The Wild Colonial Boy [song, 22 August 1913]

[Editor: An extract from the “On the Wallaby” column, published in The Northern Miner, 22 August 1913.]

[The Wild Colonial Boy]

We have often been asked, and several friends have asked us recently again, for the words of that one-time — long, long ago — most popular of all bush songs, “The Wild Colonial Boy.” It is safe to assert that there are very few people in all Australia at the present time who have the words of this song about them in print, or writing, or know them off by heart. By a fluke we only came across them somewhere lately, and as they will, we’re sure, interest many bushmen, we will with the kind permission of the editor publish them here. We’re sure many bushmen in the far west and north and south and east will cut them out and keep them.

The tune is still well remembered. The Salvation Army, when “praying for Watty at the entrance of his pub.,” use it very frequently, with entirely different words, of course. Right here we are reminded that it is little known that this song was, like “The Marseillaise” in France, at one time strictly prohibited in Australia. A heavy penalty, in fact, was the result of anyone caught singing it. That was, of course, many years ago, when the bushrangers were still infesting our roads. It was held at the time that the song was enticing young, wild-headed bushmen to take to the roads and engage in the nefarious bushranging line of business.

In conclusion, we have never heard who the author of “The Wild Colonial Boy” was. Can any “Register” reader enlighten us on that point? We’d like to know both the author of the rugged words and the composer of the quaintly weird music. We have heard it sung in bush camps by the dim flickering light of the gidya fire, and it always gave us a weird, romantic kind of feeling.


’Tis of a 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 only joy;
And dearly did his parents love the wild Colonial boy.

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 he did roam;
He robbed those wealthy squatters, their stock he did destroy,
And a terror to Australia was the wild Colonial boy.

In sixty-one the 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 McEvoy,
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 could never rob a hearty chap who acted on the square;
Never to rob a mother of her son and only joy,
Or else he may turn outlaw like the wild Colonial boy.

One day as he was riding the mountain side along,
A-listening to the little birds, their laughing pleasant song,
Three mounted troops 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, you daring highway man!”
He drew a pistol from his belt and shook the little toy,
I’ll fight, but not surrender,” cried 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.

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.

The Northern Miner (Charters Towers, Qld.), 22 August 1913, p. 3

Editor’s notes:
gidya = Acacia cambagei, a tree of the genus Acacia; known as the “stinking wattle” due to its strong smell, the odour of which especially increases with the approach of rain (“gidya” may also refer to a spear made from the wood of the tree) (also spelt as giddea, gidgea, gidgee, gidgi, gidia, and gydya)
See: 1) J. H. Maiden, New South Wales. Forestry Handbook. Part II. Some of the Principal Commercial trees of New South Wales, Sydney: William Applegate Gullick, Government Printer, 1917, p.99
2) Aboriginal Words in the English Language A-K, One Big Garden, 10 December 2011 [see entry under “gidgee”] (accessed 24 October 2014)
3) Acacia cambagei, Wikipedia (accessed 24 October 2014)
4) R. T. Baker, “No. 117: Acacia Cambagei”, in: The Forest Flora of New South Wales (Part XXXII), Australian Digital Collections, University of Sydney (accessed 24 October 2014)

pub = hotel; an establishment where the main line of business is to sell alcoholic drinks for customers to consume on the premises (“pub” comes from the abbreviation of “public house”)

Watty = a reference to the poem by Henry Lawson, “When the Army Prays for Watty”, in which the Salvation Army, gathering outside a pub to advocate the cause of temperance, would pray for Watty, the landlord of the pub

[Editor: Corrected “bushman in” to “bushmen in”.]

[Editor: The original text has been separated into paragraphs.]

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