Almanac Poetry: For Bad Behaviour

For Bad Behaviour


Van Diemen’s Land, about 1848:
my four times great-grandfather, Thomas,
gave one of his sons, Harry
(younger brother of my three times great-grandfather, James),
a belting,
because he wagged school to attend
a triple public hanging
outside the Launceston Gaol.



(Source: Harry Densley recounting an incident from his childhood, Ballan Times, Victoria, “Early Ballan. No. 5”, by Jas. H. Walsh, 1/2/1917)

Acknowledgement: poem previously appeared in Southerly journal, 2019.


Van Diemen’s Land stamp, 1853. Source: Wikimedia Commons.





More poetry and prose from Kevin Densley HERE



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Kevin Densley is a graduate of both Deakin University and The University of Melbourne. He has taught writing and literature in numerous Victorian universities and TAFES. He is a poet and writer-in-general. His fifth book-length poetry collection, Please Feed the Macaws ... I'm Feeling Too Indolent, was published in late 2023 by Ginninderra Press. He is also the co-author of ten play collections for young people, as well as a multi Green Room Award nominated play, Last Chance Gas, which was published by Currency Press. Other writing includes screenplays for educational films.


  1. Luke Reynolds says

    Best excuse to wag school I’ve ever heard!

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Maybe – but it came at a price!

  3. French used to get hundreds at a Saturday afternoon guillotining. Wonder if they contemplated Monday night sessions? Even though it was a school night.

  4. Kevin Densley says

    Don’t know, Dips! They might’ve tried Monday nights but found the interest lacking!

  5. “a belting” – that term brings back some memories of my Catholic primary school.

  6. DBalassone says

    Marvellous Kevin. Harry paid a price for his curiosity, it seems. I wonder what the deed was that led to the three being hung?

  7. Kevin Densley says

    Smokie – yes, I can understand that. My school background was along the same lines.

    Damian – thanks for the comments. Regarding the deed … at one point, some years ago, I did research public hangings in Van Diemen’s Land/Tasmania (which took place until 1856) via NLA’s TROVE archive, but can’t exactly recall the crimes involved in this instance.

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