Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Henry's Downfall


Come all you wild and wicked youths wherever you may be,
I pray you give attention and listen unto me,
The fate of us poor transports as you shall understand
The hardships we do undergo upon Van Diemen's Land.

Young men be aware
Lest you fall into a snare.

My parents reared me tenderly, good learning gave to me,
But bad companions did me spoil, which proved my destiny;
In Lancashire I was bred, near Bolton town did dwell,
My name it is young Henry, in Chorley known full well.

I and five more went one night into a squire's park,
In expectation of some game- the night being very dark,
But to our great misfortune they trepanned us with speed,
And sent us off to Lancashire which made our hearts to bleed.

It was at the March assizes we then did repair,
Like Job we stood with patience to hear our sentence there;
There being some old offenders, which made our case go bad,
My sentence was for fourteen years - I was quickly sent on board.

The ship that bore us from the land, the Speedwell was her name,
For full five months and upwards, boys, we ploughed the foaming main,
Neither land nor harbour could we see - believe me it is true
All around us black water, above the sky of blue.

I often looked behind me towards my native shore
That cottage of contentment that I never shall see more,
Nor yet my own dear father who tore his hoary hair,
Likewise my tender mother, the womb that did me bear.

On the fifteenth of September we soon did make the land,
At four o'clock we went on shore, all chained hand to hand,
To see our fellow-sufferers I felt I can't tell how -
Some chained unto a barrow and others to a plough.

No shoes nor stocking they had on, no hat had they to wear,
But a harden frock and linsey drawers - their feet and hands were bare.
They chained them up two and two, like horses in a team;
Their driver he stood over them with his Malacca cane.

We had a female servant, Rosanna was her name,
For fourteen years a convict was, from Liverpool she came,
We often told our tales of love when we were blest at home,
Now we are rattling of our chains in a foreign land to roam.

Then I was marched off to Sydney town, with little more delay,
Where a gentleman bought me his book-keeper to be;
I took this occupation, my master liked me well,
My joys were out of measure, more than my tongue can tell.

Described by Ron Edwards as "a little-known variant of the popular transportation ballad Van Diemen's Land" from a broadside at the Mitchell Library and set by Ron to "one of the most attractive of the Van Diemen's Land tunes".

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