Jim Jones at Botany Bay

A song by Francis MacNamara ?

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 guilty sir and the hanging 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
Dont be too gay at Botany Bay or else you'll surely hang
Or else you'll surely hang he says and after that Jim Jones
It's high upon the gallows tree the crows will pick your bones

You'll have no chance for mischief there remember what I say
They'll flog the poaching out of you out there at Botany Bay
The waves were high upon the sea the wind blew up in gales
I'd rather have drowned in misery than come to New South Wales

The winds blew high upon the sea and the pirates came along
But the soldiers on our convict ship were full five hundred strong
They opened fire and somehow drove that pirate ship away
I'd rather joined that pirate ship than come 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 bye and bye I'll break my chains into the bush I'll go
And join the bold bushrangers there Jack Donahoo and Co

And some dark night when everything is silent in this town
I'll kill the tyrants one by one 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


First published in "From Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South, by Charles MacAlister". (Published Goulburn, NSW, 1907) This is the most defiant of the transport ballads. Russel Ward writes of the song: "Instead of an implicit acceptance of the rules of society, there is an explicit assumption that society itself is out of joint, and even a hint that in the new land society may be remoulded nearer to the heart's desire".
Although not collected in the field the song has had a remarkable new life since the 1950's, often sung where a song of defiance is called for. The song was first recorded by Ewan MacColl on a 78rpm record for the Wattle label in 1956. In Westminster Hall in London in the early 1970's A.L. Lloyd sang it to a huge audience at a rally for the release of Angela Davis the American radical.

Sydney Gazette Thursday 2 June 1842 p.3
Is Jim Jones the work of Francis MacNamara? The evidence in the song itself suggests it is at least possible ... its uncompromising defiance, its unusual construction, the absence of any moralising conclusion. The first three verses, threats in the voice of the English judge, the next three of description, defiance and retribution in the voice of the prisoner. The song is set to an Irish tune Irish Molly O, a tune MacNamara would certainly have known. The verses can certainly sound Irish when read aloud. Interesting that such a dramatic song was never discovered in the field and although it has been attributed to MacNamara, perhaps it was written by MacAlister although he does not claim it. MacNamara often put the names of his heroes (and his enemies) in his verse in this case Jack Donahoe and Jim Jones. MacNamara was arrested in 1842 with four other prisoners including John Jones and was transported for a second time to Van Diemen's Land where he would have heard convict ballads and stories, vibrant source material for the poetry of a man who regularly declaimed:

                                 My name is Frank MacNamara
                                 A native of Cashel, County Tipperary
                                 Sworn to be a Tyrant's foe
                                 And while I live I'll crow