Devils Island
Winner of the Declan Affley Songwriting Award Canberra National Festival 1994

The afternoon was fading as the boat pulled in to landing
A flock of seagulls following this rusty creaking boat
A string of shackled prisoners silent, sick from hunger
Shivered as the island's winter winds began to blow

Native northern tribesmen sent to devils’ island
Victims of some pioneering penal prejudice
Cramped in freezing cells with filth and soil And meagre blankets
A nest of rats would never live in squalour such as this

There on devils’ island
Prisoners of the crown
There on devils’ island
Far from tribal ground

1883 the history books will not remember
Influenza fever took it's sudden deadly hold
Spreading like a bushfire meeting no resistance
Fanned by the aching undernourishment and cold

Ten a day were taken from the cells on devil's island
And placed in unmarked graves
Without a name without a word
Finally released from all this suffering and torment
Their spirits flying northwards Like the winter wading birds

A hundred years or more have aged the sands of rottnest island
The treacherous old gaol is now a modernised motel
The bad old days are played down
But all around the mainland
Natives of this country are still dying in their cells

The afternoon was fading as the boat pulled into landing
Evening shadows conjure up some distant silhouettes
Hard to believe there was a dark side to this beauty
So much to remember yet so easy to forget


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