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Jim Jones at Botany Bay

[ Roud 5478 ; AFS 50 ; Ballad Index PBB096 ; trad.]

The transportation ballad Jim Jones at Botany Bay was probably written around 1830 as it mentions Jack Donahue, a bush ranger since 1825 until he was shot in 1830. It is often sung to a tune from Australian Mick Slocum.

Ewan MacColl sang Jim Jones at Botany Bay in 1957 on his Australian EP with A.L. Lloyd, Convicts and Currency Lads. A.L. Lloyd recorded it in 1971 for the album The Great Australian Legend. He noted:

Charles Macalister, who drove bullock-teams in south-eastern New South Wales in the 1840s, included the text of this remarkable convict ballad in his book of reminiscences, Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South (Goulburn, N.S.W, 1907). Otherwise, we'd never have known it. Macalister said it was sung to the tune of Irish Molly O, a vague title covering several melodies. The one used here is nowadays the most usual for Jim Jones. It appeared on a Sydney broadside in the 1950s.

and in the accompanying booklet:

The Australian likes to think of himself as casual, independent, tough. For casualness, they tell of a station hand taking an after-lunch nap by the stockyard rails. A deadly snake is making for him. A fellow shouts: “Hey Snow, there's a snake by your foot.” Snow opens one eye and says: “Which foot?” Take independence. An old swagman is tramping across the empty plain with his blanket-roll. Up drives a wealthy sheep-owner in his car, asks: “D'you want a lift?” The swaggie says: “No. Open your own flamin' gates.” As for toughness, here's a pioneer's report, from the early days in New South Wales, on the flogging of convicts:

On two occasions I saw men, bleeding as they were, deliberately spit, after the punishment, in the flogger's face. One of them told Black Francis he couldn't flog hard enough to kill a butterfly.

Black Francis was the flogger at Goulburn Gaol in the 1830's until someone shot him at Run o' Water Creek. The grim song Jim Jones is from around that time, and perhaps the man who made it knew Black Francis. The composition of the song may be dated by its reference to the bushranger Jack Donahue, who escaped the gallows and took to the bush in 1828, and was shot and killed by the mounted police near Campbelltown, N.S.W. on 1 September 1830. The song tells us much of the hardships of the old penal settlements, and of the feelings of the men transported from England to a strange, as yet unmade world.

Martyn Wyndham-Read sang Jim Jones at Botany Bay in 1963 on his Australian album with Brian Mooney and David Lumsden, Moreton Bay, and in 1992 on his Fellside album Mussels on a Tree.

Doug Owens sang it in 1964 live at Melbourne Town Hall, a recording of which was included on the album Australian Folk Night.

John Kirkpatrick and Sue Harris sang Jim Jones in 1976 on their Topic album Among the Many Attractions at the Show Will Be a Really High Class Band. They noted:

We owe this Australian convict song to Charles Macalister, a bullock-driver of New South Wales in the mid-19th century, who quoted it in his memoirs. Pinched from The Original Bushwackers and Bullockies Bush Band while they were in England in 1974. These traditional words were put to a new tune by Mick Slocum, accordionist with the band.

Ian Robb and Hang the Piper sang Jim Jones in 1979 on their Folk-Legacy album Ian Robb and Hang the Piper. Ian noted:

I first heard this short, but extremely powerful transportation song sung by Dave Parry, one of my fellow “Friends of Fiddler's Green”. He referred me back to his source, John Kirkpatrick, and also mentioned that, according to Martyn Wyndham-Read, the song is also sung, to a different tune, in Australia. It couldn't be a better tune than this one, so I haven't bothered to look further. I find the last verse particularly intriguing, as it is not common to find such unashamed bitterness and hatred expressed in a song in the first person. Perhaps that is why the song has such impact.

The New High Level Ranters sang Jim Jones in 1982 on their eponymous Topic album The New High Level Ranters. They noted:

A transportation song from Australia to a tune that Pete [Wood] prefers, although imperfectly remembered, originally written by Mick Slocom of Melbourne. Historians would rightly quibble about the temporal juxtaposition of the transport fleets and The Bold Jack Donahue. However, the sentiments and feel of the song are right.

Jill & Bernard Blackwell sang Botany Bay in 1986 in their Fellside album Adventures of Notion.

Calico sang Jim Jones in Botany Bay in 1988 on the musical tribute to Australia's first settlers, Beyond the Sea.

Martin Carthy recorded Jim Jones in Botany Bay—set to a traditional tune—for his 1998 album Signs of Life. He noted:

I always thought that Jim Jones was an English as well as an Australian song, but it didn't take that many conversations with snarling Melbourne chums to convince me otherwise. It really is a mighty song. Anon strikes again.

He also sang it in 2002 live at the 23rd Annual Sea Music Festival at Mystic Seaport.

Martin Young sang Jim Jones at Botany Bay in 2001 as the title track of his CD Botany Bay.

Mawkin:Causley sang Jim Jones at Botany Bay in 2008 on their Navigator album Cold Ruin.

Damien Barber and Mike Wilson sang Jim Jones at Botany Bay in 2009 on their CD Under the Influence. They credited Graham Moore as their source.

