The Wild Colonial Boy

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"The Wild Colonial Boy" is a traditional anonymous Irish-Australian ballad of which there are many different versions, the most prominent being the Irish and Australian versions. The original version was about Jack Donahue, an Irish rebel who became a convict, then a bushranger,[1] and was eventually shot dead by police. This version was outlawed as seditious, so the name in the song was changed to Jack Doolan. The Irish version is about a Jack Duggan, young emigrant who left the town of Castlemaine, County Kerry, Ireland, for Australia in the early 19th century. According to the song, he spent his time "robbing from the rich to feed the poor". In the song, Duggan is fatally wounded in an ambush when he is shot in the heart by Fitzroy. "The Wild Colonial Boy" has been recorded by Dr. Hook, Rolf Harris, Larry Kirwan, John Doyle, The Irish Rovers and The Clancy Brothers, among others, and was featured in the film The Quiet Man.


      There was a wild colonial boy, Jack Duggan was his name
                                 D             D7           G
      He was born and raised in Ireland, in a place called Castlemaine
                           D            D7                G
      He was his father's only son, his mother's pride and joy,
                  D7      C       D              D6   D7  G
      And dearly did his parents love, the wild colonial boy.


Irish lyrics[edit]

The lyrics are as follows:

Australian lyrics[edit]

The Australian version is quite different. It is about a boy named Jack Doolan, born in Castlemaine. The poem then continues on to tell of his exploits without mentioning his moving to Australia, which implies that the Castlemaine in question is that in Victoria.

Here is one version of the "Jack Doolan" poem:

In popular culture[edit]

  • The Album "Ireland in Song" by Cathy Maguire includes the Irish Version of the Song:
  • In the United States, a version of this song was popularized by folk singer Burl Ives.
  • Dr. Hook recorded a version of this song, on American Bandstand (1981). It was mentioned by Dennis Locorriere that the royalties went to charity.
  • Billy Walker recorded the song as B-side to his hit, Charlie's Shoes, in 1962. He included it in his album, Greatest Hits.
  • The walking skeleton in Robert Frost's poem the Witch of Coos is said to have been searching for way out of the house, because he wanted to sing his favorite song, "The Wild Colonial Boy", in the snow.
  • A portion of the Irish version of "The Wild Colonial Boy" can be heard in the 1952 film The Quiet Man.
  • Mick Jagger sings this song in the 1970 movie Ned Kelly, which is about the real-life Australian outlaw, of the same name. According to The Argus report in November 1880, Mrs Anne Jones had asked her son to sing the ballad when the Kelly gang were at her hotel in June that year.[2]
  • A waltz version of the tune features in the ball scene in Baz Luhrmann's film Australia (2008)
  • Damien Leith released a version of his 2015 album Songs From Ireland


External links[edit]