Apr 132020

The Wild Colonial Boy, a traditional Irish-Australian folk song that has a lot of different versions, solely about the Irish rebel, Jack Donahue. I heard this song from my grandfather’s mouth while I was a child. And today I am very happy and excited to know a few points about this wonderful rendition of ‘The Wild Colonial Boy’. Let us begin the topic without any delay!!

The Wild Colonial Boy was documented and recorded by Rolf Harris, The Irish Rovers, Oliver Reed, John Doyle, The Clancy Brothers, and Larry Kirwan. Among many different versions of The Wild Colonial Boy, the most prominent versions are the Irish and Australian versions, which are mentioned clearly with the original lyrics separately in both the versions. Have a look to understand better!

Irish Lyrics

There was a wild colonial boy,

Jack Duggan was his name

He was born and raised in Ireland,

In a place called Castle Maine

He was his father’s only son,

His mother’s pride and joy

And dearly did his parents love

The wild colonial boy

At the early age of sixteen years,

He left his native home

And to Australia’s sunny shore,

He was inclined to roam

He robbed the rich, he helped the poor,

He shot James MacEvoy

A terror to Australia was

The wild colonial boy

One morning on the prairie,

As Jack he rode along

A-listening to the mocking bird,

A-singing a cheerful song

Up stepped a band of troopers:

Kelly, Davis and Fitzroy

They all set out to capture him,

The wild colonial boy

Surrender now, Jack Duggan,

For you see we’re three to one.

Surrender in the Queen’s high name,

You are a plundering son

Jack drew two pistols from his belt,

He proudly waved them high.

“I’ll fight, but not surrender,”

Said the wild colonial boy

He fired a shot at Kelly,

Which brought him to the ground

And turning round to Davis,

He received a fatal wound

A bullet pierced his proud young heart,

From the pistol of Fitzroy

And that was how they captured him,

The wild colonial boy

Australian Lyrics

Come along my hearties,

We’ll roam the mountains high,

Together we will plunder,

Together we will ride.

We’ll scar over valleys,

And gallop for the plains,

And scorn to live in

Slavery, bound down by iron chains.

It’s of a wild Colonial Boy,

Jack Dolan was his name,

Of poor but honest parents,

He was born in Castle Maine.

He was his father’s only son,

His mother’s pride and joy,

And so dearly did his parents love

The wild Colonial Boy.

When scarcely sixteen years of age,

He left his father’s home,

And through Australia’s sunny shores

A bushranger did roam.

He’d rob the largest squatters,

Their stock he would destroy,

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 stranger did he fear.

He bailed up the Beech worth roll 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 poor man

Who wafted on the square?

Three mounted troopers came in sight,

Kelly, Davis and Fitzroy,

Who thought that they would capture him?

The wild Colonial Boy.

“Surrender now, Jack Dolan,

You see we’re three to one.

Surrender in the queen’s high name,

You daring highwayman.”

Jack drew a pistol from his belt,

And waved it like a 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,

He 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.

Since there are two versions in Irish and Australian and are with the same tunes and chorus, it is understandable that there is a lot of confusion between the two versions. Like most of the bush traditional and folk songs, The Wild Colonial Boy also has many versions and the original author and composer is never known and that is the reason no one knows and gets confused with which version is correct.

Also no one knows about the Irish rebel, Jack Donahue is really a person or simply a fictitious character in the song. In fact, nobody even know for sure if Castle Maine is the city in Victoria, Australia or in County Kerry, Ireland. However, The Wild Colonial Boy is one of the most popular bushranger songs of all time to everyone till date. I hope you all enjoy these two versions of Australian classic song, The Wild Colonial Boy.

What is the basic story line about this traditional Irish-Australian ballad?

Actually, the composer of the song is still not known by anyone but this song is such a kind that anyone listens to it over and over!!

Jack Donahue, an Irish rebel who arrives from Ireland in 1825, became a convict three years later to the incident of highway robbery, then a bushranger. Later, he was sentenced to death but he escapes smartly from the police and began a guerrilla war against the Sydney’s wealthy. Eventually, he was caught again and was shot dead. The colonial boy often gets confused with the Irish rebel, Jack Donahue.  From the song, we get to know that Jack Donahue chose theft as profession in his lifetime because only to feed the poor by doing robbery from the rich.

The Irish version is all about the Ireland immigrant to the town of Castle Maine, Australia in the early 19th century. But the version was declared seditious since it was outlawed as the song stood up against the rich to serve poor and hence the name in the song was later changed to Jack Doolan.

Few Facts about the song

  1. The Quiet Man is the feature film, based on the song, The Wild Colonial Boy.
  2. In the United States, a version of this song was popularized by folk singer Burl Ives.
  3. The album Ireland in Song by Cathy Maguire includes the Irish version of the song.
  4. Dr. Hook recorded a version of this song on American Bandstand (1981). It was mentioned by Dennis Locorriere that the royalties went to charity.
  5. The Pogues and The Dubliners released “Jack’s Heroes”, a 1990 single celebrating the Republic of Ireland national football team, which uses the tune of “The Wild Colonial Boy”.
  6. Sung by Paddy Carmody (Robert Mitchum), in the hotel scene of the 1960 movie The Sundowners.
  7. A waltz version of the tune features in the ball scene in Baz Luhrmann’s film Australia (2008).
  8. Damien Leith released a version on his 2015 album Songs from Ireland.
  9. A Czech translation of this song under the name Vostrej Australák (The Sharp Australian) was recorded by the Greenhorns band and published by Supraphon in 1982.
  10. Mick Jagger sings this song in the 1970 movie Ned Kelly, which is about the real-life Australian outlaw of the same name. According to The Argus report in November 1880, Ann Jones had asked her son to sing the ballad when the Kelly gang were at her hotel in June that year.
  11. Billy Walker recorded the song as B-side to his hit, “Charlie’s Shoes”, in 1962. He included it in his album Greatest Hits.
  12. The walking skeleton in Robert Frost’s poem “The Witch of Coos” is said to have been searching for a way out of the house, because he wanted to sing his favorite song, “The Wild Colonial Boy”, in the snow.
  13. A portion of Irish version is heard in the 1952 film, The Quiet Man.

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