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Wiltshire Community History

Folk Song Information

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Book TitleAuthorDateNotes
Song TitleBotany Bay
Roud No.261
Collected FromHarvey, Henry [Wassail]
LocationCricklade
CountyWiltshire
Collected ByWilliams, Alfred
Alternative Title
Tune
Date
Source PrimaryWSRO: 2598/36 Packet 4 - Wiltshire: Williams, A: MS collection No Wt 350: WSRO: 2598/28 - Williams, A: Round about the Upper Thames Ms Vol. 4 p 19, 20
Source SecondaryUnpublished
Recording
 
Song Lyrics
Verse 1

Come, all young men of learning, a warning take by me,
I'd have you quit night walking and shun bad company;
I'd have you quit night walking, or else you'll rue the day,
When you are transported and gone to Botany Bay.

Verse 2

I was brought up in London Town, a place I know full well,
Brought up by my honest parents, the truth to you I'll tell;
Brought up by honest parents, and reared so tenderly,
Till I became a roving blade which proved my destiny.

Verse 3

My character soon taken was and I was sent to gaol,
My parents tried to clear me, but nothing could prevail;
At the Old Bailey Sessions the judge to me did say -
'The jury have found you guilty - you must go to Botany By.'

Verse 4

To see my aged father dear as he stood at the bar,
Likewise my tender mother, her old grey locks she tore;
In tearing off her old grey locks, these words she then did say -
'Oh, son! Oh, son! What hast thou done? Thou'rt going to Botany Bay.'

Verse 5

As we sailed down the river all at the breaking of day,
On every ship that we passed by we could hear the sailors say -
'There goes some clever young men, we're sorry for they say,
Oh, for some crime or other, my lads, they're bound for Botany Bay.'

Verse 6

There is a girl in London town, a girl I know full well,
If ever I get my liberty along with her I'll dwell;
If ever I get my liberty I'll forsake all other girls,
And shun all evil company, then adieu to New South Wales.
 
Print Song Lyrics
 
Notes
Note 1

Williams, Alfred: Ms: The file contains a manuscript copy of the song and a typescript note which attributes this song to Wassail Harvey. There are differences between the typescript and the manuscript.

Note 2

In Verse 5 the original text reads:

As we sailed down the river on the twenty eighth of May
All in the morning early - at the dawning of the day
On every ship that we passed by we could hear the sailors say -
'Oh, for some crime or other, my lads, they're bound for Botany Bay.'

Note 3

Williams, Alfred: RAUT Ms, Vol 4, p 4/19, 4/20: the following text appears, which differs slightly from the above. It is preceded by the following:

"This old "Wassail" Harvey of ninety years whose mother led him up the street to see the debris after the riot when he was a young child. The next day the Yeomanry troops were on the scene: the ring leaders were arrested and sent for trial: and were then dispatched off to Botany Bay ... This old Wassail sang to me sitting in his armchair in the cottage one rough winter's night."

Verse 1

Come, all young men of learning, a warning take by me,
I'd have you quit night walking and shun bad company;
Leave honest folks to till their soil, and use the means they may,
For it matters not a whit to us when we're gone to Botany Bay.

Verse 2

I was brought up at Reading Town, a place I know full well,
Brought up by honest parents, the truth to you I'll tell;
Brought up by honest parents, and reared so tenderly,
Till I became a roving blade which proved my destiny.

Verse 3

The cry went forth, "Tonight my lads, in front of yonder town,
We'll meet with hatchet, sledge and bar, and riot up and down."
But a traitor spied upon us, before the break of day,
And soon the soldiers came and said, "You're down for Botany Bay."

Verse 4

Our characters were taken and we were sent to gaol,
Our friends tried hard to clear me, but nothing could prevail;
At the Old Bailey Sessions the judge to us did say:
"The jury have found you guilty, you must go to Botany Bay."

Verse 5

To see my aged father dear as he stood at the bar,
Likewise my tender mother, her old grey locks she tore;
In tearing off her old grey locks, these words she then did say -
"Oh, son, oh, son. What hast thou done? Thou'rt going to Botany Bay."

Verse 6

As we sailed down the river clear on the 28th of June,
And proudly swept the waves aside, while the breezes sang in tune,
On every ship that we passed by we could hear the sailors say:
"O, for some crime or other, my lads, they're bound for Botany Bay."

Verse 7

There's a girl I left in England, with eyes so fair and blue,
Although I pleaded guilty, I know her heart is true.
If only she will wait awhile and cast me not away
I'll win my freedom for her yet, then goodbye Botany Bay.

Transcribed and edited by Chris Wildridge, 2011.

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