Spotlight: Relics of Cash and Co.

This innocuous image by C. Southey portrays a myriad of items purported to be linked to the bushrangers Martin Cash, Lawrence Kavanagh and George Jones, aka Cash and Co.

The image is a mish-mash of convict paraphernalia sprinkled with weaponry of outlaws and constabulary. The items all tell a fascinating story about crime and punishment and life in the penal system in the 1800s. For example, the convict cap appears to be a half circle of material here, but what is not on show is the functionality of the piece. The cap was made of leather to trap heat in winter and consisted of a skull cap with two wide flaps. What we see here is the cap flattened with the flaps tied up. In the heat of summer the flaps could be untied and formed a wide brimmed cap. Such was the cleverness of the design of the uniforms – at least in part.

The three bushrangers were all transportees who had done time together in Port Arthur before escaping via Eaglehawk Neck (where they lost their clothes and had to proceed into the bush nude). The gang were formidable and kept the forces of law and order overworked around the New Norfolk region of Tasmania. When Martin Cash heard of his wife’s infidelity he went on a murderous mission to Hobart which ended up in Kavanagh being badly wounded in the arm – he soon gave himself up. A repeat performance saw a man killed, another horribly disfigured by a gunshot and Cash brutally clubbed before being arrested. The following year George Jones, having formed his own gang, was shot in the face and blinded during a bungled raid and was sent to the gallows. Kavanagh was executed for his role in the Cooking Pot Riot on Norfolk Island in October 1846, while Cash lived long enough to have his memoirs published and die as an old man in the 1870s.

Curiously, a pistol in the image is attributed to “Cavanagh” yet appears to be strangely anachronistic. The pistol seems to be a colt revolver. There are two potential options for the type – a Colt Walker or a Colt Navy. Both pistols are almost identical to the untrained eye but more importantly the Colt Navy was released in 1851, whereas the Colt Walker was produced in 1846 but not released until 1847. Lawrence Kavanagh was in gaol in 1846 and hanged by the year’s end so there’s no feasible way he could have owned either of these weapons. However, it could have been a Colt Paterson revolver from 1839 near the end of its run where a loading lever was incorporated into the design, but the Paterson had a folding trigger and no trigger guard so that doesn’t match the pistol in the image. Such misattribution is not uncommon with relics of the time. With many records being vague and memories being more so, it’s unsurprising how something can be attached to a person who had nothing to do with it.

2 thoughts on “Spotlight: Relics of Cash and Co.

  1. Nice bit of detective work on the Kavanagh revolver Aidan!

    But I wouldn’t have described that image as ‘innocuous” – rifles, revolvers,a sword and a razor?

    1. Thanks Dee. What meant by ‘innocuous’ was inoffensive. No doubt that a lot of the items in the image could cause considerable harm in the wrong (or even right) hands.

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