So here’s a first for us, we’ve done English, Scottish, Irish and American folk songs, and now we’ve taken a trip Down Under! This week we are doing an Australian folk song called Jim Jones at Botany Bay; as featured recently in Quentin Tarantino’s new film The Hateful Eight (although our version differs a bit!)
It tells the tale of Jim Jones who was convicted of poaching and sent to Australia on a convict ship and the misery that befalls them on the journey. Throughout the first 2 verses Jim is rather miserable and wishing he was dead; dreading the fate that awaits him when they arrive at Botany Bay. By the final verse however, he has developed a seed of rebellion. He promises himself that he will get his revenge on his captors and escape into the Australian outback.
The song was first written down in 1907 by a man called Charles MacAlister who drove bullock-teams in New South Wales. In his book Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South he mentions it was sung to an old Irish tune called Irish Molly, O. Unfortunately there is more than one tune with this title so we don’t know for sure which one was the original, although the modern versions of Jim Jones actually uses the same tune as the Irish song Skibbereen
While the song wasn’t written down until 1907, it was definitely around much earlier than that and it is generally agreed that the song dates to around 1830 as it mentions Jim Jones’ wish to join Jack Donohue’s gang. Jack Donahue was a real individual who was active as a Bush Ranger (escaped convicts turned outlaws) from 1825 until he was shot in 1830.
As with many of the songs we have performed so far, this tune has been tackled by many fantastic artists such as Bob Dylan, Martin Carthy, and our personal favourite by Jim Causley! We loved performing this one, Becca especially so as she loves a good story she can act out! We hope you enjoy it too 🙂