Article MT178

Glimpses into the 19th Century Broadside Ballad Trade

Number 21: Botany Bay1

Following from the previous article in this series which considered examples of generic ballads about transportation, this one looks more closely at ballads where the destination is specified as Botany Bay but which will be seen to employ imagery and expression already discussed and precious little to illuminate the location.

One example of this is the ballad entitled The Country Girl, printed by Pitts and Catnach (and by Walker in Lincoln - another of those printers, like Stark of Gainsborough, who emerge and disappear without any apparently extensive repertoire or influence).2  The piece hardly makes any impact in respect of Botany Bay, being much more a song of farewell and lament (all quotations set out as on copy) and employing at least a first stanza that can be found elsewhere, notably in The Irish Girl:

As I walk'd out one morning down by a ri
                        ver a side (sic)
I gaz'd all around and a country girl I espied
So red and rosy was her cheeks and in ringlets
                        hun (sic) her hair (country girl did wear
And so neat and costly was the robes that this3
The protagonist steps up to her and she tells him that her 'true love' has gone from her after 'eight long years' of courtship:
                        (Botany Bay.
… now my love's transported and is gone to
Her love set sail on '5th of December' in a 'sweet and pleasant gale'.  If he should return then she and he will enjoy his 'sweet liberty'.  There is then a sudden assault:
So come all you wicked blades, I would have you
                        a warning take
Leave off your thieving tricks …
and don't be foolish enough to lose liberty.

And that is that: a mere sidelong glance at Botany Bay.  Clearly, the intention was to rework an old theme and there is absolutely nothing, save mention of Botany Bay proving that there is a hint of familiarity with the transport system, not even a reference to the number of years that the 'true love' will have to serve away from home, that might illuminate the prospect of transportation to the further side of the world.  This Botany Bay piece echoes the generic pieces discussed in the previous article in this series.

Our next piece, ostensibly more promising, is a ballad entitled Botany Bay.  A Pitts version4 (there does not appear to be anything from Catnach), printed from '14 Great S Andrew Street' - in other words before 1819 when he moved remises to 6 Great St Andrew Street - begins as follows:

Come all you young fellows,
Who ever that you be,
Who delight in a fong,
Join chorus with me,
I will fing you a fong,
Which was made the other day,
Concerning fome poor lads,
Who were fent to Botany Bay.
Thus convention is served in the first two lines, a disclaimer made as to the genesis of the ballad; and the adjective 'poor' might be said to invoke immediate sympathy.  The long 's' may suggest early provenance.

There follow a series of vignettes: 'In comes the turnkey'; the transport thinks that it is ten thousand to one that he will see his love again; one girl 'starts up' with ten guineas in her hand 'Saying take this my dear lad' - it is all that she can give - and another starts up 'in the midst of the fray' (on the surface an odd term to encounter) and asks:

… where are you going,
To take my love away …
The convicts then 'mounted a coach', obliged to part 'from our native country' and fastened together 'with double locks fo strong'; making the journey from Blackfriars to Woolwich.  During the ride:
The Cockneys they did fay,
It a pity fuch clever lads,
Should go to Botany Bay.
There is nothing about the voyage, but once in the new land, there will be letters to write 'To our sweethearts and wives'.  Further:
The nature of the country,
You all do underftand
And ill we have been treated,
Since we have left our native land.
There is a call on 'heaven' for protection.

The picture of the coach and the chain links is authentic enough.  But it is the initial lines which, in effect, warn young men, the wrenching out from a circle of family and friends, the bleak prospects of banishment from a native country, the hopes of a kind of future normality (in letter-writing) that allow a fleeting apprehension of the state of mind of a transport; and conditions in Botany Bay are relegated to a kind of innuendo as the implicit referral in the lines immediately above demonstrates.  Other lines commenting on the apparent injustice of any sentence reinforce the adjective 'poor' already mentioned.  Ultimately, the particular ballad is close enough to those discussed previously to emphasise the lack of evidence of real knowledge of conditions in Botany Bay which does not, then, emerge as a distinct destination but, like the ideas in The Country Girl, as pegs on which to hang a conventionally expressed story.

Other printings of the same piece can be found: one from Armstrong in Liverpool, for example, with the same title and where the narrative is commensurate but that turns the eight-line stanza form into one employing four line stanzas.  Further, here there are the usual changes in orthography and phraseology ranging from the insertion of a semi-colon after 'with me' - Pitts' fourth line - through the change from Pitts 'love' ('… if I fee my love again') to 'lad' and Pitts' 'fray' to 'spray' (neither make obvious 'sense') to the inclusion of some extra lines after the 'sweethearts and wives' stanza:

But if ever war should rise again,
What would Old England say,
They would wish they had us poor lads back again,
That they sent to Botany Bay.5
Whether or not Armstrong would have countenanced this as a serious argument, in the nature of gossip and exchange of views it may well have figured in the street and amongst those most affected by the transportation system.  All the time we need to balance an apparent disjunction between ballad and actuality that always raises the question of why ballad-printers issued their particular material.  We are, after all, dealing with fiction even if this form intrigues by its gestures towards to social conditions and taking into account the extent of printing which sometimes reveals a sustained interest.  We know, in this respect, that, even in a matter of one public figure replacing another, any prolonged attention - Nelson as prime example, already revealed during this series and elsewhere on site6 - is a feature of ballad-printing, it is suggested, relying for exposure on commercial motive and by no means necessarily as a matter of historical timing.

