Cracking O’Reilly’s Code - Assessing the significance of John Boyle O’Reilly’s 1868 Book of Poetry
3pm, 16 October 2022
NWS Shipping Theatre, Western Australian Maritime Museum, Fremantle
The 2022 Wild Goose Lecture will explore the story of an original handwritten book of poetry by Irish Fenian poet, writer and political activist John Boyle O’Reilly. The book, held within the Western Australian State Library’s collection and dated 1868, was written during his time as a prisoner in Western Australia.
The book of poetry is bound in vellum with stenography shorthand code written across the front and back cover. A brass clasp opens to reveal a dedication to Father Patrick McCabe, a Bunbury Priest, who assisted O’Reilly’s escape aboard The Gazelle to America in 1869. When the book was donated to the State Library in 1989, although signed by O’Reilly, its authenticity was verified through extensive research, ultimately leading to the stenography code being cracked and enabling it to be partially deciphered, and without a doubt establishing O’Reilly as the author.
Dr Kate Gregory is the Battye Historian at the State Library of Western Australia, where since 2013 she has been in the fortunate position of exploring, developing, and sharing the rich collections of the J.S. Battye Library of West Australian History. She worked previously as an Historian with the National Trust of Australia (WA), as well as Curator at Freshwater Bay Museum, and at Fremantle Prison helping curate the exhibition Escape! Fremantle to Freedom. Dr Gregory has a PhD in Art History from the University of Melbourne and has served as a Trustee of the Western Australian Museum from 2012 - 2018. Her book From the Barracks to the Burrup: the National Trust in Western Australia (University of New South Wales Press, 2010) co-authored with Andrea Witcomb, was shortlisted for the Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards. You may hear her on regular radio interview segments on ABC Radio Perth and 6PR, discussing the collections of the State Library and many facets of West Australian history.
Date: Sunday 16 October 2022 Time: 3pm – 4.15pm
Location: NWS Shipping Theatre, Western Australian Maritime Museum, Fremantle
Cost: $15 Fenians Fremantle Freedom Members, $20 General admission
Free post-event music and craic: Orient Hotel, 39 High Street, Fremantle, (food & drink available for purchase)