Wednesday, March 02, 2011
All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.
Martin Cash, George Jones and Lawrence Kavenagh (in paper form). The Guard Station, Eaglehawk Neck. January 2011.
Martin Cash was Tasmania’s best know convict bushranger. He attracted fame for twice escaping from Port Arthur, which was at the time perhaps the World’s most notorious penal colony. As a smart chap, he cashed in with an autobiography that was released in 1870 – The Adventures of Martin Cash – which was kind of like a cross between The Wire, Prison Break and Glee.
As with many famous Tasmanians, he was born in Enniscorthy, Ireland. His autobiography has him entering a life of crime when he shot a man in a jealous rage for making advances on his sweetheart, but records list his original crime as house breaking. Sentenced to seven years penal transportation, he arrived in Sydney in 1828.
He quickly received his ticket of leave and worked as a stockman in New South Wales, but soon was suspected of cattle stealing and did as many crims did, and relocated to Tasmania. It wasn’t long before he got himself in trouble again and got nicked for stealing from an employer. Sentenced to seven years in a Hobart prison, he briefly escaped and got another 18 months. Seemingly not enjoying his time inside, he escaped again (but was caught, again) and copped another years at Port Arthur for his troubles.
Never a man to learn, his first attempt at escape from Port Arthur failed. His effort did see him manage to swim across the ‘shark-infested’ – i.e. there are occasionally sharks found there – Eaglehawk Neck, the first person known to have done so. This experience would later prove useful as it earned him a lot of credibility from other prisoners. I’m sure that Martin assailed his fellow cons with tales of barehandedly strangling three Great Whites, punching a Mako, kneeing eleven gummies.
On Boxing Day 1842, the three you can see above took off from a work party and journeyed up to Eaglehawk Neck. Braving the swarming sharks, they paddled with their clothes tied in bundles above their heads. Alas, when they found themselves on the other side, all three of them had lost their bundles and were as naked as they day they were born.
As renowned (if not very good) thieves, they pinched some clothes and began a twenty month spree of bushranging, robbing anyone who happened to cross their path. Unfortunately, Cash’s Irish temperament got him into trouble yet again when he discovered that his missus was set up with another fellow in Hobart.
His honour tarnished, Cash swore to kill them both, but was quickly spotted. As all such tales end, a gunfight ensued. After a copper was shot and killed by Cash, he was overpowered and tried for the murder.
Cash was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging, but somehow scored a last minute reprieve. Sick of the sight of him, they sent to Norfolk Island, 2399 kilometres away!
Once there, it didn’t take Martin long to get his ticket of leave. He then went back to Hobart and got a job in the Royal Hobart Botanical Gardens. He then moved to New Zealand where he kept several brothels.
All’s well that ends well!