Martin Cash - Bushranger
Martin Cash was Tasmania's most notorious bushranger although his escapade lasted only a brief 20 months from Boxing Day 1842 until August 29th. 1843 when he was captured in Hobart.
A rebellious Irishmen he spent much of his life in and out of gaol, finally finding his way and passing away peacefully in Hobart in August 1877 at age 69.
Born at Enniscorthy in County Wexford, Ireland in1808 to a comfortably well off family, he achieved a reasonable standard of education and wanted for little. Women were his downfall all his life and after several minor scrapes with the law he was eventually sentenced to seven years transportation to New South Wales at age 18 for attempting to murder a rival suitor for his girlfriend Mary by shooting him in the upper chest after seeing the two lovers through a window.
While this is Cash's account as documented in his autobiography, the official records show he was transported for house-breaking. Whatever, he was placed aboard the transport ship 'Marquis of Huntley' and sailed from Cook harbour arriving at the 40 year old settlement of Sydney Town on the 10th of February 1828 to serve his sentence.
Less notorious prisoners were assigned to new settlers in the infant colony and Cash went to a George Bowman in the Hunter Valley some 150km. north-west of Sydney as a stockman. He served his time there and received his Ticket-Of-Leave, continuing his work and striking up a relationship with a Bessie Clifford with whom he shared a house.
Around this time he became involved with a rustler named Boodie who asked for his assistance in branding some cattle. Whether Cash did or didn't know the cattle were stolen doesn't matter. They were observed branding the cattle and Boodie admitted to Cash they were not his. Fearful of his freedom, Martin and Bessie decided to quickly sell up and move to Tasmania for a new start. They sailed aboard the Francis Freeling' on the 10th. February 1837, exactly seven years after Cash arrived at Botany Bay.
After a few months in Hobart the couple moved around southern Tasmania finding work at various properties as farm workers until Cash again got into trouble with the police and was sentenced to another seven years for stealing from his employer.
He escaped briefly but was recaptured and an additional 18 months was added to his sentence. Undeterred, he escaped again and this time nearly made it to Melbourne with Bessie before he was again captured and another 2 years was added. He now faced over 10 years in prison and was considered a difficult prisoner. He was transferred from Hobart to Port Arthur, on the Tasman Peninsula south-east of Hobart and a maximum security prison. Notorious for its harsh conditions and considered escape-proof, it could only be reached by ship or a narrow isthmus across which fierce dogs were chained within a few inches of one another and armed guards were posted. The waters both side were dangerous and shark infested (or so the prisoners were told), and escape was impossible.
At Port Arthur Cash met and became friendly with Lawrence Kavenagh and George Jones and they planned an elaborate escape which they achieved on 26th December 1842 by tying their clothes to their heads and swimming across the 'shark infested' waters.
They immediately turned to bushranging and sought out properties of the rich, homesteads, hotels and unsuspecting travellers creating fear and consternation across the the state. They were involved in several dramatic shoot-outs which only enhanced their notorious reputation.
Their staus grew amongst the lesser classes whom they left alone, and their deeds were seen musch as a Robin Hood adventure, where they took from the rich, but didn't distribute to the poor. They earned the nicknames of 'Cash, Kavenagh and Jones' or Cash & Co. (These days it might be 'Cash & Carry'). The police were desperate to catch them and restore order.
Word reached Cash that his beloved Bessie was having an affair with a Joe Pratt and he determined to go into Hobart and kill them both. Whether this was an elaborate trap set by the police or not it drew Cash and Kavenagh to the city on the evening of the 29th August 1843. They dressed as sailors to avoid detection, but were soon recognised. Kavenagh was injured in the ensuing fight and Cash ran into Melville St where he not only encountered the Prisoners Barracks, but Police Constable Peter Winstanley, who came out of the Old Commodore hotel to see what the commotion was. In his attempt to halt the fleeing and armed Martin Cash he was fatally shot. Other police, and several civilians eventually restrained Cash after a fierce battle and he appeared before Justice Montagu on the 14th. of September where both he and Kavenagh were sentenced to death.
Within an hour of their being sentenced, both were reprieved and re-sentenced to imprisonment on Norfolk Island, an isolated penal settlement east of Sydney in the Pacific Ocean.
Kavenagh was eventually hung after another abortive escape attempt, but Cash seemed to see the error of his ways and resolved to become a model prisoner. In 1852 he was appointed a 'Trustee' and given the responsibility of overseeing other prisoners. On the 24th of March 1854 he married a local woman, Mary Bennett. who worked as a domestic servant to one of the government officials.
When convict transportation ceased in 1853, a decision was made to close Norfolk Island and Cash received a 'Ticket-Of-Leave' on the 19th. of September. He and Mary moved back to Hobart where he took up a post as gardener at the Government Domain in preference to that of Constable. In 1855 they had a son, Martin, and on the 24th of June, 1856 he was granted a conditional pardon which was confirmed as a full pardon on the 11th. July 1863. He was now 55 years of age and a free man.
For the next four years they lived in New Zealand where they did fairly well and, upon returning to Hobart, they bought 60 acres at Glenorchy on the banks of the Montrose Creek. It was while retired here that Cash wrote his memoirs published under the title of 'Martin Cash, the bushranger of Van Diemans Land in 1843'.
Pete Wilkins 2003

Other reading:
'Bail Up'. by Pamela Graham
'For the Term of his Natural Life', Rolf Boldrewood.
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