An analysis of Australian Highwayman Ballads

An analysis of Australian Highwayman Ballads

The Wild Colonial Boys

Ben Bright sings the opening verses of ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’ using a slightly different tune than the usual. Recorded in Sydney. Bright had been a sailor, IWW supporter and self-professed rebel. He retired to live in the Sydney Home for Sailors, The Rocks.



In February, 2004, I was invited to participate in the Museum of Australia’s conference on ‘Outlaws’, coinciding with their travelling exhibition of the same name. In preparing one of my papers I set out to list the number of highwayman ballads in the Australian tradition.

The list makes for interesting reading and I make the further note that it doesn’t include the satirical Kelly Gang songs that appeared in the popular press nor country music songs like Blind Billy Blinkhorn’s ‘Poor Ned Kelly’.  Any further contributions or corrections to this list appreciated.

Bold Jack Donahue 3

Bold Jack Donahue/Adventures of Bold Jack Donahoe

Adventures of Brave Jack Donahue

Wild Colonial Boy


Kelly Gang 20

My Name Is Edward Kelly/Young Ned Kelly

Ballad of the Kelly Gang/The Kellys, Brynes & Hart

Stringybark Creek

Farewell to Greta

The Sash Ned Kelly Wore

The Bold Kelly Gang

Up the Kellys

Hat Ned Kelly Wore

Ned Kelly Was Born in a Ramshackle Hut

The Bold Kelly Gang/the Kelly Gang

The Kelly Gang

The Kellys (are having a mighty fine time)

Kelly’s A Brave General

The Kelly Gang were strong

Kelly was their Captain

The Kelly’s Foes/We Are Two Plucky Troopers

Ned Kelly Was An Irishman

Ned Kelly Was A Gentleman

Death of Ned Kelly

We’re the Jolliest Lot of Thieves

Ye Sons of Australia


Frank Gardiner 2

Frank Gardiner Bushranger/Frank Gardiner He Is caught At Last

Morning of the Fray


Ben Hall Gang 6

Ben Hall/Death of Ben Hall/Brave Ben hall

Streets of Forbes

Ballad of Ben Hall

Ballad of Ben Hall’s Gang/Dunn Gilbert & Ben Hall

My Name Is Ben Hall

Diverting History of John Gilbert/John Gilbert


Others 8

Bushranger Jack Power

Gallant Peter Clarke/Peter Clarke

Lightning Jack/Starlight

Death of Morgan

Death of Fred Lowry

Captain Moonlight

Ballad of Jack Lefroy

Those Bold Bushrangers


UK and found in Australia 2

Brennan on the Moor

Dick Turpin and the Lawyer/Turpin Hero


And, most surprising since he was one of the most colourful of all:

Thunderbolt/Fred Ward – none