Spotlight: Norfolk Island (29 October 1846)

Sentinel (Sydney, NSW : 1845 – 1848), Thursday 29 October 1846, page 2


(From a Correspondent of the Sydney Morning Herald )

We have been recently favoured with important intelligence from this island, and as it is but rarely any of the doings of that unhappy spot reach the public ear or eye, we are glad to have it in our power to communicate an account of the late proceedings upon which our readers may fully rely. A more melancholy one can scarcely be imagined, and if to what we now publish we were to add other enormities with which we have been made acquainted, we can scarcely doubt but that the whole community would indignantly protest against a station which, it may be feared will sooner or later call down the vengeance of God, as of old, upon the nation which can tolerate such a festering mass of wickedness. The late Commandant it was universally confessed, was unfitted in every possible way for the duties most unaccountably entrusted to him.

The following may be relied upon as a correct outline of the late transactions; and of the incentives which terminated in so frightful and so fatal a tragedy.

From a state of really quiet obedience; the island, from the time of the prisoners (who are not. slow to appreciate character) began to perceive the weakness of the Superintendent, fell into a gradually increasing state of insubordination. Some of the prisoners cringed, others plotted, and others bullied him. Temporary expedients were resorted to, in order to keep them quiet, but all discipline was relaxed, and when the difficulty of managing them became daily greater and the various officers remonstrated, their complaints were either treated with rudeness, or altogether evaded. To make matters worse, an increasing number of ruffians began to be landed from Van Diemens Land, who soon rendered the English prisoners as mischievous as themselves. What a state of things! An absolute ruler! yet thoroughly incapable; at war with every officer on the island, bearded by the convicts, and at length in open day knocked down by one of them. It would occupy too much time to tell of the progressive steps by which the total insubordination of the convicts, and the disorganisation of all system were brought about.

Mutinous disturbances began towards the close of last year. The ration of the prisoners has always been notoriously bad at Norfolk Island — throughout the year they have salt beef and maize meal only, so that but for the indulgence (always allowed them) of growing a few sweet potatoes in plots of ground marked out for their use and cultivated by themselves on Saturday afternoons, their fare would have been positively destructive of life, as indeed it frequently proved to the freshly arrived prisoners, before they could grow potatoes for themselves. On the 1st of January, a public order was posted to the effect, that all their garden plots were henceforth to be taken away from them. It is difficult for any person unacquainted with the island to conceive the commotion this occasioned. The prisoners refused to work unless some equivalent were given for the potatoes, and after some hesitation, which only rendered matters worse, a hall pint of pease was promised each man daily. At the end of three or four days the pease were said to be all issued, and there was another row. The Superintendent then promised to have 8 oz. of 12 percent, flour served out in lieu of the pease, To add to this unhappy state of affairs, a resident Police Magistrate had been appointed from Van Diemen’s Land, who very soon rendered himself an object of vengeance. The flogging became perfectly furious, from 500 to nearly 2000 lashes were inflicted of a morning, until the ground about the triangles was literally soaked with human blood.

Matters daily grew worse, the wretched men by this sort of alternate rage and peevish vacillation gradually grew more and more exasperated and insubordinate. About the commencement of June the store of flour was reported by the Commissariat officer to be nearly exhausted, and as a matter of course the 8 oz. of flour were discontinued. The men became more clamorous than ever By an order published in May 1845, and forming part of the Van Diemen’s Land Regulations for Norfolk Island, it had been announced that the gardens being no longer allowed, 2 lbs, of sweet potatoes should form a part of the daily ration to each prisoner. It will scarcely be credited that Major Childs caused this order to be posted at every station on the island; yet knowing at the time he did so, that it was impossible to furnish the men with a single ounce daily potatoes! During fourteen months this order had been hanging up before the men’s eyes! They read it, and again and again demanded their allowance of vegetables, they promised, but withheld from them: and when at length they became furious and riotously clamorous, they were told that it had been determined by a board that 2 oz. of salt pork was equivalent to 8 oz of flour! (the ration issued instead of peas); and that this, would be accordingly issued to them instead of the 2 lbs of sweet potatoes, to which, under the regulations, they were entitled.

It is utterly impossible to conceive the state of mind in which the men are described to have been at this time; such trifling had really goaded them to the point of madness; they were ready for any desperate deed, and the deed alas! was too soon effected. Ever since the time of Major Anderson, the prisoners had been allowed for each mess a tin pot to cook the potatoes. &c., in. It was suggested by the stipendary magistrate that it would form a powerful effect on the minds of the men — a new stage our penal science, in short powerfully reformatory in every way, if these abominable kettles, (in which more mischief was supposed to be brewed than ever Macbeth’s Witches ever dreamt of) were taken away, and therefore simultaneously with an order, announcing that at length the long expected 2 lbs. of potatoes would be issued; it was added that on the evening previous to the 1st July, all their kettles would be seized.

This order was acted upon in a manner which showed the men that the hand of authority trembled in the execution of its duty. When all the prisoners were shut up in their wards, except the few who attended school, the police went into the lumber yard, and look away the obnoxious kettles, and every thing belonging to the prisoners they could find. At this time “Jackey Jackey” ( William Westwood, of some notoriety in this colony) was sitting in school, about seven o’clock, when a hand-cart came rattling into the barrack-yard, and a crash of tin vessels was heard. Jackey Jackey was busy in the intricacies of a sum at this moment, he suddenly paused — lifted up his hand with the pencil in it, held it elevated for a few seconds, as it listening and hesitating — then dashed down the pencil — pushed the slate off the table with a violent movement — and deliberately folding his arms, as if he had finally made up his mind, remained buried in thought the rest of the evening. Every man followed his example, and sat whispering until the school broke up.

