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‘a fine noble fellow poor Kennedy was’ – Thomas Huxley

Through the swell and the spray on the twentieth day
Sailed the barque “Tam O’Shanter” that May,
And behind in her wake, the corvette “Rattlesnake”,
As they swept into Rockingham Bay.

Thirteen men the boats bore, and the stroke of each oar
Brought them on to that forbidding shore,
Where they set out to walk to the tip of Cape York –
All that lay in between to explore.

They were bushmen and tough and would brook no rebuff
As they conquered the rugged and rough
Ridges ragged and green, steep and split with ravine,
And descended each perilous bluff.

But soon rations grew short, with their strength the miles bought,
And with peril the enterprise fraught.
With their goal growing dim, faces hopeless and grim,
Dreams of glory were coming to naught.

Over hellish terrain, all done in, wracked with pain,
Struggling on with but honour to gain,
Ever northward they trekked, bodies starving and wrecked;
Now their struggle was clearly in vain.

From the swamps and the heat there would be no retreat,
And but two left to witness defeat.
One now close to his end – Jackey Jackey, his friend,
And the tragedy almost complete.

After such a cruel test where he gave of his best,
From a wild black, a spear pierced his breast.
Twenty miles from the cape, by the river – “Escape”,
Edmond Kennedy went to his rest.