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Bold Jack Donahue

[ Roud 611 ; AFS 9 ; Ballad Index MA063 ; Bodleian Roud 611 ; trad.]

The earliest Donahue ballad appeared in The Sydney Gazette September 7, 1830. On January 2, 1825 Jack Donahue arrived at Sydney Cove on board the convict ship Ann and Amelia. He had been sentenced to transportation for life on a charge “intent to commit felony.” He escaped and wrought on the planters and police until on September 1, 1830 Donahue, with his companions William Webber and John Warmsley, was ambushed by a party of police near Bringelly. Donahue was shot dead, while Webber and Walmsley escaped.

A.L. Lloyd sang this ballad in the 1950's on his 78rpm record Bold Jack Donahue / The Banks of the Condamine, on the Riverside LP Australian Bush Songs, and on the Wattle album Banks of the Condamine and Other Bush Songs. Like all tracks of this album, the latter recording was reissued in 1960 on the Topic LP Outback Ballads. In 1994, it was also included in the Australian CD The Old Bush Songs. A.L. Lloyd commented in the album's sleeve notes:

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 1, 1830. As good ballads will, Bold Jack Donahue exists in many versions. This one comes in the main from Bob Bell, rabbiter, of Condobolin, New South Wales, who has gone wherever the good-timers go.

Trevor Lucas recorded this ballad for his second Australian solo album of 1966, Overlander, and on November 15, 1970 with Fotheringay for the never released BBC sessions for their “Sound of the Seventies” programme. (On that occasion Fotheringay also recorded Gypsy Davey, Eppie Moray, and Lowlands of Holland.) Finally, in 2008 Fledg'ling Records published a version of Fotheringay's Bold Jack Donahue from the 1970 Sound Techniques studio recordings on the Fotheringay 2 CD.

Louis Killen recorded Bold Jack Donahue in 1968 for his 1973 LP Sea Chanteys.

Danny Spooner sang Bold Jack Donaghue in 1978 on Gordon McIntyre and his Larrikin album Revived and Relieved!. This track was also included in 1982 on the Larrikin collection of Australian songs, Bushwackers and City Slickers.

See also the Digital Tradition study thread Bold Jack Donohue at the Mudcat Café.

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings Bold Jack Donahue on The Old Bush Songs

Come all you gallant bushrangers that gallop on the plain,
That's going to live in slavery, or wear the convict chain.
Attention pay to what I say, and value it if you do,
I will relate the matchless fate of Bold Jack Donahue.

Bold Donahue was taken all for a notorious crime
And sentenced to be hanged upon the gallows tree so high.
But when they brought him to Bathurst Gaol, he left them in a stew,
For when they came to call the roll, they missed Jack Donahue.

When Donahue made his escape, to the bush he went straight way.
The squatters they were all afraid to travel by night and day
And every day in the newspapers, they brought out something new,
Concerning that bold bushranger they called Jack Donahue.

As he and his companions rode out one afternoon,
Not thinking that the pains of death would overtake him soon,
To their surprise the horse police well on they came in view
And in double quick time they did advance to take Jack Donahue.

“Oh Donahue, Donahue, throw down your carabine.
Or do you intend to fight us all and will you not resign?”
“To surrender to such cowardly dogs is a thing I never would do,
This day I'll fight with all me might”, says Bold Jack Donahue.

“It never shall be said of me that Donahue the brave
Surrendered to a policeman or became an Englishman's slave.
I'd rather roam the bush so wide like a dingo or kangaroo
Than work one day for the government,” says Bold Jack Donahue.

The sergeant and the corporal, they did their men divide,
Some fired at him from behind and some from every side.
The sergeant and the corporal, they both fired at him too
And a rifle bullet pierced the heart of Bold Jack Donahue.

Nine rounds he fired and nine men shot before that fatal ball
That pierced his heart and made him smart and caused him for to fall.
And as he closed his mournful eyes, he bid the world adieu,
Saying, “Convicts all, pray for the soul of Bold Jack Donahue.”

Trevor Lucas sings Bold Jack Donahue on Overlander

Come all you gallant bushrangers who gallop on the plains,
Refuse to live in slavery, or wear the convict chains.
Oh, attention pay to what I say, and value it if you do,
For I will relate the matchless tale of Bold Jack Donahue.

Now Donahue was taken all for a notorious crime
And sentenced to be hanged upon the gallows tree so high.
But when they took him to Bathurst Gaol, he left them in a stew,
For when they came to call the roll, they missed Jack Donahue.

Now when Donahue made his escape, to the bush he went straight way.
The squatters they were all afraid to travel by night and by day
And every day in the newspapers, they brought out something new,
Concerning that bold bushranger that they called Jack Donahue.

One day as he was riding the mountainside alone,
A-listening to the cockaburra as happy laughing scorn,
When all he spied the horse police well on came up into view
And in double quick time they did advance to take Jack Donahue.

“Oh Donahue, oh Donahue, throw down your carabines.
Or do you intend to fight us all and will you not resign?”
“To surrender to such cowardly dogs is a thing that I never would do,
For this day I'll fight with all of me might”, cried Bold Jack Donahue.

Well, the sergeant and the corporal, their men they did divide,
Some fired at him from behind and some from every side.
Oh, the sergeant and the corporal, they both fired at him too
And a rifle bullet pierced the heart of Bold Jack Donahue.

Well, nine rounds he fired and nine men down before that fatal ball
Which pierced his heart and made him smart and caused him for to fall.
And as he closed his mournful eyes, why he bid the world adieu,
Saying, “Convicts all, pray for the soul of Bold Jack Donahue.”

Fotheringay's BBC recording of Bold Jack Donahue

Come all you sons of liberty and everyone besides,
I'll sing to you a story that will fill you with surprise.
Concerning of a bold bushranger, Jack Donahue was his name
And he scorned to humble to the crown, bound down with iron chain.

Now Donahue was taken all for a notorious crime
And sentenced to be hanged upon the gallows tree so high.
But when they took him to Bathurst Gaol, he left them in a stew,
For when they came to call the roll, they missed Jack Donahue.

Now when Donahue made his escape, to the bush he went straight way.
The squatters they were all afraid to travel by night and by day
And every day in the newspapers, they brought out something new,
Concerning that bold bushranger that they called Jack Donahue.

Now one day as he was riding the mountainside alone,
Not thinking that the pains of death would overtake him soon.
When all he spied the horse police, well on they came up into view
And in double quick time they did advance to take Jack Donahue.

“Oh Donahue, Donahue, throw down your carbine.
Or do you intend to fight us all and will you not resign?”
“To surrender to such cowardly dogs is a thing that I never would do,
For this day I'll fight with all of me might”, cried Bold Jack Donahue.

Now the sergeant and the corporal, their men they did divide,
Some fired at him from behind and some from every side.
The sergeant and the corporal, they both fired at him too
And a rifle bullet pierced the heart of Bold Jack Donahue.

Now nine rounds he fired and nine men down before that fatal ball
That pierced his heart and made him smart and caused him for to fall.
And as he closed his mournful eyes, he bid the world adieu,
Saying, “Convicts all, pray for the soul of Bold Jack Donahue.”

Acknowledgements

Lyrics transcribed from A.L. Lloyd's and Trevor Lucas' singing. See also Mark Gregory's Australian Folk Songs entry.