The following morning the men were all mustered for prayers — a practice but recently introduced — (nothing can be more disgraceful than the former negligence in this respect) and during the service a murmuring sort of sound was heard passing from bench to bench. It has since been surmised that this was a signal for the indiscriminate slaughter of the officers present; but nothing was at that time attempted. After prayers they all went into the lumber yard and found the tins gone. A short pause ensued, and then they all marched back again, five or six deep, to the Barrack yard in perfect silence — broke into the store, took out every vessel in it, and returned in the same manner to the lumber yard. As they approached, Jackey Jackey addressed his followers in a speech. “Now, my men,” said he, “I’ve made up my mind to bear this oppression no longer; but, remember, I’m going to the gallows, if any man therefore funks; let him stand out of the way! Come on.” A loud cheer followed from his desperate followers. A policeman named Morris was in the archway, Jackey Jackey, with an immense bludgeon, others with sticks, one man with a reaping hook, and another with a pitchfork, rushed upon the unhappy man, and knocked him down, he struggled, and got into the room behind him. Jackey Jackey followed him, and beat his head to pieces. The men, furious by the taste of blood, then proceeded to the cookhouse, where Stephen Smith, the police runner, was. The same murderous villain rushed on him also; then poor Smith, who was formerly much liked by the prisoners, cried out most piteously, “for God’s sake don’t hurt me, Jackey ! remember my poor wife and children !” “D— n your wife and children” was the horrible reply, accompanied by a blow which beat in poor Smith’s eye, and the side of his face. His shrieks for help, were terrific; but in a second or two his cries were over for ever. From the cookhouse they proceeded to the Police house at the Baarack-gate [sic] At the corner of the road, Price, overseer of work, and a man named Ingram, were standing, Jackey Jackey made a furious rush at Price, and aimed a deadly blow at him, but Price stooped, and the blow fell upon Ingram, nearly killing him. The mob came rushing on with such violence, that Westwood was pushed forward, and Price escaped, he knows not how, and ran for the soldiers.

The great object of the mob at this time seems to have been to seize the stipendiary magistrate, Mr. Barrow, who usually sat at six o’clock every morning to try cases.

Most providentially he was this morning on a board of survey, and so escaped. The beach guard seeing the mob approaching, advanced, and forming near the gaol, drove the rioters back. They then ran towards Government House, and on their way Westwood stopped at the lime-kiln, and entered the hut there with an axe; which he had by this time obtained. Two policemen, Dillon and Saxton, were in bed. The former was actually asleep when the cowardly villain drove in his skull by a blow of the axe, and Saxton only opened his eyes to see his death-blow fall from the hand of the same monster; the wounds were most appalling ones — the walls of the room were scattered with brains and blood.

Westwood, after this atrocity, coolly lighted his pipe, and, after a few puffs, shouted out, “Now for the Christ killer,” and a cry was immediately raised, “To Barrow’s, to Barrow’s.” Happily the alarm given by Price had roused the military, who were now under arms, and at this critical juncture, the soldiers were seen running down the Water-road: the rioters instantly retreated to the lumber yard — Westwood loudly denouncing their cowardice. The place was surrounded, and after much difficulty and delay, the ringleaders were seized, and about sixty left to be tried by a special Court of Criminal Sessions.

So rests for the present this fearful tragedy, unparalleled in heartless atrocity. How much, of its guilt may be justly traced to the hands and heads to which the supreme authority was entrusted, it is hard to say; but never was a greater blunder committed, or one which has been followed by more disastrous consequences, than the appointment of the late Superintendent to a post requiring so much intelligence and firmness, tempered indeed by an enlightened humanity. We ardently hope that discipline may be restored end sounder principles be acted upon. Without extenuating in the most remote degree the enormities of which the diabolical perpetrators of these atrocities have been guilty, we must still commiserate the fate of better men whose feelings hare been insulted, who have been bullied and trifled with, harrassed [sic] and cheated by men who may boast of their savings, but who will not soon shake off the odium of their doings. We trust again, we say, that order may be established in this, after all, most horrible plague spot; but it is to be feared, that like the tiger which has once drunk blood, it will be long before these wretched men, cooped up so unnaturally, and lacerated in mind and body, will forget the power for mischief they have discerned by these acts they really possess.

Spotlight: Cash and Co. near Richmond (14 March 1843)

Colonial Times (Hobart, Tas. : 1828 – 1857), Tuesday 14 March 1843, page 3

Domestic Intelligence.

BUSHRANGERS.— On Sunday last the township of Richmond was put into great excitement by a report that Cash, Kavenagh, and Jones were in the neighbourhood. “What is to be done?” was the general inquiry, there being only two or three constables at the place. These, with the Police Magistrate and Captain Forth, were soon in pursuit, and in the end two men with a woman were apprehended ; the latter being an assigned woman from a farm near the township. It appears that being in want of wine or spirits, they sent a pressed man for a supply, who very properly laid the necessary information. We have not heard full particulars, but a report that they were armed with one old musket, a pistol without a lock, and a mopstick. In consequence of such a formidable demonstration, so near the district town, it is expected that it will be forthwith garrisoned by one wing of a regiment, aided by two of the long guns laying at the New Wharf, and that the gun-boat is to be anchored off the town, so as to cover its approaches. Several instances of great bravery, we understand, were exemplified on the occasion, and that it was with the greatest difficulty some of the volunteers were prevented from shooting each other in their praiseworthy anxiety to secure the outlaws. The country is really in a dreadful state when runaways have the audacity to think of drinking wine on a Sunday, and that, too, directly under the nose of a Police Magistrate. We thought something extraordinary would soon occur when we first saw the comet, but never did suppose that Major Schaw would so soon be called upon to act personally so far from his own Court-house. The brigands were captured, after being surrounded in a most masterly manner, about one mile from Richmond bridge. They surrendered without firing a shot, and are now safely lodged in the large stone building appropriated by the Government for such purposes. We must also congratulate our readers on another gratifying piece of information. A double-barrelled gun, which positively did belong to the firm of Cash, Kavenagh, and Jones, has been found in the bush, and forwarded to the Hamilton Police office. We regret that the report does not state whether it was loaded or not, or whether it was with or without a ramrod. This is, however, something done at any rate, and no doubt so essential a service rendered will be properly appreciated!

POLICE.— Joseph Pratt, and Eliza Cash (wife of the bushranger Martin Cash), were brought up yesterday, charged with having stolon property in their possession. It appeared information had been received that a correspondence existed between the bushranger and his wife, in consequence of which her house was searched at an early hour yesterday morning, when a considerable part of the plunder taken from Mr. Shone and others was identified, Mrs. Cash being at the time occupied in secreting a pair of stays taken from Miss Shone. It is said that a boat has been captured near Green Point, the conductor of which, there is strong reason to believe, has been the medium of communication between the bushrangers and Mrs. Cash and Pratt.

