© Max Merckenschlager

Winner, 2008 ‘Bush Poetry Festival’, Dunedoo, NSW.

Martin Cash was one of the few Port Arthur convicts ever to make good an escape past the infamous dog line at Eaglehawk Neck. In fact, he did it twice. He was also the only convict outlaw to die in his own bed of old age…

Y’ worrship, said I to the beak, a fool I was t’ bolt!
If otthers seek m’ counsel, I’ll encourage ’em t’ halt.
The judge forgave me lashes, lads, although I’d passed th’ neck.
Y’ asks me now to run wit’ yous, and Cash says What the heck!

But listens t’ me Kavanagh, and heeds m’ caution, Jones;
at Eaglehawk th’ar savage dogs, who’d love some Irish bones.
In tethered line across the neck, they’ll signal in a flash
the passing of us "magpies", says the convict Martin Cash.

We’ve bolted lads! Now here’s m’ plan: we’ll take our time t’ walk,
and when their hunt is cold and spent, we’ll cross at Eaglehawk.
They’ll t’ink we passed them days before — a singlemoinded dash.
’tis toiming what’ll save us! says the son of Mrs Cash.

We’re in t’ hills begorrah, and below us at the neck,
it seems that every soldier has been ordered out on deck.
’tis clear they t’inks we’re still to cross — I corrse them to a man!
But listen, lads, says Martin Cash, oi’ve got another plan!

Oh aye, it’s been a struggle in the undergrowth, ’tis true;
our clothes are torn and tattered, and our hides are black and blue.
th’ scrub’s a wall of prickles, sharp as stubble on y’r chins,
but softer ’tis than flogger’s cat!, the Irish convict grins.

We’ll wade across wit’ camouflage, beneath some rafts of kelp.
Th’ dogs may see us passing, but they’ll have no cause to yelp.
We won’t present them Fusil Jocks wit’ targets f’r their sports,
like Billy in his ’roo disguise!, young Martin Cash retorts.

And faith, t’ saints are with us, lads; the night’s as black as sin!
Be loively now, and keep one eye a-rovin’ for a fin.
’tis said (and who’s to doubt it) if a starving mongrel dies,
they feeds ’im t’ their pointer pets!, the crafty convict lies.

We’ve done it lads, t’ saints be praised! But faith — y’ve lost y’r clothes!
Whoever heard of bushrangers all stripped from nape to toes?
We’ll not be needin’ pistols when we stops a passin’ porrse,
says Martin Cash, one look at us will shock the divel worrse.

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