By Pauline Murphy
Lawrence Kavenagh was born in Avoca, Co. Wicklow in 1810 and his life of criminal infamy began when he was just 18. In 1828, Lawrence was arrested for burglary in Dublin and for this crime he was transported to Australia. In March, 1829, Lawrence arrived in a convict camp near Sydney. He broke several rules in the camp and after one too many whippings, the Wicklow man deicided to take leave of his shackles. Lawrence abscounded into the bush but months later he was arrested in Campbelltown and sent to the notorious penal colony at Norfolk Island.
Lawrence spent many years on Norfolk Island before he was transferred to Sydney’s Hyde Park Prison Barracks from where he escaped in 1842.
A reward was offered for his capture. The reward notice described Lawrence as “5ft 7ins with a ruddy complexion, brown hair, blue eyes and flat nose. He is missing his little finger on the right hand. He has a scar on the back of the left hand and a scar in the centre of his forehead.”
Lawrence was captured just weeks after his escape and he was sent to Van Diemans Land. There he befriended two other convicts, Martin Cash and George Jones, and during the Christmas of 1842 the trio escaped into the bush.
Cash was a native of Enniscorthy, Co. Wexford, who was transported to Australia when he a shot a man who was trying to woo his sweetheart. Jones was a Londoner who was transported to Australia at the age of 14 when he was convicted of stealing from his employer.
For days the escaped convicts travelled in the bush until they came across a stretch of water at Eaglehawk Neck. With their clothes bundled on their heads, the escapees took to the water. They battled strong waves which took their bundled clothes but, they made it to the otherside – albeit without their clothes!