> A.L. Lloyd > Songs > The Wild Colonial Boy

The Wild Colonial Boy

[ Roud 677 ; Laws L20 ; Ballad Index LL20 ; trad.]

A.L. Lloyd recorded this bushranger ballad for his Riverside LP Australian Bush Songs and a year later for the Wattle album The Banks of the Condamine and Other Bush Songs. Like all tracks of the latter album this was reissued in 1960 on the Topic LP Outback Ballads. A third recording on The Great Australian Legend was reissued in 1994 on the Australian CD The Old Bush Songs. Lloyd wrote on the latter LP's backside:

In bush tradition, and in the folk song revival, this is surely the most widely sung of all bushranger ballads. Who the Wild Colonial Boy was, we do not know, nor whether his native home was Castlemain, Co. Kerry, or ditto in Victoria. Was his name Dowling, Dolan, Doolan, Duggan? Did he “commence his wild career” in 1861, 63, 64? The sundry versions of the ballad do not agree on these and many other points. Nowadays, we generally presume he wasn't a true-life character, but a mythological composite hero, the great archetypal Australian outlaw of the 1860s and 70s. The ballad goes to various tunes, of which the most dismal is the most familiar one, made by an Irish stage comedian, c. 1900. That's not the one we use.

and in the accompanying booklet:

Desperate escaped convicts, Irishmen carrying on the old fight against English authority, men who had lost all the had in the Gold Rush of the 1850's, set the pattern for the “peculiar institution” of bushranging. Some Australians will tell you that a good part of the national character is in the outlaw ballad of The Wild Colonial Boy. Who was the Wild Colonial Boy? In various versions of the song he's named as Jack Doolan, Jack Dowling, Jim Duggan, John Dollard, anyway, J.D. like John Donahue. The day when he “commenced his wild career” is usually given as 1861. Most versions agree that he stuck up the Beechworth mail-coach and robbed Judge McEvoy. Well, there was a Judge Macoboy, and the Beechworth mail-coach was stuck up, but that was by the bushranger Harry Power, and the judge wasn't a passenger. Perhaps the Wild Colonial Boy never existed, and his song is simply a re-make of the ballad about Jack Donahue. Whatever the case, it became something like a rival to Waltzing Matilda for the title of “unofficial national anthem”.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings The Wild Colonial Boy

It's of a wild colonial boy, Jack Dolan was his name,
From the Colony of Victoria, not so far from Castlemain.
He was his father's only son, his mother's pride and joy,
And so dearly did his parents love their wild colonial boy.

When he was sixteen years of age he left his native home,
All through the bush of Australia as an outlaw to roam.
He robbed the wealthy squatters and their stock he did destroy,
And a terror to Australia was the wild colonial boy.

In eighteen hundred and sixty-one he commenced his wild career,
His courage being undaunted and no danger he did fear.
He baled up the Beechworth mail-coach, then he robbed Judge MacEvoy,
Who trembling cold gave up his gold to the wild colonial boy.

He bade the judge, “Good morning,” and he told him to beware,
He'd never robbed a poor man nor one that acted square,
But a judge that would rob a mother of her only pride and joy,
Well, he was a worse outlaw than the wild colonial boy.

One day as he was riding the mountainside along,
Listening to the kookaburra's pleasant laughing song,
He spied three mounted troopers, Kelly, Davis, and Fitzroy,
With a warrant for the capture of the wild colonial boy.

“Surrender now, John Dolan, you see we're three to one,
Surrender in the Queen's name, for you're a plundering son.”
Jack drew his pistol from his belt and he waved the little toy.
“I'll fight but never surrender,” said the wild colonial boy.

He fired at Trooper Kelly and he brought him to the ground,
But in return Bob Davis gave him his mortal wound.
All shattered through the jaws he lay, still firing at Fitzroy,
And that's the way they captured him, the wild colonial boy.

A.L. Lloyd on The Banks of the Condamine

It's of a wild colonial boy, Jack Dolan was his name,
Of poor but honest parents he was born in Castlemaine.
He was his father's only son, his mother's pride and joy,
And so dearly did his parents love their wild colonial boy.

When he was sixteen year of age he left his native home,
All through the bush of Victoria as a bushranger to roam.
They put him in the iron gang in the government employ
He robbed the wealthy squatters and their stock he did destroy,
But never an iron on earth could hold the wild colonial boy.

In sixty-one this daring lad commenced his wild career,
His courage being undaunted and no danger he did fear.
He stuck up the Beechworth mail-coach and he robbed Judge MacEvoy,
Who trembling cold gave up his gold to the wild colonial boy.

He bade the judge, “Good morning,” and he told him to beware,
He'd never robbed a poor man or one who acted square,
But a judge that would rob a mother of her only pride and joy,
Well, he was a worse outlaw than the wild colonial boy.

One day as he was riding the mountainside along,
A-listening to the kookaburra's pleasant laughing song,
He spied three mounted troopers, Kelly, Davis, and Fitzroy,
With a warrant for the capture of the wild colonial boy.

“Surrender now, John Dolan, you see we're three to one,
Surrender in the Queen's name, for you're a plundering son.”
Jack drew his pistol from his belt and he waved the little toy.
“I'll fight but never surrender,” said the wild colonial boy.

He fired at Trooper Kelly and he brought him to the ground,
And in return Bob Davis gave him his mortal wound.
All shattered through the jaws he lay with his pistol an empty toy,
And that's the way they captured him, the wild colonial boy.

Glossary

baled up, stuck up
held up at pistol point
kookaburra
a bird, resembling a kingfisher but with dull plumage, also called “laughing jackass”

Acknowledgements

Lyrics transcribed from The Old Bush Songs by Reinhard Zierke. See also Mark Gregory's quite different verses in his Australian Folk Songs entry.