Posted by Rae Heston
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THE Catalpa rescue re-enactment project — over which Laurie Smith and helpers have laboured for so long — seems to be finally ready to set sail.

Prominent film maker Paul Barron is prepared to organise and film a re-enactment of  six Irish Fenian prisoners’ daring escape of from the then British penal colony of Western Australia .in.a whale boat, which was rowed 

to the bark Catalpa offshore. 

It will be “based on outside life acting,” Palm Beach Rotary Club’s  community, arts and innovation committee  chairman  Laurie Smith has just announced.

The film-maker has a passion for the Catalpa rescue, he added.

This ambitious  project has been  pursued for years by Laurie, Hal Baxter and Jill Wright, when she was  member of the club.

Laurie told the club in September 2018 that the Rockingham City Council was keen to fund the production, on the Rockingham shore from where the escape took place. 

He recalled:  “The Irish Club spent many months with the city council a couple of years ago, planning a re-enactment of the famous incident off Rockingham on Easter Monday 1876. Each eventually agreed to disagree. Irish but true!

“The community, arts,  and innovation committee then spent some months with an Irish playwright who promised to write a script and direct actors very early last year. Eventually, it was too hard.”

The next step was negotiations with two prominent Fremantle identities, Mike Lefroy and Will Axell. “They  considered our idea with no result,” Laurie said.

Now it has caught the imagination of a man who has a string of major cinema releases under his belt. “Our club’s involvement would extend to a couple of members only,” Laurie said.

“Any and all costs will be  borne by Lotteries, private investors and the city council. If there is no financial support then there is no event.”

He envisages the Catalpa Project coming in two parts, “in a similar vein to the Beach Cup”.

Part one would be the audio-visual marketing tool which will cost $25,000.  “The Beach Race audio-visual cost us nothing,” he added. “Without the marketing tool, we won't attract funding for the day’s event.

“It is interesting to note that the cost of having this celebration is probably less than the council spends on New Year’s Eve or Australia Day,” he added.

“Not a lot of time is required for this project but it does place the name of Rotary in a unique situation of management.

“Meanwhile our club needs to find smaller community needs that meet with the activity of this committee.”