[Editor: This song was published in Old Bush Songs: Composed and Sung in the Bushranging, Digging, and Overlanding Days (8th edition, 1932), edited by Banjo Paterson.]
Bold Jack Donahoe
’Twas of a valiant highwayman and outlaw of disdain,
Who’d scorn to live in slavery or wear a convict’s chain;
His name it was John Donahoe of courage and renown —
He’d scorn to live in slavery or humble to the Crown.
This bold undaunted highwayman, as you may understand,
Was banished for his natural life from Erin’s happy land.
In Dublin City of renown, where his first breath he drew,
It’s there they titled him the brave and bold Jack Donahoe.
He scarce had been a twelve-month on the Australian shore,
When he took to the highway, as oft he had before.
Brave Macnamara, Underwood, Webber and Walmsley too,
These were the four associates of bold Jack Donahoe.
As Jack and his companions roved out one afternoon,
Not thinking that the pains of death would overcome so soon,
To their surprise five horse police appeared all in their view,
And in quick time they did advance to take Jack Donahoe.
“Come, come, you cowardly rascals, oh, do not run away!
We’ll fight them man to man, my boys, their number’s only three;
For I’d rather range the bush around, like dingo or kangaroo,
Than work one hour for Government,” said bold Jack Donahoe.
“Oh, no” said cowardly Walmsley, “to that I won’t agree;
I see they’re still advancing us — their number’s more than three.
And if we wait we’ll be too late, the battle we will rue.”
“Then begone from me, you cowardly dog,” replied Jack Donahoe.
The Sergeant of the horse police discharged his car-a-bine,
And called aloud to Donahoe “Will you fight or resign?”
“Resign, no, no! I never will, unto your cowardly crew,
For to-day I’ll fight with all my might,” cried bold Jack Donahoe.
The Sergeant then, in a hurry his party to divide,
Placed one to fire in front of him, and another on each side;
The Sergeant and the Corporal, they both fired too,
Till the fatal ball had pierced the heart of bold Jack Donahoe.
Six rounds he fought those horse police before the fatal ball,
Which pierced his heart with cruel smart, caused Donahoe to fall;
And as he closed his mournful eyes he bade this world adieu,
Saying “Good people all, pray for the soul of poor Jack Donahoe.”
There were Freincy, Grant, bold Robin Hood, Brennan and O’Hare;
With Donahoe this highwayman none of them could compare.
But now he’s gone to Heaven, I hope, with saints and angels too —
May the Lord have mercy on the soul of brave Jack Donahoe.
On the day of the memorable battle Jacky Underwood and Macnamara were absent from the party, and Donahoe had with him only Webber and Walmsley. The two latter cleared out when the police appeared on the scene, and left Donahoe to fight alone.
A. B. Paterson (editor), Old Bush Songs: Composed and Sung in the Bushranging, Digging, and Overlanding Days (8th edition), Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1932, pp. 38-40
adieu = farewell, goodbye (Middle English, from Anglo-French “a dieu”, meaning “to God”, used as an abbreviated form of “a dieu (vous) commant”, i.e. “I commend (you) to God”)
ball = a ball of lead (i.e. a bullet, as used with old firearms)
begone = go away (a demand or request for someone to go away, leave)
Brennan = William (Willy) Brennan, an Irish highwayman, who featured in the ballad “Brennan on the Moor”
See: 1) “Willy Brennan”, Wikipedia
2) “Brennan on the Moor” (ballad), National Library of Scotland
3) “Brennan on the Moor [Laws L7]”, California State University, Fresno
cleared out = departed, left, moved; cleared off, ran away, went away
Crown = the governing power of a land operating under a constitutional monarchy, which is said to govern on behalf of the Crown (i.e. on behalf of the ruling monarch); may refer to the government or elements acting on the behalf of government (e.g. a legal prosecuting service operating in the name of “the Crown”); monarchical, regal, or imperial power
Erin = Ireland
Freincy = James Freney (1719-1788), an Irish highwayman
See: 1) “The Irish Robin Hood: James Freney, The Robber”, JamesFreney.com
2) “James Freney”, Wikipedia
3) Graham Seal, Outlaw Heroes in Myth and History, London: Anthem Press, 2011, pp. 96-97 [“a mid-eighteenth-century outlaw named James Freney appears as ‘Freincy’”]
4) Oliver MacDonagh and W.F. Mandle (editors), Irish-Australian Studies: Papers delivered at the Fifth Irish-Australian Conference, Canberra: Australian National University, 1989, p. 19 [“Freney (rather than Freincy)”]
Grant = Jeremiah Grant (1785-1816), an Irish highwayman, also called “Captain Grant”
See: “Jeremiah Grant, Co Tipperary, Ireland – Highwayman 1785 – 1816”, JamesFreney.com
highwayman = an armed robber, usually mounted on a horse (an unmounted robber was called a “footpad”), who would rob people, especially those travelling on highways (main roads, or public roads)
horse police = mounted police (also known as “troopers”)
Lord = in a religious context, and capitalized, a reference to God or Jesus
oft = (archaic) often
Robin Hood = a legendary English hero and outlaw, who has been popularised in English folklore, as well as in modern literature and film (there is much debate over whether Robin Hood was a particular person, a storyteller’s combination of several people, or simply a folk legend)
rue = regret, remorse, repentance; to feel deep regret, remorse, or sorrow
took to the highway = became a highway robber (highwayman)
’twas = (archaic) a contraction of “it was”
twelve-month = year (also spelt: twelvemonth)