BUSHRANGING AT BROWN’S RlVER.— Not having time or space to do any more than notice the attempted robbery at Brown’s River last week, we give the particulars now, which are as follow :– A short time since, three men from the Prisoner’s Barracks absconded – one of them said to be an old servant of the Rev. Mr. Gibbs, at that settlement, induced his two companions to try their luck where he was acquainted. Accordingly they started, a large axe being the only instrument of destruction they had then been able to procure. Their first attempt was made on Mr. Manley, another gentleman at the Brown’s River settlement, but his servants (three in number), one of them a young lad, would not yield to the system, and they found in their attempt there, would be, as they said “no go.” They then went off towards Mr. Gibbs’ farm. After examination of the premises and believing the servants had retired to rest, the old servant rapped at the door, and on Mr. Gibbs’ son asking who knocked, the answer was “it is me Henry, open the door.” The young man opened the door, the party entered, one of them bound the old gentleman and eased him of his gold watch, while the others went to the servants’ place, tied them, and commenced plundering a variety of valuable and useful articles. Soon after they had left Mr. Manley’s house, his three servants requested that gentleman to give them leave to follow the bushrangers, which being readily granted, they armed themselves, one with a long barrow tire, one with the handle of an old frying pan, and the third with some other iron weapon, and started in pursuit. Judging that their next attempt would be on Mr. Gibbs. They proceeded there, and arrived just as the robbers were preparing to start with their spoil. The first salutation one of Mr. Manley’s men received from Mr. Gibbs’ old servant, was a knock down blow. He did not lay long, but was up and to it again. A general engagement then took , place, soon after which Mr. Gibbs’ old servant took to his heels and was soon followed by his antagonist, but it being dark, and the villain well-acquainted with the locality, he escaped. The other four continued the battle, and although the barrow tire and frying pan handle were well-applied, victory was rather doubtful until their companion had returned from his vain pursuit. He soon settled the difference; the two were secured and brought to town next day, one of them is in the hospital, his head it may be supposed being too frequently visited by the barrow tire, he was not in a fit state for examination at the Police-office, and it may be desirable to find the third to complete the transaction. Let us now call attention to Mr. Manleys’ servants. If the servants of the settlers were to act in a similar way, there would be an end to bushranging, and we have no doubt his Excellency will at once appreciate such meritorious conduct, by granting each of them a free pardon, which will be the very best inducement for others to follow so laudable an example.

THE BUSHRANGERS.— Information has been received in town, that Cash, Cavenagh, and Jones, visited the residence of Mr. Thomas Triffett, at the Ouse, on Saturday night last, and robbed it of everything they could carry away. We have not heard the particulars, further than that they took Mr. Triffeft’s gun, as being a superior one to Mr. Cawthorne’s, which latter they left behind and requested Mr. Triffett to return it to Mr. C, telling him at the same time, that as soon as they met with a better one than his, they would return it also. How is it that the numerous parties out after these desperadoes have allowed them to slip through their fingers to a distance of, we believe, about forty miles from their former haunt on the Dromedary?

Spotlight: Westwood and Kavanagh

Stamped bricks line the pavement in Campbell Town, Tasmania, detailing the identities of convict transportees that were sent to Van Diemen’s Land.

Two of the most infamous bushrangers to have graced Tasmania’s shores, William Westwood (alias Jackey Jackey) and Lawrence Kavanagh, were both executed for their role in a deadly riot on Norfolk Island in 1846.

These two were convict transportees who had a number of escapes under their belts. Westwood in particular was known for repeatedly escaping custody and fleeing to the bush.

Westwood was mostly known for his crimes around Bungendore, which is near modern day Canberra. He had been transported for stealing a coat and pawning it, and poor treatment at the hands of his master and overseers saw him abscond from his assignment whenever possible. He developed a reputation as a “gentleman bushranger” for his quiet, polite temperament. Eventually, after multiple escapes, Westwood was shipped off to Van Diemen’s Land, where he was interred at Port Arthur – otherwise known as Hell on earth. The authorities believed it would straighten him out.

Port Arthur could barely contain Westwood, who repeatedly escaped, but typically found himself recaptured in a matter of days. On one occasion he essentially surrendered, having no food, no other supplies, and being completely naked as his clothes had been washed away when he crossed Eaglehawk Neck.

Eventually he was assigned to a station at Glenorchy, from which he escaped again with two others. They planned to escape on a boat. One abandoned them at Kempton (then known as Green Ponds), while the other stayed until they reached New Norfolk.

This incorrigible behaviour saw Westwood sent to an even worse gaol – Norfolk Island, also known as the Isle of Despair. This is where his path crossed with Kavanagh’s.

Kavanagh had been transported for burglary and spent most of his youth as a convict, transported to New South Wales in 1828 at the age of 17. Like Westwood, Kavanagh was known to escape custody and go bushranging, which saw him sent to Norfolk Island for nine years. When this didn’t straighten him out, demonstrated by another escape from Hyde Park Barracks after a transfer, he was sent to Port Arthur.

At Port Arthur he teamed up with Martin Cash and George Jones, and the trio escaped from the prison on foot. After surviving the hazardous swim across Eaglehawk Neck and the subsequent journey through the bush, they began a career of bushranging. The trio built a log fortress on Mount Dromedary and were joined by Martin Cash’s common law wife Eliza. Kavanagh’s time with the gang ended when he accidentally shot himself in the left arm while attempting to walk over uneven terrain near Bothwell. He turned himself in, but devised a bogus story about having killed the others so the authorities would stop searching for them – it didn’t work.

For his bushranging, Kavanagh was sentenced to death, but at the last minute it was commuted to Imprisonment on Norfolk Island for life. He was joined by Cash, who had miraculously cheated the hangman despite being convicted for murder. Their companion Jones unfortunately didn’t get the same leniency and was hanged.

Throughout 1846, anger had been rising among the convicts on Norfolk Island as the new administration had begun to repeal many practices introduced by the former, ousted administration, which encouraged compliance and hard work through rewards. Instead, they were punished with longer work hours, smaller rations, less privacy and more frequent floggings among other cruel and unusual punishments. In January their garden plots, with which they were permitted to grow their own vegetables, were taken away. Floggings were so frequent and so severe that the ground around the triangle was soaked with blood. Rations reduced when supplies free scarce. Promises to improve the situation were not honoured.

