With the beginning of September, long-time follower and occasional contributor to A Guide to Australian Bushranging, Julia Dąbrowska has penned this prose and accompanying artwork to commemorate the death of the “Wild Colonial Boy”, Jack Donahoe (sometimes spelled Donohoe, Donahue).
While he died in a bloody stoush with police on this day in 1830, Julia’s short piece gives us a snapshot at where that story began in 1828.

Easy to escape, hard to survive

It has been said, “In Australia it was easy to escape. The hard thing was to survive.” A young man, hiding in the high grass and ferns has already understood it. The young man is Jack Donahue, a Dublin-born convict who was transported in Australia three years ago. He is breathing quickly, his forehead is covered with sweat. The day before Jack was sentenced to death by hanging along with his two gang members, George Kilroy and William Smith. He managed to escape, despite having leg irons. Jack knows that the first thing he needs to do after his successful (for now) escape is to get rid of them.

“I need me a saw or an axe to cut the bloody leg irons off,” he thinks. After several more hours of walking, Jack spots a farm. He goes into a tool shed next to a piggery, finds an axe and a saw. After a while, he frees himself from the leg irons. Then he goes into the piggery. He picks up some stale bread, onions and carrots meant to be the food for the pigs, like he used to do while working on a pig farm. Jack knows that he may not always be lucky enough to steal food from a farm not being noticed. So he leaves the piggery with pockets of his prison uniform full of food. His next plan is to find some former convicts who may help him. And to team up with some other bushrangers.

Dressed like a London dandy

A short, blonde-haired young man dressed in a worn out prison uniform sits on a fallen tree next to the Richmond road. This man is Jack Donahue, who had recently escaped while being transported from the court to the gaol. Next to him lay the clothes Jack had stolen from some Sydney gentleman.

“A bloody good haul,” thinks Jack. He looks at his own dirty clothes, gathers some dry grass and twigs and lights a fire. Half an hour later, the prison uniform is burning in the fire. And what is Jack now wearing? A blue coat, silk cravat, thin white shirt adorned with lace, white trousers and brown boots. Now he’s not dressed like a convict, but like a true London dandy.

©Julia Dąbrowska, 2023

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