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The Wild Colonial Boy single work   poetry   "'Tis of a wild Colonial boy, Jack Doolan was his name"
Issue Details: First known date: 1905... 1905 The Wild Colonial Boy
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AbstractHistoryArchive Description

'The Wild Colonial Boy' is a traditional Irish/Australian ballad of which there are many different versions. It has been argued that the original version was really about Jack Donahoe (variously spelled Donahoo or Donahue), an Irish transport who arrived at Sydney Cove in 1825, and was subsequently convicted of highway robbery and sentenced to death. He escaped and waged a guerrilla war against the wealthy for more than two years in the country around Sydney. On September 1st 1830 he was ambushed by a police party near Cambelltown and shot dead, his companions Webber and Warmsley escaping into the bush. This version was eventually outlawed as seditious so the name of the protagonist changed.

The resulting Irish version is about a young emigrant, named Jack Duggan, who left the town of Castlemaine, County Kerry, Ireland, for Australia in the 1800s. According to the song (and in keeping with the true story of Jack Donahoe), he spent his time there 'robbing from the rich to feed the poor'. In the song, the protagonist is fatally wounded in an ambush when his heart is pierced by the bullet of Fitzroy.

The Australian version has Jack Doolan (or sometimes Jack Dowling) as the protagonist, and here Castlemaine refers to the Australian town in Victoria. In both versions variation in the wording and language occurs across different sources.

In his Old Bush Songs, Banjo Patterson wrote: "it will be noticed that the same chorus is sung to both 'The Wild Colonial Boy' and 'Bold Jack Donahoo'. Several versions of both songs were sent in, but the same chorus was always made to do duty for both songs." This chorus, included in some (not all) Australian versions is as follows:

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 with iron chains.


  • Textual variation between versions.

Publication Details of Only Known VersionEarliest 2 Known Versions of

Works about this Work

Ballads. Prelude to Literature Ballads in Australian Literature Tom Sigley , 2008 single work criticism
— Appears in: Writing Across the Continent 2008;
The Wild Colonial Boy Rides Again and Again: An Australian Legend Abroad Graham Seal , 1994 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Studies , November no. 7 1994; (p. 161-172)
The Case of the Stolen Jumbuck Stephen Knight , 1992 single work criticism
— Appears in: Reconnoitres : Essays in Australian Literature in Honour of G. A. Wilkes 1992; (p. 24-35, 238-241)
Australia in Irish Ballads, Australian Songs in Ireland, Irish Ballads in Australia and Irish Elements in Australian Folk or Popular Songs Georges Denis Zimmermann , 1983 single work criticism
— Appears in: Australian Papers : Yugoslavia, Europe and Australia 1983; (p. 237-251)
The Wild Colonial Bounder Colin Mackay , 1981 single work criticism
— Appears in: The Weekend Australian Magazine , 17-18 October 1981; (p. 7)
Last amended 20 May 2015 14:06:46
  • Bush,
  • Beechworth, Beechworth - Yackandandah area, North East Victoria, Victoria,
  • Castlemaine, Castlemaine area, Ballarat - Bendigo area, Victoria,
  • 1860s
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