The breaking point was when the convicts’ utensils were confiscated by the authorities. This was the last sliver of civility the men had been permitted, and the guards were sent into the cells, while the prisoners were otherwise engaged, and removed the tin pots (from which the subsequent riot gets its name), kettles and any other implements.

When the convicts discovered the treachery, they secretly began to communicate and, the following day, William Westwood armed himself with an axe handle and incited the others to riot.

“Now my men,” said he, “I’ve made up my mind to bear this oppression no longer; but remember, I’m going to the gallows; if any man, therefore, funks, let him stand out of the way. Come on!”

Citizen (Sydney, NSW : 1846 – 1847), Saturday 31 October 1846, page 4

Westwood led on a heaving mass of furious convicts, similarly armed, as he attacked and killed four police and attempted to kill the commandant.

Soldiers soon arrived and suppressed the rioters. Fourteen were charged with the murders, twelve were convicted, including Lawrence Kavanagh and Westwood. As he awaited death, Westwood was adamant none of the other condemned men were guilty, only himself, but the execution went ahead on 13 October 1846. The bodies were dumped in a mass grave dubbed, Murderers Mound, where they remain.

Spotlight: Execution of the Norfolk Island Rioters (1846)

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Saturday 14 November 1846, page 2


(From late Australasian Papers.)

Twelve of the desperadoes at Norfolk Island had been hung, among whom were the notorious Jackey Jackey, and Lawrence Kavanagh, the Van Diemen’s Land bushranger.


Jackey Jackey was twenty-six years of age only when he suffered. On the scaffold he solemnly protested his belief in the innocence of four of the men who suffered with him. He left behind him, in the possession of the clergyman who attended him, a long written history of his career in guilt, of which the following is the last paragraph : “Sir the strong tyes of earth will soon be wrentched and the burning fever of this life will soon be quentched and my grave will be a heavens – a resten place for me Wm. Westwood. Sir out of the bitter cup of misery – I have drank from my sixteenth year 10 long years, and the sweetest draught is that which takes away the misery of living death – it is the friend that deceives no man – all will then be quiet no tyrant will disturb my repose I hope – Wm. Westwood. Sir I know bid the world adiue and all it contains. Wm. Westwood his wrighting.”

South Australian Gazette and Colonial Register (Adelaide, SA : 1845 – 1847), Saturday 14 November 1846, page 3


NORFOLK ISLAND. — The Lady Franklin arrived yesterday morning, bringing intelligence of considerable interest. She had as passengers, Mr Gilbert Robertson, Superintendent of the Agricultural Department, and others, who have been suspended by Mr Price the Civil Commandant. The criminal sessions had not closed when the Franklin sailed. As principals in the riots, and the murders of Smith, Morris, and others, fourteen prisoners were tried. Of these twelve were found guilty and two acquitted. Of the twelve found guilty, and sentenced to die, were William Westwood (the well-known bushranger in New South Wales, and in this colony by the name of ” Jackey Jackey,”) and Lawrence Kavanagh, the associate of Cash and Jones in this colony. The twelve men found guilty were executed on the morning of Tuesday, Oct. 13. Six of them at eight in the morning, and the other six at ten o’clock on the same day. The scene has been described to us, by eye-witnesses, as one of most awful solemnity. All the men died penitent. — Courier, 28th Oct.

Spotlight: The Last Declaration of Jackey Jackey (1846)

Britannia and Trades’ Advocate (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1846 – 1851), Thursday 5 November 1846, page 2

Jackey Jackey. — Having inserted the letter of this man in our last page, we here give his dying, declaration, which appeared in the Spectator of Tuesday last:


The dying Declaration of William Westwood, alias “Jackey Jackey.”

“I, William Westwood, wish to die in the Communion of Christ’s Holy Church, seeking mercy of God through Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. — Amen.

“I wish to say, as a dying man, that I believe four men now going to suffer are innocent of the crime laid to their charge, viz :— Lawrence Kavenagh, Henry Whiting, William Pickthorne, and William Scrimshaw. I declare that I never spoke to Kavenagh on the morning or the riots; and these other three men had no part in the killing of John Morris as far as I know of. I have never spoke a disrespectful word of any man since my confinement. I die in charity with all men, and now I ask your prayers for my soul!

William Westwood, Aged 26 years.”

Spotlight: Trial of Kavenagh.

Austral-Asiatic Review, Tasmanian and Australian Advertiser (Hobart Town, Tas. : 1837 – 1844), Friday 15 September 1843, page 4


Contrary to general expectation, it being now after two o’clock, Laurence Kavenagh was ordered to be placed at the bar, to take his trial for the robbery of the Launceston coach at Epping Forest. After some little delay, he was accordingly ushered into the dock, and a fresh jury was called, the other jurors being discharged altogether.

Laurence Kavenagh was capitally charged, under the colonial Act of Council, with robbing James Hewitt on the 3d of July last, being at the time armed with a certain offensive weapon, to wit, a gun — with puting [sic] the said James Hewitt in bodily fear, and stealing from him a watch of the value of 50s., and seven one pound promissory notes.

To this information the prisoner pleaded Not Guilty; in a very cool manner, and addressed the Court, requesting to have counsel assigned for his defence. He had no ways and means, he said, of employing one.

His Honor said that he had no power to appoint a counsel for the prisoner. He had read the depositions, and he did not see anything in them to justify him in doing so. It must not go abroad that, in all capital cases, a counsel was to be appointed. At Port Arthur, his Honor knew that, in all cases of murder, it was supposed that the Court would assign counsel to the prisoner; this was a common notion there. His Honor did not see he could appoint a counsel in the prisoner’s case, unless upon petition. The Attorney-General observed, that at home the Judge asked the counsel to assist a prisoner in his defence, if the Judge thought it was a case which required the aid of counsel. The learned gentleman stated, that on looking over the depositions in the recent case of the two boys who were charged with the murder of their overseer at Port Arthur, he had felt it his duty, as Crown prosecutor, to suggest the appointment of counsel, as he saw that points of law were likely to arise; but there was nothing, in the present case, to warrant such an appointment.

