Jim Jones at Botany Bay

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"Jim Jones at Botany Bay" is a traditional Australian folk ballad first published in 1907. The narrator, Jim Jones, is found guilty of an unnamed crime (although the song refers to "flog the poaching out of you"; poaching was a transportable offence) and sentenced to transportation. En route, his ship is attacked by pirates, but the crew holds them off. Just when the narrator remarks that he would rather have joined the pirates or indeed drowned at sea than gone to Botany Bay, he is reminded by his captors that any mischief will be met with the whip. The final verse sees the narrator describing the daily drudgery and degradation of life in the penal colony, and dreaming of joining the bushrangers and taking revenge on his floggers.

The ballad was most probably sung to the tune of the old Irish rebel song "Skibbereen". Charles MacAlister in his Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South (1907) gives the tune as "Irish Molly Oh".


One version of the traditional lyrics is shown below.

Come gather round and listen lads, and hear me tell m' tale,
How across the sea from England I was condemned to sail.
The jury found me guilty, and then says the judge, says he,
Oh for life, Jim Jones, I'm sending you across the stormy sea.
But take a tip before you ship to join the iron gang,
Don't get too gay in Botany Bay, or else you'll surely hang.
Or else you'll surely hang, he says, and after that, Jim Jones,
Way up high upon yon gallows tree, the crows will pick your bones.

Our ship was high upon the seas when pirates came along,
But the soldiers on our convict ship were full five hundred strong;
They opened fire and so they drove that pirate ship away
But I'd rather joined that pirate ship than gone to Botany Bay.
With the storms a-raging round us, and the winds a-blowing gales
I'd rather drowned in misery than gone to New South Wales.
There's no time for mischief there, remember that, they say
Oh they'll flog the poaching out of you down there in Botany Bay.

Day and night in irons clad we like poor galley slaves
Will toil and toil our lives away to fill dishonored graves;
But by and by I'll slip m' chains and to the bush I'll go
And I'll join the brave bushrangers there, Jack Donahue and Co.
And some dark night all is right and quiet in the town,
I'll get the bastards one and all, I'll gun the floggers down.
I'll give them all a little treat, remember what I say
And they'll yet regret they sent Jim Jones in chains to Botany Bay.


Cross references[edit]

References in popular culture[edit]

  • In the computer strategy game Sid Meier's Alien Crossfire, the last part of the ballad is used upon faction selection to describe the Free Drones, a labourer faction.


  1. Charles MacAlister, Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South (1907), "Jim Jones at Botany Bay" (1 text)
  2. Geoffrey Grigson (editor), The Penguin Book of Ballads (1975), 96, "Jim Jones at Botany Bay" (1 text)
  3. Warren Fahey, Eureka: The Songs that Made Australia (1984), pp. 28–29, "Jim Jones at Botany Bay" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. J. S. Manifold, The Penguin Australian Songbook (1964), pp. 12–13, "Jim Jones" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. ST PBB096 (Partial)
  6. Roud Folksong #5478