John ‘Jack’ Donohoe was transported for life from Ireland to New South Wales in 1824-5. He escaped, or ‘bolted’, in 1827 and formed a gang with other escaped convicts to rob travellers. Donohoe was seen as a hero by the convicts, who celebrated his defiance of the law in this and a number of other poems. Versions of this ballad have often been collected by Australian (the spelling of the bushranger’s name also changes). This version from Paterson’s Old Bush Songs, 1905.
In Dublin town I was brought up, in that city of great fame —
My decent friends and parents, they will tell to you the same.
It was for the sake of five hundred pounds I was sent across the main,
For seven long years in New South Wales to wear a convict’s chain.
Then come, my hearties, we’ll roam the mountains high!
Together we will plunder, together we will die!
We’ll wander over mountains and we’ll gallop over plains —
For we scorn to live in slavery, bound down in iron chains.
I’d scarce been there twelve months or more upon the Australian shore,
When I took to the highway, as I’d oft-times done before.
There was me and Jacky Underwood, and Webber and Webster, too.
These were the true associates of bold Jack Donahoo.
Now Donahoo was taken, all for a notorious crime,
And sentenced to be hanged upon the gallows-tree so high.
But when they came to Sydney gaol he left them in a stew,
And when they came to call the roll they missed bold Donahoo.
As Donahoo made his escape, to the bush he went straightway.
The people they were all afraid to travel night or day —
For every week in the newspapers there was published something new
Concerning this dauntless hero, the bold Jack Donahoo!
As Donahoo was cruising, one summer’s afternoon,
Little was his notion his death was near so soon,
When a sergeant of the horse police discharged his car-a-bine,
And called aloud on Donahoo to fight or to resign.
‘Resign to you — you cowardly dogs! a thing I ne’er will do,
For I’ll fight this night with all my might,’ cried bold Jack Donahoo.
‘I’d rather roam these hills and dales, like wolf or kangaroo,
Than work one hour for Government!’ cried bold Jack Donahoo.
He fought six rounds with the horse police until the fatal ball,
Which pierced his heart and made him start, caused Donahoo to fall.
And as he closed his mournful eyes, he bade this world Adieu,
Saying, ‘Convicts all, both large and small, say prayers for Donahoo!’