His Honor told the prisoner, that he did not think he should be justified in putting the public to the expense of assigning counsel to him. It would do him no good, nor the public either. In cases where points of law were likely to arise, or in which there was any difficulty, his Honor would always appoint counsel; but here there was nothing complex or ambiguous in the evidence, and it would be of no service to the prisoner.

The prisoner — As you think proper, your Honor.

The Attorney-General, after a short address, in which he explained the law of the case, under the Colonial Act, proceeded to call his witnesses.

James Hewitt, coachman to Mrs. Cox — Had seen prisoner at the bar before, on the 3rd of July, in Epping Forest, witness was driving the coach; Mr. Darke was with him on the box; it was about a quarter-past ten in the morning; there were three men came up, and desired them to stop; they were armed with guns; the prisoner at the bar was one of the men; he had a gun of some description; they came up in front of the horses, and desired witness to stand, and said they did not want to molest any one, only to rob them; they told them not to be afraid; the three men had their guns pointed from their shoulders; witness could not tell which of the three men told him to stop; witness stopped his horses, because he expected they would have shot at the horses, or something of that sort; the arms were presented at witness; the passengers were Miss Hilton, Mr. Darke, and Mr. Jacobs, who with Mrs. Cox, was inside; witness was ordered off the box; he came down, because they presented their arms at him; they robbed him of his watch; they asked him for what he had got, and witness told them they had better take it themselves, and then they would be sure of it; witness let them take his watch, to save further bother; witness expected that if he had not let them take the watch quietly, they would have taken it by force; he was afraid to refuse; they took £7 in notes, and a watch; the watch from his fob, and the notes from his breeches pocket; witness had no doubt the prisoner at the bar was one of those persons.

By his Honor. — The prisoner stood guard at the side of the road, when witness first saw him; this was after he (witness) got off the box; they made no threat, but told witness to stand, which he instantly did.

Mr. John Charles Darke was passenger on the Launceston coach in Epping Forest, on the 3rd of July; Hewitt was driving it; a man made his appearance in front of the coach, armed with a double-barrelled gun; the prisoner was that man; when he got to the horses heads, he desired the coachman to stop, when two other men came out of the bush; one of the other men desired them to get down; the prisoner told them to stay where they were, until he had ascertained who were in the coach; Hewitt got down from the box; witness saw one of the men take something from Hewitt, which witness thought was money; the double-barrelled gun appeared to be presented at witness and Hewitt, on the box. The prisoner at the bar said, “I dare you to stir; don’t stir, or I will shoot you.” His gun was then pointed to witness and Hewitt; the gun was under his arm, not to his shoulder; witness had never seen the prisoner before, nor either of the other two persons; witness had not the slightest doubt that the prisoner was one of the men; he knew him the moment he saw him in the jail; he (witness) never looked through a hole in his cell, to identify Kavenagh.

By the prisoner. — You were carrying the gun with the butt-end to your arm pit; I never came to look through the cell; the gun was a double-barrelled gun; I am quite sure of that; when I heard that one of the bushrangers was wounded, I thought there were strong doubts whether they were the party that robbed the coach, and I went to the gaol to ask Mr. Capon about it, as I was about to leave the colony.

By His Honor. — Mr. Price addressed the prisoner as Kavenagh, but this was after I had recognized him; I recognized him going up the stairs, before he was brought into the room.

By the Attorney-General. — The moment I saw him I knew him, as one of the men who robbed the Coach, but did not know his name till Mr. Price addressed him.

Prisoner. — Pray Sir, did you come free to the Colony?

Witness. — I did come free into the Colony.

By His Honor. — I knew him by his face, his figure, and his voice.

By a Juror, (Mr. Carter). — He had not the same dress on when he robbed the Coach as he has on now; he had on a drab coat.

Mrs. Mary Ann Cox corroborated the testimony of the other witnesses, as to the stopping of the Coach in Epping Forest, by the three men, the prisoner at the bar as one of the persons who stopped it; she was quite positive he was one of the men. This being the case for the prosecution, his Honor intimated to the prisoner that this was the time for him to make his defence. The prisoner bowed, and spoke as follows:— I have seen a good many scenes of misery in my time; but what I saw at Port Arthur beat all. There is one circumstance that I feel bound to mention. I was driven to a place of worship by the lash of the law. My own prayer-book was taken out of my hand by the Superintendent, and I was forbidden to read it under pain of severe punishment. I do not blame the Superintendent; it was not his fault. But I put it to any conscientious Protestant in this Court, whether he would like to be driven to a Catholic place of worship, or punished for going there! All men are not of one mind at Port Arthur. There are some men who forget that they have been men. I have not forgot that. I flew from Port Arthur on this account, at the hazard of that life I am now about to forfeit. While I was in the bush, I would rather have been shot than have fallen into the hands of the Government. But I fell into a mistake; for since I have been in custody, I have been treated well (with emphasis), and I am very much obliged to the gentlemen for their kindness and attention.

Gentlemen, after I went into the bush, and when I was under arms, I committed no act of violence or cruelty, and did nothing but what became a man. I did no violence to anybody. Stains of blood we always avoided — both me and my companions; and if I have been unfortunate, and done wrong, thanks be to God I have no stain of blood upon my hands! If I abstained from violence, it was not because I expected any mercy while standing at a bar like this. I did not surrender through any exportation of mercy, but through a feeling that I had in my own breast, having met with an accident. I would have pleaded guilty to this charge, only I was accused of having used violence, and violence I never used to any one; but if I came against armed men, I would stand against them the best way I could; but as to using violence against an unarmed man, or an unarmed party, I would not be guilty of so cowardly an act. I have nothing more to say, your Honor. I have no witnesses.

His Honor addressed the Jury; he explained in his usual lucid manner, the nature of the charge against the “poor man” at the bar, and the fatal penalty attached to its commission. Upon the evidence little was said, as it was explicit, plain, and incontrovertible. The defence set up by the prisoner, his Honor observed, was being forcibly driven to a place of worship contrary to the tenets of his own religion, and this was the only defence; but it touched not the duty of the jury, neither had they any evidence of such a fact; yet if that was the case, it was most detestable and cruel tyranny, and an instance of bigotry against which his Honor, for one, would most resolutely set his face. Why the prisoner should have stated this circumstance, his Honor did not know, unless it was to excite the compassion of the jury; but their duty was plain and straightforward, and must be performed without favour or affection.

