Denis B. Cashman Diary

Source: Denis B. Cashman Papers, 1865-1887, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #458

Denis B. Cashman Diary

Denis B. Cashman Diary

Staff Person: Ralph Scott


Diary of Denis B. Cashman, noted Irish patriot, from the Denis B. Cashman Papers, 1865-1887, East Carolina Manuscript Collection #458.

The diary (15 October 1867-January 1868), compiled by Denis Cashman, details his imprisonment at Milbank Prison (London) and his voyage to exile in Australia. The diary also contains entries from the Wild Goose, a prison newspaper; poems by Cashman; and observations about his fellow prisoners, most of whom ended up incarcerated in the Fremantle Prison in Australia. Leather-bound manuscript diary, 34pp.

A group of Irish Fenian convicts from the Fremantle Prison escaped to America on the United States whaler Catalpa in 1876. The prisoners were members of the Fenian Brotherhood, which was established in the late 1850s to overthrow the British government in Ireland. The Government responded by sentencing the men to life in prison at the Convict Establishment in Australia. It was hoped that this would bring an end to the uprising in Ireland. Instead supporters raised funds to bring the men back to Ireland, and early on the morning of 17 April 1876 six men left a prison work party in horse drawn buggies and boarded a waiting whaler. Escaping capture by Australian authorities, the men arrived in New York on the Catalpa in August 1876.The escape is an important event in nineteenth-century Australian and Irish history. The Fenians are known as patriots to the Irish and considered terrorists by the British. Even today the British government refuses to free Irish nationalists held in prison. The collection, consisting of the prison diary of Cashman and other items, was donated by Dr. Alfred Sheehy to the East Carolina Manuscript Collection in 1983. Items from the Cashman collection are currently touring Australia in an exhibit entitled: “ESCAPE! Fremantle to Freedom.” More information about the prison escape and the exhibit can be found on the web at:

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