towards them, and as he did so the barque Catalpa rounded, and came between the two boats; before the police boat could get round the vessel, the prisoners and Captain had scrambled up her side and got on board. Mills, who was in an open boat, was given to understand he had better leave, if he wished to preserve his life; he saw his helpless position, and wisely considered discretion the better part of valour, and accordingly made tracks for Fremantle... At 7pm His Excellency gave fresh orders, and the Georgette took in extra coal and an Armstrong gun. This done, Major Finnerty again proceeded on board with a party of pensioners... and about 11pm started a second time in chase of the Catalpa, and overhauling her to the southward compelled her to heave to by firing one shot over her bow, when the Captain was asked if he had the prisoners on board. In the meantime he had hauled up the American flag, and denied he had anyone but Americans on board; he ultimately confessed the escaped prisoners were there, but refused to give them up. The prisoners came on the deck of the Catalpa and were recognised.