The jury retired for about twenty minutes, and then returned a verdict of Guilty.

The prisoner was then remanded, his Honor deferring his sentence, but affording him no hope that the capital part would be abandoned. The many outrages committed by the prisoner and his companions, and the anxiety and terror which they had caused in so many families, rendered an example necessary. His Honor was glad to see the prisoner in a state of mind so favourable to the reception of that religious instruction and consolation which would be abundantly afforded him. He earnestly hoped that such a state of mind was sincere; and although his Honor could not deny that the prisoner had used no violence, yet no mercy could be extended to him on that account.

The trial lasted but a very short time, and the prisoner throughout preserved a demeanour cool, firm, and collected; there was nothing of the bravo about him, and he appeared fully aware of his situation; he expected no mercy — and he asked for none; and he delivered his defence in a style of natural but simple eloquence which was extremely affecting. He related the cruel treatment which he had received at Port Arthur, with an expression of indignant feeling, which to our minds carried a conviction of its truth, while he avowed his abhorrence of bloodshed, with a fervor which evinced his sincerity. He was dressed in a long dark great coat, and had his left arm in a sling; he appeared, otherwise, in good health. He is rather a good looking man, with an expression of vivacity and intelligence on a fair countenance. We need scarcely add, that the Court was crowded throughout the whole day. — Colonial Times, September 12.

Spotlight: Cash & co. rob a coach in Epping Forest.

Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Thursday 27 July 1843, page 2

THE BUSHRANGERS. – Cash and his party, about ten o’clock on Monday morning last stopped the Launceston coach on Epping Forest. They came up in a direction from the South Esk River, by a by-road which leads to one of Mr. Gibson’s farms. They desired the coachman to stop, and all bands to alight. Mr. Jacobs said to Mrs. Cox and another lady inside, “don’t be frightened, these men won’t hurt us.”
“No, no,” said Cavanagh, “we are not the men to hurt the women – let’s see what you have got,” and Jones proceeded to search all hands, but used no violence, only asked them for their watches and money. Jones stood by and took the booty whilst the others stood near and watched. They were all well armed ; one was without his hat, and neither had a knapsack. Jacobs gave Jones his purse with four sovereigns in it, and a valuable watch and chain ; Jones then asked Jacobs for the key of his box, which was on the top of the coach, unlocked it, and examined it, and called out “Martin, do we want any clothes?”
“Oh, never mind,” said Cash, and Jones only took out of it a pair of trousers ; he took Jacobs’s hat from his head, and tried to put it on his head: Jacobs said, “Give us that back, it won’t fit you.”
“No, no,” said Jones, “that won’t do.”

Mrs, Cox gave him her pocket-book, in which were some notes and papers ; she said, “give me my book and papers,” some of which had dropped out with a pound note on the ground ; he returned the book and papers, and she said “Why you are more frightened than us, you have dropped a pound. Pick it up and keep it, you are so civil; why what a miserable life you must lead.”
“Miserable, be d—d,” said Cavanagh ; he then took a pound note from Miss Hilton; two pounds from Mr. Darke; and seven one pound notes and a watch from Hewett, the coachman ; searched the residue of the coach, then asked how far it was from Thornhills, and made off the same road they came ; the coach drove on, and soon after met a police party from Campbell Town – so that there is every possible reason to believe, one being without his hat, that they had been closely, and were closely pursued. The above facts have beep sworn to at the police office. – Hobart Town Advertiser

The Midlands Highway as it runs through Epping Forest towards Cleveland.

Cash & Co.: An Overview

*** Revised and Updated, 2021 ***

Few of the Tasmanian bushrangers have quite the esteem as Martin Cash. A hot-tempered Irishman with a knack for escapology, when he teamed up with Lawrence Kavanagh and George Jones he immediately walked into bushranging history. Though their reign was merely a matter of months, they flung Van Diemen’s Land into such a state of alarm that they immediately became outlaw celebrities.

Martin Cash was a native of Wexford in Ireland, and had been transported to Australia as a teenager in 1827 for (by his own account) shooting a love rival, though the official charge was house breaking. Once in Australia he was assigned as a servant to a farm in New South Wales, where he became a stockman. It was during this time that he met Bessie Clifford who left her husband to run away with Cash. Cash managed to keep a low profile until he unwittingly helped some young men brand stolen cattle. Knowing he was bound for gaol unless he kept two steps ahead of the law, he and Bessie moved to Van Diemen’s Land with the intention of starting fresh. This seemed to work fine until the law caught up with him and he found himself repeatedly being arrested, assaulted and locked up, as he had a tendency to escape custody to make his way back to Bessie in Campbell Town. Eventually, Cash was sent to Port Arthur, the so-called “Hell on Earth” on the Tasman Peninsula.

Lawrence Kavanagh was the eldest of the men who were to form Cash and company. He was a native of County Wicklow, and had two prior convictions before finally being sentenced to transportation for life in 1828 for burglary, aged 17. He was initially sent to New South Wales where he absconded from his assignment and engaged in a spot of highway robbery for which he was sent to Norfolk Island for nine years. He was sent back to Hyde Park Barracks following this, and escaped again, taking to the bush with accomplices. This time when he was caught he was sent to Port Arthur in the hope they could do something with him. During his convict days, Kavanagh proved to be a troublesome convict and was flogged repeatedly, receiving more than 200 lashes for various offences.

The third member of the gang would be George Jones, real name George Davis, a native of South London. Jones was sentenced to transportation for life in 1829 at age 15 for robbing a till. He arrived in Sydney exactly a year after his conviction and was assigned. He also absconded from his assignment to engage in highway robbery and was subsequently sent to Van Diemen’s Land for life in 1842, his sentence to be carried out at Port Arthur.

Not being a fan of his new lodgings, Cash managed to escape Port Arthur on his own. He got past the isthmus at Eaglehawk Neck, guarded as it was by the infamous dog line, an array of half-starved hounds chained to kennels along its width. Cash’s new-found freedom wasn’t long-lived however and after being lost for five days and starving, he was nabbed and sent back to Port Arthur and fettered.

