There was a wild colonial boy, John Doolan
was his name
Of poor but honest parents, he was born in Castlemaine.
He was his father's second son, his parents' pride and joy,
And dearly did his mother love her wild colonial boy.
Come all you
wild colonial boys, we'll roam the mountains high,
Together we will plunder, together we will die.
We'll wander over valleys, and gallop over plains,
And scorn to slave our lives away, with poverty for chains.
sixty-nine this daring youth began his wild career,
He stuck his knife in Zahner's son and gave a rousing cheer.
To kill him were no harm, Jack cried, for me he did annoy,
Still shy of thirteen years he was, our wild colonial boy.
He called me Irish pig and thief, I'll take that
from no French,
And no more boots I'll make with him beside me at the bench.
His mother she did fear for Jack and tears her eyes did cloy,
The day her 'prentice lad became a wild colonial boy.
is slight, no grievous harm, old doctor Betham said.
No grievous harm? the Bench demurred, why Zahner might be dead.
This case goes to the Circuit Court and not to Macoboy,
Sir William Stawell's the man who'll try this wild colonial boy.
He's just a boy, for mercy's sake,
the Sandhurst jury begged,
But Justice Stawell was well resolved to take Jack down a peg.
A twelve month cruise in Hobson's Bay is what you will enjoy,
Sir Harry Smith will make of you a mild colonial boy.
year goes by and unreformed, Jack's back in Bendigo,
The papers there they do complain 'Bushranging's all the go.
The lure of easy gold, we find, youth's morals do destroy',
Why there's a flash idea, thought he, the wild colonial boy.
Old Harry Power was long at large and robbed the
But troopers three took him at last and he's in Pentridge gaol.
The highway's free and here I am, a lad none
That vacancy I'll fill, as I'm a wild colonial boy.
not even sixteen years he left his father's home,
And through the streets of Bendigo in early hours did roam,
To burn the Beehive brokers' mart and all their stocks destroy.
Or was it brother James become a wild colonial boy?
Bill Jones and Jack on New Year's Eve robbed Widow
The swag was only three and six, a bushranging disgrace.
'No more than half a crown we'll lift without a better ploy,
A horse, a horse, we'll get', quoth he, the wild colonial boy.
down to Axedale they did go to take Steer's chestnut steed,
But one horse 'twixt the two of them was less than what they'd need.
And Hallinan's spring cart, they felt, they'd get without much noise,
Our horse before that cart must go, say wild colonial boys.
At Hallinan's they
looked around for harness and for reins.
A stable hand yelled 'What the h ?' Jack said, 'Blow out his brains!'
'Only if he says a word' - Bill Jones had kept his poise -
They wouldn't want to swing for it, the wild colonial boys.
So what's next, boys? A bank? A train?
Perhaps the Rushworth mail?
It might as well be big, says Jack, my dad cannot go bail.
We'll not be caught and if we are we'll hope for Macoboy,
Because, said Bill, he's like to spare a wild colonial boy.
White Hills road that morning saw them whip their horse along,
All heedless of the warning in the kookaburra's song.
A single trooper hove in sight (no Kellys or Fitzroys),
'Twas Davi[d]s[on] who ran them down, the wild colonial boys.
The trooper's horse was fresh as paint
but Steer's they had to spell,
It pulled up blown outside - no lie - the Robin Hood Hotel.
Cool Davidson's Crimea trained, two pistols he deploys,
So will they act like children now, or wild colonial boys?
now, Jack Doolan, although I'm one 'gainst two,
Surrender in the Queen's name for my duty I will do.
Jack had his pistol pocketed, but dared not draw the toy,
He'd rather live than die, would he, this wild colonial boy.
charges 'fore the magistrates were robbery under arms,
Horse-stealing, theft, bad language, youth, and sundry like alarms.
It's too rich for this Bench, they cried, and as for Macoboy,
Again he'll miss his chance to try the wild colonial boy.
It grieves me sore, Judge Williams said,
this catalogue of crime,
A Colt is not a sugar plum and you'll do Pentridge time.
And do not think your tender years my purpose will decoy,
It's porridge hard and long for you, my wild colonial boy.
Circuit Court was light on Jack, he got just fourteen years,
But Bill, who had a bit more form, got three more for arrears.
Jack's mother wept and prayed for less, but there she had no joy,
And at the sentence she did cry 'My poor colonial boy!'
A modern lout, the papers said,
does not bush range at all,
He fights beneath the town's gas lights, accosts girls in the Mall.
But prison is crime's crucible and Jack it might alloy,
To make a hardened street thug of our wild colonial boy.
many years we've searched for him, a hero of the bush,
And what does he turn out to be? Apprenticed to the push!
For here there is no bold outlaw, Dick Turpin or Rob Roy,
A larrikin from Bendigo's our wild colonial boy.
moral of Jack's story is, and sad it is to tell,
Put not your trust in ballads if you'd drink at Clio's well.
Their rhymes will leave you all amazed, and reason they'll destroy,
By mixing fact with fiction 'bout the wild colonial boy.
But all you true Australians, who'd roam the mountains
Who'd claim the freedom of the bush, authority defy!
And keep alive the other tale that's long been sung of Jack,
For legends are in short supply, and that's a cold hard fact.
A NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR
The Wild Colonial Boy is generally believed to be either a wholly fictional character or very loosely based on Bold Jack Donohoe, a convict bushranger of the 1820s. There was, however, a juvenile bushranger named Jack Doolan born, as the song says, in Castlemaine (Victoria). He was briefly active around Bendigo in 1872. His story is faintly referred to in the song but its central incidents are most likely borrowed from the bushranging careers of Donohoe and Harry Power, Ned Kelly's mentor. Doolan's own story is told in detail in my book The Life & Legend of Jack Doolan, the Wild Colonial Boy, but I have also re-written the song to give the very real Jack Doolan his own ballad.
Granville Allen Mawer, historian, is the author of several books including his book Ahab's Trade, short listed for the Queensland Premier's History Prize 2000 and the NSW Premier's History Prize 2001. He is a contributor to the Australian Dictionary of Biography and sometime reviewer of maritime books for The Times Literary Supplement. His most recently published work is Diary of a Spitfire Pilot, over the English Channel and Over Darwin (Rosenberg Publishing 2011).
Published by Mulini Press, Canberra, Australia, 2004