Jack Donohue - By W. Hennessey

The Braidwood Dispatch and Mining Journal Saturday 22 August 1903 p. 2.

Come, all you lads of loyalty, a sorrowful tale I’ll tell,
Concerning of a hero bold in battle lately fell;
His name it was Jack Donoghue, of courage and renown,
Who scorned to work in slavery or humble to the Crown.
                                                                     –Old Ballad.

Late in the fifties, before the thrashing machine had found its way among the settlers back in the bushland, numbers of men travelled about as winter drew near in search of a job of thrashing wheat with a flail. A notable character who followed this occupation was an old Braidwood identity, old Tom Murphy, who was found dead outside his dwelling some years back down the creek below the township of Braidwood. The price paid for thrashing wheat was one shilling per bushel. Murphy could thrash from 12 to 15 bushels daily, so that during the winter months Tom Murphy earned good wages.

Amongst the thrashers who came round yearly was an aged man named Mick Duggan, To judge from the description of the country the old man would give of what is now the city of Sydney, he must have been a very early arrival in the colony. The Crown prisoners received barbarous treatment from those in authority over them. The triangles and the floggers were in daily requisition, and shocking sights were on daily exhibition of "man's inhumanity to man." One Monday morning Duggan witnessed the execution of 24 men on Gallows Hill–16 for piracy, and eight for other offences. Among the latter bunch was a friend of Duggan's, who suffered the death penalty for stealing a yearling heifer. The men for piracy were sentenced on Friday and executed on Monday.

To give an idea of land values in those days, Duggan said he received the allotment of land which embraced within its boundaries the old market wharf near where the Pyrmont bridge crosses the harbor at the present time in exchange for a bottle of rum. Later on Duggan exchanged the allotment of land for a boat.

Among the notable characters old Mick had become acquainted with during prison life was a man named Frank McNamara, better known as "Frank the Poet." Frank was sent out for forgery, and was said to be very expert with the pen, and when in prison he wrote the Lord's Prayer on a piece of cardboard the circumference of a threepenny piece, and sent it to the Governor of the colony. The poet, like Owen Suffolk, whose dream of freedom lately appeared in print, drew inspiration from the woes of his unfortunate companions, and what he learned in suffering he sang in song. I give below a song which I often heard old Duggan sing, and which he said was composed by McNamara and distributed among the prisoners.

The story the old man told about Donoghue taking to the bush, as far as my memory serves me, was as follows:—At the time Donoghue's trouble began Duggan rented a blacksmith's shop on the roadside somewhere on the Sydney side of Picton. The trade of the shop depended on the teamsters and horsemen that daily passed the forge. Some days Duggan was flushed with work, and at other times had very little to do. Donoghue was the assigned servant of a landholder near at hand. Jack a daily occupation was to shepherd a mob of pigs on some swamp land not far from the blacksmith's shop. Every day Donoghue would spend some little time about the shop, and occasionally used the striking hammer, and was of great assistance when Duggan was tireing the heavy bullock dray wheels. When helping like this on busy days Donoghue was always rewarded with several glasses of rum.

One busy day Jack had taken more rum than was good for him, and when he arrived home at night he was five pigs short of his number, Donoghue failed to find the pigs next day, and for this neglect of duty Jack was sentenced to receive 100 lashes and to be turned back to Government. Rather than face the chain gangs, where he would be worked all the year round in irons, Jack decided to take up arms against the authorities and live a free life.

That night Donoghue escaped from custody, and some time about midnight arrived at Duggan's hut.
Jack described the dreadful flogging he had received from a left-handed flogger, and said that he intended to take to the bush and live a free life, if only a short one. Duggan had little advice or consolation to offer to his hapless friend. After drinking a couple of glasses of rum the two men parted, and the unfortunate Donoghue went out into the night to follow the pathway that led to destruction. At the time Donoghue was shot his four companions in crime–McNamara, Underwood, Webber, and Walmsley–made their escape, but all four were captured a short time afterwards and hanged for their crime.


One evening late, as bright Sol was declining,
Creation gilded with his last rays,
And the feathery tribes through the groves were chiming
Their warbling notes in melodious lays,
By the limpid Hunter as I was seated
No great distance from Newcastle shore,
I heard a voice that thrice repeated,
"I am a poor exile from the Shamrock shore."

My bosom flowing with fond emotion,
By nature I was prompted to rise
To participate in that sad devotion
And re-echo feebly their mournful cries.
My sunburnt shoulders displayed more lashes
Of barbarous flogging ; no shirt I wore ;
No tattooed savage displayed mere gashes
Than the poor exile from the Shamrock shore.

My head is hoary, my forehead's wrinkled,
With-the palsy in every joint ;
With convict's blood the ground is sprinkled.  
The tyrants call it Limeburners' Point.
The servile soil that we are treading
Was trod together by our brethren's gore ;
They expired like martyrs, no torture dreading,
Says the poor exile from the Shamrock shore.

I have read in the Bible of King Herod's slaughter,
Bethelem, indeed, was a most awful sight,
And how King Pharoah in the Nile's deep water
Drowned many a true-born Israelite,
The crimsoned Isle and the raging bayonet
Are renowned in Scripture by deeds of gore ;
They were excelled by Morrison, and I'll maintain it,
And so can many from the Shamrock shore.

I have witnessed Morrison's disembarkation.
Tyranny for a time did cease,
Blood speedily gained a restoration,
And Mclntosh his venom traced.
Inhuman sights they did exhibit
As evil Morrison had done before,
The bloody triangles and the bleeding gibbet
Could not daunt the boys from the Shamrock shore

I sometimes ponder in silent sorrow
For my poor brethren's hardships–how hard they fare ;
For the cities of Sodom and great Gomorrah
To this cursed colony could not compare.
Those cities were cancelled by a conflagration,
Never to be inhabited or rebuilt any more,
This wants a similar visitation
To avenge the boys from the Shamrock shore.

You seem annoyed at my recital,
Of a poor bushranger's tale of woe.
A valiant outlaw is my real title,
Until the fatal bullet lays me low.
Through the forest echo with pistols loaded,
And girded round with the bayonets bare,
Like an Arabian Steed through the forest bounding
Goes the poor exile from the Shamrock shore.