The Very First

© Vic Jefferies

Paddy ORourke, or so goes the talk,
was the very first man to be sent
a world away to Botany Bay
for stealing a shilling to pay his rent.

Twas Judge Mcveigh, or so they say,
sent dear Paddy across the sea,
and neither old McVeigh nor Paddy
had any idea where that might beĶĶ

Twelve years! Twelve years you shall serve and not a single moment less,
that I most earnestly hope and pray will curb your wickedness!
Now, you shall be the very first whom I send by Royal Decree,
to that place which I believe shall be known asĶplease excuse me.
Clerk! Where is that accursed place? What is that blasted name you say?
Oh yes - the place I send you now shall be known as Botany Bay.

South by west then south again were the captains sailing orders,
south by west then south again towards the worlds farthest borders.
Then south by south and south again through a faintly charted ocean
till there were amongst us those who in panic voiced the notion;
our captain was insane or else the sun had touched his mind
for as we sailed on southward, so we left all hope behind.

When at last the anchors dropped and the sails were safely furled
they brought us forth from our foetid holds to see our lonely world.
Oh, the sight that there did greet us, nought but bush and burning sand,
beneath a sky stretched forever above an endless land
and as we gazed from those silent decks at our isolation,
who amongst us could suspect we were the lifeblood of a nation.

For every man who stood there and every mothers daughter,
saw nothing more than a prison whose walls were bush and water.
Where we were we did not know nor if wed live to leave again,
we only knew we had survived, albeit bound in chain.
Then in every heart there grew - as we stared at that awful scene -
a determination we would live to see our homelands green.

But now from where it is I sleep beneath these vast eternal skies
still I hear my companions weep and I hear their tortured cries;
I feel the sting of the lash; hear the rattle of rusting chain;
I see the nation that has grown from our misery and our pain.
To those of you who would judge us still - we who were less than slaves-
we would ask you to remember, Australia is built upon our graves.