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Botany Bay

[ Roud 3372 ; trad.]

Roy Last sang a fragment of Botany Bay on the 1984 Home-Made Music album of traditional songs and melodeon tunes from Central Suffolk, Who Owns the Game?, which was reissued on CD in 2001 on the Veteran label. John Howson commented in his book Songs Sung in Suffolk:

Transport to a far-off land was once a common punishment for anything from poaching to murder, and the subject provoked many songs. Every early folksong collection seems to have a song about Botany Bay, but this song is now very rare in the oral tradition. It was published as a broadside by Catnach as The Transports, and should not be confused with the Botany Bay with its “Tooral aye…“ refrain, which was not written until 1885. Roy [Last] learned this one (although only a fragment) from his father, Fred last, who used to sing every Saturday night in Rickinghall Cross, a pub long since closed.


Roy Last sings Botany Bay

A story, a story to you I will relate:
A prisoner stood at the bar, his trial for to take.
His trial for to take, my boys, as you will understand,
He’s bound to be transported unto some foreign land.

Brought up by honest parents, brought up to rue the day
That I became a roving blade and kept bad company.
For I became a roving blade and I heard the sailors say,
“Here goes a ship with transport lads, all bound for Botany Bay.”