Dog Line Memorial - Eaglehawk Neck
Dog Line Memorial, Eaglehawk Neck

It was during this second internment at Port Arthur that Cash befriended Lawrence Kavanagh and George Jones. The trio devised a plan to escape Port Arthur, Cash having clearly learned the value of having accomplices and recalculated the best method of escape. On Boxing Day of 1842, Cash, Kavanagh and Jones managed to peel away from their work party and once darkness had descended they made a break for freedom. When they were not counted at muster, soldiers were sent to find them. Cash had anticipated this and the gang waited in the bush for several days before heading to Eaglehawk Neck, where they intended to cross through the water. To avoid being slowed down and chilled to the bone by wet clothes they stripped nude and bundled their clothes and boots, carrying them above their heads as they waded through the waters to give the dog line a wide berth. In their efforts to cross, their bundles were washed away and they had to proceed without their clothes. Having successfully made it across they ventured into the bush naked and without supplies. They reached a guard’s hut where the three nude convicts procured clothing and food before setting out on one of the most legendary bushranging careers of all time.

They started out by robbing farmhouses around Pittwater and Jerusalem (Colebrook) to acquire clothing, food and weapons. A reward of fifty sovereigns was offered for their capture, but there was no stopping them. They continued with robberies at Bagdad and Broadmarsh before they reached Mount Dromedary, where they constructed a log fort to use as their hideout. The fort was well placed as it offered a wide view of the terrain to see who was coming and going, while also being very close to their sympathisers, Jack Bryan and his wife Nelly. Through Nelly Bryan, Cash got word to Bessie that he was alive and at large and organised to meet her. She then accompanied Martin back to the mountain hideaway where she lived with the boys and enjoyed the fruits of their nefarious labours.

Mt Dromedary on the River Derwent … Van Dieman’s Land by J. Lycett (c.1828)
[Courtesy: Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales]

The gang established themselves quickly as a menace to society, and the military presence throughout Van Diemen’s Land was reinforced in an effort to suppress them. On 31 January, 1843, the gang stuck up the Woolpack Inn at New Norfolk, but were unaware that they had been spotted and troopers were descending upon them. Cash opened fire at the troopers who promptly returned fire. In the shootout, Kavanagh and Jones peeled away into the darkness but Cash continued to fight. Two constables were injured in the battle before Cash also took his leave.

The dramatic Woolpack Inn shootout was followed by more daring raids and robberies. On 22 February, they raided the property of Thomas Shone. The bushrangers bailed up Shone, his wife, a friend, their seven farmhands, and their neighbour and three of his men, who were all guarded in Shone’s drawing room by Jones. Cash and Kavanagh then ransacked the house before Shone’s daughter arrived with guests. Despite the prisoners greatly outnumbering the bushrangers, none made any attempts to apprehend them.

Not long after this Bessie took her leave of the gang and moved to Hobart, where she began referring to herself as Eliza Cash. She took with her many of the goods stolen for her by Martin. Meanwhile, George Jones had begun a secret affair with Nelly Bryan. Both of these women would cause the downfall of their lovers.

On 11 March, Cash and company raided James Triffitt’s farm on the Ouse River. Triffitt had a history with Tasmania’s bushrangers having been robbed by Michael Howe’s gang as well as Musquito’s and Matthew Brady’s in previous decades. As at Shone’s homestead, the occupants were bailed up and the house ransacked.

As the gang continued business as usual the authorities had been monitoring Eliza Cash. She was charged on 13 March with possession of stolen goods and arrested. She remained in remand, appearing before the courts, until she was discharged on 28 April. Caught up in it all was James Pratt, her landlord, who was considered an accessory until he was found not guilty.

On 18 March, the gang robbed Dunrobin near Hamilton. During the robbery, Martin Cash decided to pen a letter to the governor of Van Diemen’s Land. While he dictated, George Jones transcribed, and Cash warned that if Bessie was not released promptly then the gang would be forced to enact revenge. He also had Jones pen a seperate letter to Thomas Shone threatening him not to prosecute Bessie.

The remainder of the month saw more robberies near Hamilton, as well as the gang finding a new hideout in Hollow Tree Bottom. As the military presence around Dromedary had increased, the bushrangers had deemed it unwise to remain at the fort. Unfortunately they were now low on supplies and the next robberies they committed were in an effort to procure basics like food.

After robbing Thompson’s farm at Green Ponds (Kempton), Cash went into town and at Ellis’ Tavern he purchased three cases of gin, passing the local constabulary on the way out without being recognised. He returned with his companions to their bush hideaway without confrontation.

The gang continued to commit robberies around Lake Echo, Dee River and Bridgewater, planting red herrings by telling their victims that they were going to the Western Tiers. This meant that the military’s attention was drawn away from Dromedary and the fort. The result was that the gang returned to their hideout and had a big party with the Bryans, complete with musicians.

By June, there were now 500 men pursuing Cash and company and the bushrangers were on the move again, heading through the Midlands. Robberies around Ross were followed by another shootout at Salt Pan Plains, then more robberies as they headed to Cressy, where they camped for several days.

On 3 July, the gang robbed the Launceston to Hobart mail coach as it passed through Epping Forest. The next day they robbed a shepherd’s hut at the Western Tiers. Unfortunately for the gang, when travelling through Bothwell, Kavanagh tripped on a boulder and accidentally shot himself in the arm. His wound was very serious and he turned himself in on 9 July 1843, fearing he would perish if not given medical treatment. However, when he told the police how he had been injured he lied, stating he was shot in a fight in which he killed Cash and Jones.

Cash and Jones, meanwhile, continued their depredations, but news soon reached Martin via Nelly Bryan that Bessie had found a new love in the form of James Pratt. It seemed Bessie had grown tired of the bush and waiting for the rare opportunities to see Martin and had settled for something more stable. Naturally, Cash responded with his typical Irish temper, resolving to murder both his unfaithful partner and her lover. Cash induced George Jones to join him in Hobart Town.

Cash after his capture with his head bandaged due to the wounds inflicted by being clubbed in Hobart Town.

