Monday, May 30, 2011

Bold Jack Donohue


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In Dublin town I was brought up that city of great fame
My parents reared me tenderly there's many did the same
Being a wild colonial boy I was forced to cross the main
And for seven long years in New South Wales to wear a convict's chain

Oh I'd been no longer than six months upon Australian shores
When I turned out as a Tory boy as I'd often done before
There was Macnamara from yonder woods and Captain Mackie too
They were the chief associates of bold Jack Donahoe

As O'Donahoe was taken for a notorious crime
And sentenced to be hanged all on the gallows high
But when he came to Sydney gaol he left them in a stew
For when they came to call the roll they missed Jack Donahoe

As O'Donahoe made his escape to the woods he did repair
Where the tyrants dared not show their face by night and day
And every week in the newspapers there was published something new
Concerning that bold hero boy called brave Jack Donahoe

As O'Donahoe was walking one summer's afternoon
Little was his notion that his death should be so soon
When a sergeant of the horse police discharged his carabine
And loudly called to O'Donahoe to fight or else resign

“It never shall be said of me that Donahue the brave
Surrendered to a policeman or became an Englishman's slave"
For I'll range these woods and valleys like a wolf or kangaroo
Before I'll work for Government said bold Jack Donahoe

Nine rounds the horse policeman fired till at length a fatal ball
He lodged it in O'Donahoe's breast and it caused him to fall
As he closed his mournful eyes to this world he bid adieu
Good people all both great and small pray for Jack Donahoe

Irishman, convict, bushranger and multiple-escapee, Jack Donohue was one of Australia's most famous bushrangers.

From AL Lloyds Old Bush Songs:

Donahue came to Australia from Dublin on the transport “Ann & Amelia” in 1825. An old hand says: “He was only twenty when he arrived here, but he was a second Napoleon. He was short, but a model of muscle and bone... He often said he was never designed for a prisoner and whilst he lived he would be free...” Twice he escaped from the iron gang, and the second time he and his band terrorised the Nepan countryside for a brief two years before he was trapped and shot by the police. The ballad must have been made by an admiring Irish convict shortly after Donahue's death. It has a contempt for the law, a pride in the outlaw's independence, an appreciation of Donahue as the kind of man “who would fight till hell freezes over, and then write on the ice: Come on, you bastards!” It is this spirit which has kept the ballad of Jack Donahue going all these years since the troopers shot him in the Bringilly scrub on September 1st, 1830

The tune used here is taken from the Australian Folk Songs site:

This version collected by Alan Scott from Mr H. Beatty of Hawthorne Qld. In his booklet The Donahoe Ballads gives some 16 tunes that have been collected.

The illustration to this post is the famous pencil drawing of the dead Jack Donohue by Sir TL Mitchell. The original is held in the Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.

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