Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bound For Van Diemen's Land

Tune: traditional
Arrangement: Coope, Boyes and Simpson/Thompson

Non-flash audio for iPhone, iPad etc

Come all you gallant poachers,
That ramble void of care,
That walk out on a moonlight night
With dog and gun and snare.
By the keepers of the land, my boys,
One night we were trepanned,
And for fourteen years transported
Unto Van Dieman's land.

Bound for Van Dieman's land, brave boys,
Far, far across the sea;
If you don't stand with cap in hand,
Transported you will be.

And as we sail, blows wild the gale,
Dark shadows guard the grill;
They try in vain our minds to chain,
Our thoughts of freedom kill,
And as we sulk in convict hulk,
Aye, shackled feet and hand,
But men be free who poachers be
Bound for Van Dieman's land.

Oh, if I had a thousand pounds
All laid out in my hand,
I'd give it all for liberty
If that I could command;
Once more to Ireland I'd return,
And be a happy man,
And bid adieu to poaching
And to Van Dieman's Land.

The second verse is from Jock Purdon's version of the song, which was arranged by Coope Boyes and Simpson to the tune used here (Jock of Hazledean) and the chorus added. The first and third verses are from better-known traditional versions. The end result falls somewhere between fakesong and the folk process in action. I include it here as a song worth singing. Lots of discussion and various versions to be found here. The full lyrics to Jock Purdon's variation are on Mudcat.


  1. The line that stood out for me was 'dark shadows guard the grill'. At first I was picturing a barred cage like in a gaol, but on reflection, I think the grill was more likely at the top of the cell, wasn't it, opening onto the deck. So what are the dark shadows? The guards, I guess, that shout down all sorts of threats and abuse to try to intimidate and subjugate their charges - with varying degrees of success. It would seem these guards are generally heard but not seen - at least, not beyond their shadows.

    By the way, what's the difference between a 'fake song' and a 'folk song'?

  2. Who else sings this song? I heard a great rendition on Live Ireland but didn't catch the band's name.

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