Things were moving fairly smoothly until they were recognised by a pair of constables and a running gunfight took place. Jones managed to escape but Cash was not so lucky. Cash’s famous fleetness of foot did him wonders until he took a wrong turn and ended up in a cul de sac, ironically formed by the boundary wall of the penitentiary. A constable named Winstanley was roused, and as he approached Cash he was shot through the torso. As he lay dying, others took up his cause. A shopkeeper grabbed Cash and attempted to disarm him. The pistol went off again, the bullet passing through the shopkeeper’s fingers and hitting another man in the face, shooting his nose off. Cash struggled as others piled on. One man kicked Cash in the head and another clubbed him with a revolver until he was unconscious and barely recognisable.

Cash and Kavanagh were put on trial in Hobart, Kavanagh charged with armed robbery and Cash with wilful murder. Both were found guilty and sentenced to death, though this was commuted to life imprisonment on Norfolk Island.

[Portrait of a man in the dock]
It is believed that this portrait depicts Lawrence Kavanagh during his trial, his arm in a sling due to the bullet wound he received in Hobart Town.

Meanwhile, George Jones had teamed up with some other bushrangers named Platt and Moore, possibly at the encouragement of Nelly Bryan. These bushrangers were far more rough and ill-mannered than Jones’ previous companions. In one house robbery at Black Brush, unconvinced at protestations that there was no money on the premises, Jones reputedly tied Harriet Devereaux to a table, hitched up her dress and pressed a hot shovel to her legs. It was believed that Nelly had convinced the bushrangers that Devereaux had a big cache of money hidden in the house. In the end, Nelly Bryan dobbed Jones in to the authorities, and during a raid near Richmond in March 1844 the gang were besieged. The troopers set fire to the building and as the bushrangers evacuated, Moore was shot and mortally wounded, and Jones was shot in the face with a shotgun. The shot didn’t kill him, though it did disfigure him and left him blind. With Moore dead, Jones and Platt were tried for assault, robbery, and shooting with intent to murder. They were found guilty and sentenced to death. On 30 April, 1844, Jones and Platt were hanged. Prior to his execution, Jones had been visited by Martin Cash to comfort him.

On 1 July, 1846, Lawrence Kavanagh was one of the convicts who took up arms with William Westwood in the “Cooking Pot Riot” on Norfolk Island, in response to the overly harsh and regressive measures brought in by the new Commandant, Major Childs. During the uprising, four men were murdered by Westwood, with Childs narrowly avoiding being killed himself. Kavanagh was among twelve men hanged for their part in the affair on 13 October, 1846. He too had been allowed a visit from Cash before his execution.

Martin Cash in later life.

Through all of this, a heartbroken Cash kept a low profile and in the following years earned himself a reputation as a well-behaved inmate, becoming a constable within the Norfolk Island prison. When he was eventually released he became commandant of the Government Gardens in Hobart Town and even remarried. He briefly lived in New Zealand, where he worked as a constable and allegedly ran a brothel, before returning to Tasmania in disgrace. When his young son died of Rheumatic Fever, Cash turned to alcohol and slowly drank himself to death at the ripe old age of 69. Cash’s memoirs, dictated to James Lester Burke in the 1870s, have been reprinted many times over the 100+ years since Cash’s death and the many songs and tales about Cash remain as testament to his enduring folk hero status.

Spotlight: The Ballad of Martin Cash

The Ballad of Martin Cash

by Frank the Poet

Come all you sons of Erin’s Isle
That love to hear your tuneful notes,
Remember William Wallace and
Montrose of sweet Dundee–
The great Napoleon played his part,
But by treachery was undone
Nelson, for England’s glory bled
And nobly fought by sea–
And Wellington, old Erin’s son,
Who Waterloo so bravely won,
When leading on his veteran troops,
Bold faced his daring foes–
But Martin Cash of matchless fame,
The bravest man that owns that name,
Is a valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

By treachery as it was said,
This hero to a gaol was led,
‘Twas Bedford who, in Campbell Town,
Had got him seven years.
Which sent him to the settlement
In misery and discontent,
But soon he made his foes repent,
As you shall quickly hear,
He left Port Arthur’s cursed soil,
Saying “No longer will I toil”,
And soon he reached the Derwent’s side
In spite of all his foes.
He made the settlers crouch in dread
Where’er that he showed his head;
This valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

It was once when near the old Woolpack
His enemies they did attack;
The number being three to one,
They thought their prize secure.
But Martin to his piece did cling,
And three of them did quickly wing,
Saying, “Down, you cowardly dogs,
Or I nail you to the floor!”
It’s loud for mercy they did cry,
But no one came to their reply,
While Martin, with a smiling eye,
Stood gazing at his foes.
Then through the bush he took his way,
And called on settlers night and day,
Did our valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

It was on the Salt Pan Plain
He faced his enemies again,
There were Sydney blacks and horse police,
And well-trained soldiers too;
But at the time when they drew near,
Cash hailed them loudly with a cheer,
And let them have it left and right,
His colours were true blue.
Bravely did he stand his ground,
The bullets flying thick around,
And like a fearless general
He faced his firing foes.
“Surrender, Martin !” loud they cry,
“Never till the hour I die
Said this valiant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

Brave Cash, not caring for his life,
To Hobart came to see his wife,
The constables who lay in wait
Cried, “Martin is in view !”
Some cowards tried to block his way,
But one of them soon lifeless lay,
Their numbers were increasing,
And still did Cash pursue.
And in the street a man rushed out,
Who tried to stop him in his route,
But with a pistol in each hand
He clean shot off his nose.
“Surrender, Cash !” was still their cry,
“Never, till the hour I die
Said this gallant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

O’erpowered and wounded, bleeding, pale,
The Bobbies marched him off to gaol,
And when his trial was brought on
Some hundreds listened by.
And when the Judge, with panting breath
Had told him to prepare for death,
He calmly heard the sentence
With a proud, unflinching eye.
We all have hopes that we shall see
Bold Martin yet at liberty,
That shortly he will be as free
As the ocean wind that blows.
He’s of a good old valiant race,
There’s no one can his name disgrace,
He’s a noble son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

He’s the bravest man that you could choose
From Sydney men or Cockatoos,
And a gallant son of Erin,
Where the sprig of shamrock grows.

Source: The Adventures of Martin Cash: comprising a faithful account of his exploits, while a bushranger under arms in Tasmania, in company with Kavanagh and Jones in the year 1843 by Martin Cash, edited by James Lester Burke. (page 122-123) Hobart Town: “Mercury” Steam Press Office, 1870.