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Each year the fishing community of Fremantle has two ceremonies to ensure the fishermen and their boats are safe and the catches are good throughout the season.

The smaller of the two festivals, held in honour of The Black Madonna, is on the second Sunday of September and celebrated by the small Portugese community who live in the city. The larger Blessing of the Fleet is held in late October and conducted by the entire fishing community, mostly from Mediterranean communities, principally Italian.

Several Masses are held in St Patrick’s Basilica and a procession leaves there to parade the Black Madonna around the city’s street during the afternoon. It is a time for the younger members of the community to play a part in their industry. Many of these kids would be descended from migrants who established the fishing industry in the 1920s and will mostly become fishers themselves.

 

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The parade consists of a hierarchy of young people. These boys are in uniforms of the  gendarmery who will protect the parade

 

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It is one of the communities great honours to be able to carry one of several banners paraded through the streets

 

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Portuguese national costume is worn by many of the children

 

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Three elders of the Portuguese community stop at the half way point of the parade for a  fireworks display

 

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Banners paraded through the local city’s local shopping streets

 

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Children in national costume carry a set of ornamental fishing floats attached to a Crucifix

 

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The Black Madonna

 

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The fireworks, mainly firecrackers, put on a very noisy show. The kids tend to block their ears, some don’t like them at all and some are stoic.
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The Black Madonna, the Portuguese fishing communities treasured icon, passes through Fremantle’s West End, an enclave of heritage architecture from the gold rush days of the late 1800s
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