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International Music & Culture
Botany Bay
(Australian Traditional Song)


Definitions of Australian terms can be found below the song…

Botany Bay
Traditional Song

Farewell to old England for ever,
Farewell to my rum culls as well,
Farewell to the well known Old Bailey
Where I used for to cut such a swell.


Singing too-ral-li-ooral-li-addity
Singing too-ral-li-ooral-li-ay
Singing too-ral-li-ooral-li-addity
Oh we're bound for Botany Bay.

There's the captain as is our commander,
There's the bosun and all the ship's crew,
There's the first and the second class passengers,
Knows what we poor convicts goes through.

'Taint leaving Old England we cares about,
'Taint 'cause we mis-spells what we knows,
But because all we light-fingered gentry,
Hops around with a log on our toes.

Oh had I the wings of a turtle-dove,
I'd soar on my pinions so high,
Slap bang to the arms of my Polly love,
And in her sweet presence I'd die.

Now all my dookies and duchesses,
Take warning from what I've to say,
Mind all is your own as you touchesses,
Or you'll find us in Botany Bay.


Definitions of Australian terms:

rum culls - friends
Old Bailey - famous English prison
To cut a swell - to make a good impression
a swell - well dressed person
dookies - not a real word at all but from 'dukes'


Leigh, who sent me this song, wrote the following, "Here's a song from colonial days that every Aussie child learns sometime. Its origins are probably from an English music hall and not from Australia at all. It is obviously written by a songwriter and meant to entertain. It is about the convict days when any small crime would have you shipped to Australia for 7 years. Verse 2 is about life on the convict ships. The last verse is directed to English girls and boys as warning not to steal."

A site called Australian Folk Songs states the following "First published in Sydney Golden Songster in 1893 This song is a burlesque, written by Stephens and Yardley, from the comedy 'Little Jack Shepherd' that played in London in 1885, and in Melbourne in 1886. 'Botany Bay' shares two verses with 'Fairwell to Judges and Juries' a broadside c.1820."

Thanks and Acknowledgements

Many thanks to Leigh Newton (songwriter and entertainer of children and adults) for contributing this song.

Many thanks to Michael Kunta for sending me his rendition of Botany Bay from Tasmania, Australia.


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