The Wild Colonial Boy

Allen Ginsberg and his appraisal of the ballads continues

AG: Then, one I dug when I went to Australia Because a lot of ruffians and criminals were sent off to Australia to settle Australia originally, there was a fantastic growth of ballad there, and Australian ballads, among modern ballads, (nineteenth, twentieth-century), (are) among the most.. are among the strongest. And one of the most archetypal is a great one called “The Wild Colonial Boy”

Anybody ever hear that one? – It’s just a….”Tis of the wild Colonial Boy,/ Jack Doolan was his name/Of poor but honest parents/ he was born in Castlemaine/He was his father’s only hope/his mother’s pride and joy,/And dearly did his parents love / the wild Colonial Boy”  – “Come, all my hearties.. ” – Well, I don’t know the chorus – it’s “Come, all my hearties/we’ll roam the mountains high/, Together we will plunder,/together we will die/ We’ll wander over valleys,/and gallop over plains,/And we’ll scorn to live in/slavery, bound down by iron chains””He was scarcely sixteen years of age/when he left his father’s home,/And through Australia’s sunny clime/a bushranger did roam./He robbed those wealthy squatters,/ their stock h edid destroy/And a terror to Australia was/the wild Colonial Boy./In sixty-one this daring youth/commenced his wild career,/With a heart that knew no danger,/no foeman did he fear./He stuck up the Beechworth mail-coach,/and robbed Judge MacEvoy,/Who trembled and gave up his gold to/the wild Colonial Boy”/”He bade the judge “Good morning”,/and told him to beware,/that he’d never rob a hearty chap/that acted on the square/And never to rob a mother of/her son and only joy/Or else you might turn outlaw/like the wild Colonial Boy/ One day he was riding/the mountain-side along/A-listening to the little birds,/Their pleasant laughing song./Three mounted troopers rode along -/ Kelly, Davis and FitzRoy/They thought that they would capture him,/the wild Colonial Boy/”Surrender now, Jack Doolan,/you see there’s three to one/Surrender now, Jack Doolan/For your stealing days are done”/He drew a pistol from his belt,/and shook the little toy/”I’ll fight, but not surrender”, said the wild Colonial Boy./ He fired at Trooper Kelly/and brought him to the ground/And in return from Davis/received a mortal wound/All shattered through the jaws he lay/still firing at FitzRoy/And  that’s the way they captured him – /the wild Colonial Boy.”

The body of John Donohoe (sic – Jack Donahue), “The Wild Colonial Boy”, in the morgue in Sydney Hospital – lithograph (1830)  by Sir Thomas Mitchell, Surveyor-General of New South Wales

That’s the most famous ballad in Australia and is a part of the Australian heritage. Everybody in Australia knows “The Wild Colonial Boy”, because it’s their ideal..  And then there’s others, that have that form of  (the) “Come all ye” – “Come all ye, gather round and listen to my song/And I will tell you the story/It will not be too long” –  Or [from “Bold Jack Donahue“] “Attend ye valley highwaymen and outlaws of this plain/Who cause to live in slavery and wear the ball and chain./Attention pay to what I say, and value it if you do/ I will relate the matchless fate of Bold Jack Donahue.”
(But) this is the Australian style. It’s a real good rollicking measure.

[Audio for the above can be heard  here, beginning at approximately fifty-five-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately fifty-nine-and-a-quarter minutes in]


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