The first and possibly greatest bushranger Ballad is Bold Jack Donohue, a portrayal of the wild career of one of the most infamous bushrangers. Such was the perceived insidiousness of the song’s influence that singing it in public was banned for a time, along with several other bushranger songs. It provided the basic structure and content for the most famous bushranger ballad The Wild Colonial Boy. There have been a huge number of variants and each performance introduces something wildly unique in terms of lyrics or music as you will find clearly illustrated in the selection of videos below.

Bold Jack Donohue

In Dublin town I was brought up that city of great fame
My parents reared me tenderly there’s many did the same
Being a wild colonial boy I was forced to cross the main
And for seven long years in New South Wales to wear a convict’s chain

Oh I’d been no longer than six months upon Australian shores
When I turned out as a Tory boy as I’d often done before
There was Macnamara from yonder woods and Captain Mackie too
They were the chief associates of bold Jack Donahoe

As O’Donahue was taken for a notorious crime
And sentenced to be hanged all on the gallows high
But when he came to Sydney gaol he left them in a stew
For when they came to call the roll they missed Jack Donahue

As O’Donahue made his escape to the woods he did repair
Where the tyrants dared not show their face by night and day
And every week in the newspapers there was published something new
Concerning that bold hero boy called brave Jack Donahue

As O’Donahue was walking one summer’s afternoon
Little was his notion that his death should be so soon
When a sergeant of the horse police discharged his carabine
And loudly called to O’Donahue to fight or else resign

Resign to you, you cowardly dogs its a thing I ne’er will do
For I’ll range these woods and valleys like a wolf or kangaroo
Before I’ll work for Government said bold Jack Donahue

Nine rounds the horse policeman fired till at length a fatal ball
He lodged it in O’Donahue’s breast and it caused him to fall
As he closed his mournful eyes to this world he bid adieu
Good people all both great and small pray for Jack Donahue

One thought on “Spotlight: Bold Jack Donohue

  1. Hi.

    I’m a decendant of Hugh Donohue of County Cavan, born 1797.

    John ‘ Bold Jack ‘ Donohue, born Dublin / Dublin County in 1804 / 1806.

    These facts are 100km and 7 or 9 years apart.

    I have no further family history details for either Donohue.

    Bold Jack buried in unmarked grave in NSW in 1830, so no body, no DNA.

    Can anyone offer their thoughts as to the possibility / likelyhood that the two above Donohues are related in some way?

    Ross O’Donoghue
    Western Australia.

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