Then flogged em off behind the pub so I could buy some
bloody grub to feed the kids and wife.
They adn’t ate for firty arrs wiv rumbling guts ‘n’ aches.
Saw the tears roll darn the cheek
fer yet another bleeding week
wivart some bread or cakes.
Worked me bum off day ‘n’ night to make a bob or two.
Ad a shilling left for rent
wiv all the rest already spent…
didn’t know what else ter bleeding do.
Couldn’t bear ter see ‘em starve or ‘ear the baby weep.
So like a little ‘ungry mouse
I snuck inter ‘is Lordship’s ouse
while ee was fast asleep.
Some bastard at the Bull ’n’ Bush seed me do the deal.
Ee recognised the silverware;
ad the allmark to compare….
and so me kids never got that meal.
They cuffed me ‘ands behind me back and threw me in a cell.
They put me in the Bailey dock;
and kept me under key and lock,
then sent me darn ter hell.
They said I’d ang at Tyburn, but then they changed their mind.
Instead they give me seven years
of labour ard wiv sweat and tears…
cos they was really kind.
Wivvin a week I’m in an ulk ‘n’ off ter Noo Sarth Wales.
They beats yer ard ‘n’ whips yer bad,
sends yer nearly effing mad
inside them floatin’ gaols.
I gets there March of 1812 and lives me life in chains.
It urts to work ‘n’ urts to walk
and even urts to bloody talk,
so few of us complains.
Just fer looking sideways, the bloody cat begins to swing.
Yer’ll take an undred lashes straight,
‘ide the pain and ‘ide the ‘ate;
make art it doesn’t sting.
They puts me in a chain gang ter build a road across the range.
We cut the rocks and axe the trees,
break our backs and bust our knees,
in country very strange.
The soldiers eye us like an awk and watch ar bodies bleed.
They see the shackles tear the skin,
‘anging flesh on bloody shin,
while ‘ungry mossies feed.
It’s scary in the blue ‘ills where the black men often creep.
We see their faces in the stones,
feel their spirit in the bones;
worry as we try ter get ter sleep.
So comes another cruel year of labour for the crarn.
Of ‘acking scrub ‘n’ felling gum,
beggin’ for a tot of rum
to keep the fever an the anger darn.
Finally me time ‘as come and once again I’m free.
I’ll ‘ed ome to me kids and wife,
try to lead an ‘onest life,
show ‘em all what sort of man I’ll be.
But when I gets to Lunnon Tarn, what was a man to do.
The wife ad shacked up with the Lord
oo’d fallen on ‘is bleeding sword
and died at Waterloo.
Ee’d fancied er right from the start and ad no bleedin’ kid.
E’ed left ‘er every bloody fing,
gold, silver, diamond ring,
plus abart a million bleeding quid.
I’m told she lives near Leicester Square with servants at her call.
That all my kids are proper fed,
educated, proper bred,
finely dressed and always walking tall.
I only nicked a spoon or two, perhaps a fork and knife.
I could’ve saved me seven years
and rarnd abart a million tears,
if only I ad let ‘im ‘av me wife.
(c) Copyright 2013 Spencer Ratcliff
“I am a retired international journalist now writing poetry, fictional novels and short stories. I have two major Australian awards for my poetry.
I was born and raised near London and was inspired to write this poem after many years of living in Australia and studying Australian ‘convict history’.” – Spencer
You can visit Spencer at SpencerRatcliff.com