Bold Jack Donohue

by Jerry O’Reilly

Come all you gallant highwaymen and outlaws of disdain,
Who spend your lives in slavery, or wear the ball and chain,
Attention pay to what I say, or value it if you do,
Concerning that bold Fenian boy, called Jack O’Donohue
In Dublin town I was brought up, that city of great fame;
My parents reared me tenderly, there’s many that knows the same;
For being a bold United Boy I was sent across the main;
For seven long years to New South Wales to wear a convict chain.
I was no longer than six months upon the Australian shore
When I turned out as a Fenian, boy which I often did before
There was MacNamara from yon green woods and Captain Mackie too
They were the chiefs and associates of bold Jack Donohue
Now O’Donohue was taken all for a notorious crime
And he was sentenced to be hanged all on the gallows high
But when they came to Sydney gaol he left them in a stew
For when they went to call the roll they missed O’Donohue
Now O’Donohue made his escape to the woods he made his way
Where the tyrants never show their face neither by night and day
And every week in the newspapers there was something published new
Concerning that bold Fenian Boy called Jack O’Donohue
As O’Donohoe was walking one summer’s afternoon
Little was his notion that his life would end so soon
A sergeant of the horse police discharged his carabine
And loudly called to O’Donohoe to fight or to resign
“To resign to you, you cowardly dog is a thing
I’ll never do I’d rather fight with all me might”, said famed Jack Donohue
“I’ll range these woods and valleys like a wolf or a kangaroo
Before I’ll yield to your Government”, said Bold Jack Donohue
Eight rounds the horse policeman fired until a fatal ball
Lodged in the breast of O’Donohue which caused him for to fall
Before he closed his mournful eyes to this world he bid adieu
Ye people all both great and small pray for O’Donohue

image of Jerry O’Reilly

sung by
Jerry O’Reilly
(Cullerlie 2007)

CDs available

image of CD cover of Jerry O’Reilly

Image of Bold Jack Donohue

Bold Jack Donahue drawn after death by the famous Australian surveyor and explorer, Sir Thomas Mitchell

Jack Donahue was born in Dublin in 1804. He supported Irish nationalism and at the age of 20 was sentenced to be transported for life to New South Wales, Australia after being accused of attempted felony.

Donahue arrived in January 1825 with 200 other convicts and was assigned to work as a servant to a settler named John Pagan on a farm at Parramatta.


He was supervised during the day, but managed to escape in the night. Later, he was punished and had to work in chains for a road gang. Eventually, Donahue was sent back to work on a pig farm belonging to Major West at Quakers Hill. Donahue again escaped to the bush with two men named Kilroy and Smith.

Donahue’s gang

He formed a gang known as ‘The Strippers.’ They were given this name because they stripped wealthy land owners of their clothes, money and food. The servants who worked in the farms helped the bushrangers by providing information about their masters and the whereabouts of people. These servants sometimes would give them food and shelter.


In 1829, a reward of £20 was offered for his capture. It was increased to £200 a year later. On 1 September 1830, a group of soldiers and police caught Donahue and his gang. In the ensuing battle, Donahue was shot in the head, dying from the wound.

A great song from the singing of Elizabeth (Bess) Cronin of Baile Bhirne, Co. Cork and Roisín White, late of Armagh, but now of Miltown Malbay, Co. Clare.

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Folk Leads Publications 2008