On the 29th April 1770 a British ship named the Endeavour, under the command of Captain James Cook, anchored in what was later named Botany Bay. The first fleet Botany Bay on January 19, 1788 with eleven vessels. They carried about 730 convicts and 250 free settlers. Today Botany Bay is surrounded by the suburbs of Sydney.
This song is about a convict being transported to Botany Bay. It has been recorded several times by various artists including a well-known version by Bob Dylan.
Botany Bay has become synonymous with being sent to prison in Australia, despite the penal colony being moved from Botany Bay to Sydney Cove.
What the words mean
- gay ~ happy (the original meaning of the word)
See also another version of this song Jim Jones at Botany Bay
See also the songs
Female Transport • Convict Maid
Oh, listen for a moment, lads, and hear me tell my tale;
How, o'er the sea from England's shore, I was compelled to sail.
The jury says, 'He's guilty, sir!' and says the judge, says he —
'For life, Jim Jones, I'm sending you across the stormy sea.
'And take my tip, before you ship to join the iron gang,
Don't be too gay at Botany Bay, or else you'll surely hang.
Or else you'll hang', he says, says he, 'and after that, Jim Jones,
High up upon the gallows tree the crows will pick your bones.
'You'll have no chance for mischief then – remember what I say:
They'll flog the mischief out of you when you get to Botany Bay!'
The waves were high upon the sea, the winds blew up in gales;
I'd rather be drowned in misery than go to New South Wales.
For night and day the irons clang, and, like poor galley slaves,
We toil and moil and when we die must fill dishonoured graves.
But by and by I'll break my chains; into the bush I'll go;
And join the brave bushrangers there – Jack Donahoe and Co.
And some dark night when everything is silent in the town
I'll shoot the tyrants one and all and shoot the floggers down.
I'll give the law a little shock, remember what I say,
They'll yet regret they sent Jim Jones in chains to Botany Bay.
Convicts being transported
to Botany Bay say goodbye.