Gavin Davenport sang Jim Jones in Botany Bay in 2013 on his CD The Bone Orchard and on his digital download single Dead Weight.

John Jones sang Jim Jones in 2015 on his Westpark album Never Stop Moving.

John Roberts and Debra Cowan sang Jim Jones in 2015 on their Golden Hind CD Ballads Long & Short. They noted:

A bitter little song of transportation to the penal colony in Botany Bay. Mick Slocum, of the Original Bushwackers Band, wrote this tune for it which became much more widespread when the band toured England in the early 1970s. Even Bob Dylan recorded it!

Lyrics

A.L. Lloyd sings Jim Jones at Botany Bay

Oh, listen for a moment, lads, and hear me tell me tale,
How o'er the sea from England's shore I was obliged to sail.
The jury says: “He's guilty, sir,” and says the judge, says he:
“For life, Jim Jones, I'm sending you across the stormy sea.
And take my tip before you ship to join the iron gang,
Don't be too gay at Botany Bay or else you'll surely hang.

“Or else you'll surely hang,“ says he, “and after that, Jim Jones,
High upon the gallows tree the crows will pick your bones.
You'll have no chance for mischief then, remember what I say:
They'll flog the poaching out of you down there at Botany Bay.”

The wind blew high upon the sea and the pirates come along,
But the soldiers in our convict ship was nigh five hundred strong.
They opened fire and somehow drove that pirate ship away.
I'd rather have joined the skull-and-bones than go to Botany Bay.

Now night and day the irons clang, and like poor galley-slaves
We toil and strive and when we die, we fill dishonoured graces.
But by and by I'll break me chains and to the bush I'll go,
And join the brave bushrangers there like Donahue and Co.

And some dark night when everything is silent in the town,
I'll kill them tyrants one by one and shoot the floggers down.
I'll give the law a little shock, remember what I say,
They'll yet regret they sent Jim Jones in chains to Botany Bay.

Ian Robb sings Jim Jones

Come and listen for a moment, lads, and hear me tell my tale,
How across the sea from England I was condemned to sail.
Well, the jury found me guilty; then says the judge, says he,
“Oh, for life, Jim Jones, I'm sending you across the stormy seas.

“But take a tip, before you ship to join the iron gang,
Don't get too gay in Botany Bay, or else you'll surely hang.
Or else you'll surely hang," he says, "And after that, Jim Jones,
It's high up upon the gallows tree the crows will pick your bones.”

Well, our ship was high upon the sea when pirates came along,
But the soldiers on our convict ship were full five hundred strong.
Oh, they opened fire and somehow drove that pirate ship away.
But I'd rather've joined that pirate ship than gone to Botany Bay.

With the storms a-raging 'round us and the winds a-blowing gales,
I'd rather've drowned in misery than gone to New South Wales.
There's no time for mischief there, they say, remember that, says they,
Or they'll flog the poaching out of you down there in Botany Bay.

Well, it's day and night the irons clang and like poor galley slaves,
Oh, we toil and toil, and when we die must fill dishonoured graves.
But it's bye and bye I'll slip me chains and to the bush I'll go,
And I'll join the brave bush-rangers there, Jack Donahue and Co.

And some dark night, when everything is silent in the town,
I'll shoot those tyrants, one and all, I'll gun the floggers down.
Oh, I'll give the law no little shock, remember what I say,
And they'll yet regret they sent Jim Jones in chains to Botany Bay.

Martin Carthy sings Jim Jones in Botany Bay

Oh come listen for a moment lads and hear me tell my tale:
How o'er the seas from England I was condemned to sail.
The jury found me guilty And says the judge, says he:
“Oh, for life, Jim Jones, I'm sending you across the raging sea.

And take my tip before you ship to join the iron gang:
Don't get too gay on Botany Bay or else you'll surely hang.
Or else you'll hang,” he says, says he, “And after that Jim Jones,
It is high upon the gallows tree The crows will pick your bones.

“You'll have no chance for mischief there, remember what I say:
They'll flog the poaching out of you out there on Botany Bay.”
Let the wind fly in torrents and the wind blow up in gales;
Oh I'd rather die in misery than go to New South Wales.

Well, the sea it flew in torrents and the pirates came along;
But the soldiers all on board our ship, they were full five hundred strong.
They opened fire and soon they drove that pirate ship aways;
Oh I'd rather have gone on a pirate ship than gone to Botany Bay.

Where day and night the irons clang and like poor galley slaves
We toil and toil and when we die we fill dishonoured graves.
But by and by I'll break my chains and into the bush I'll go;
And I'll join the brave bushrangers there, Jack Donahue and Co.

And one dark night when everything is silent in the town
I'll kill the tyrants one by one and I'll shoot the floggers down.
I'll give the law one little shock; remember what I say:
Oh they'll yet regret they've sent Jim Jones in chains to Botany Bay.

Acknowledgements and links

Transcribed from the singing of Martin Carthy by Garry Gillard.

See also the Mudcat Café thread Jim Jones / Botany Bay: Background?.