Copy of the same piece from Angus in Newcastle is entitled The Convict's Farewell7.  It, like Pitts, employs the long 's' and has much of the same narrative line as both Pitts and Armstrong and expected orthographic changes - 'That delight', for instance instead of 'Who'…; but, at the end of the first stanza, the phrase, 'To my whack, &c.', indicates a chorus and, perhaps, a known tune; and there are different lines altogether in its second stanza:

Up comes the turn-key it was about fix o'clock,
With the keys in his hand the doors to unlock;
Rise up you lads and laffes (sic) you shall appear this day,
For your orders they have come to go to Botany Bay…
Similarly, the girl with the ten guineas has the lines:
And all you poor lads that is fent to Botany Bay.
May the heavens protect you for ever and a day,
The second girl has the lines:
Come unlock the door let me bid my lad farewell,
For ten thoufand to one ever I fee my lad again…
It is also 'He' who mounts the coach and, further, on the coach (as the rhyme lapses):
Some weeping and fome crying it is folly for to grieve,
For we are obliged to leave our native place.
The final stanza describes how the convicts were 'linked', not 'fastened', how the journey was from Warwick to Blackfriars in London and how the Cockneys bemoaned the fate of 'fuch clever fellows'.  We obviously have here a variation on a theme, true or not, the Warwick insertion particularly telling in this respect - but we should also note that Angus was printing between 1774 and 1825 and his output, as far as it is known, includes material found extensively amongst printers, often from older and eighteenth century stock (The Outlandish Knight, William and Nancy's Parting The Constant Shepherd, The Willow Tree, The Happy Strangers … Youghal harbour) and a crop of 'Napoleonic' pieces (Bonaparte's Escape from Russia, Death of Parker, Copenhagen, Trafalgar's Battle and so on); with some poetry - Burns and Thomas Campbell, for instance - all of which would seem to underline almost a period contribution.8  The long 's' might also be seen as something of a pointer to early printing.  And it really is impossible to say who, in general, got what from whom unless by weight of material in broadside balladry we vest much genesis in Pitts, whose printing, as described above, we have seen as being a relatively early one.  Since, too, in this particular instance, Pitts and Armstrong printings are so close in form - Armstrong, as we know, also printing alongside Pitts in actual historical time - one wonders who filched from whom in terms of broadside issue: Angus, we remind ourselves, has a changed title.

If the image of the apprentice is a prominent one in transportation balladry (as discussed both above and in the previous piece in this series) what are the other regular images that occur and do they follow ballad convention? How are they applied to Botany Bay? In a piece entitled The Disconsolate Maid, printed by Pigott in Old Street, London9, we find the following:

As near to portsmouth dock (sic) I stray'd,
     One evening in the month of May,
There I espy'd a comely maid,
     And on her cast my eye,
A wringing of her tender hands,
     And mournfully did say,
"My love is banish'd from me quite,
     And sent to Botany Bay
Evidently the maid's love fought for the King, came home again, found no employment and 'for a trifling theft' was sent for transportation.  In ballad literature, 'comely maids', we know, are ten a penny and the May imagery may even be said to echo the regular setting of walking out on one May morning with whatever encounter followed (it is similar, as well, to the 'one morning' of The Country Girl discussed above).  More pertinently, we also know - and ballads reflect this - that trifling thefts did, indeed, constitute grounds for transportation; and that Portsmouth was one of the ports from which transports sailed.

The maid goes on to curse 'the fatal laws' that were 'too severe' thus echoing the ill treatment in Botany Bay cited in The Country Girl; and then we encounter the same imagery that was found in Armstrong's version of Botany Bay:

And should another war arise,
     What will old England do,
I wish I had my sons back again,
     That's sent to Botany Bay …
Obviously, these similarities underline the employment of ballad convention of expression and in yet further parallel with known ballad literature, the listener in this piece thought that 'my heart would break', 'stept up to' the maid and discovered that her cheeks 'where (sic) like the roses red' and she her 'curly locks did play'.

What, though, was she going to do?  Would she tell him her woe?

O no, Kind sir, that can not be,
     "For I can no longer stay,
For I'll go follow my true love
     That's gone to Botany Bay"
Such an intriguing possibility can be ascertained in actuality.10  As far as the production of balladry is concerned, we might just note overall a not unfamiliar uncertainty in spelling and punctuation here; and the piece does not appear to have any parallel in other printers' stock.  Pigott's Old Street address was the centre of the firm's operation between 1803 and 1825 when there was a move to 52 Compton Street.  This tentative dating allows the piece contemporary currency with the output of other printers already canvassed - Pitts, of course, being the principal one - who were tempted by the idea of transportation and its commercial spin-off.  We may add, though, that Pigott is not known for other transportation ballads.  And it as well to underline the character of the maid as being one found in other balladry: archetype rather than rounded human figure.  So in Pigott Botany Bay as destination is something of a simple addition to a known story - although we cannot deny the extra frisson that it might give to that story.

What, then, in respect of convention and initiation of ballads and of destination are we to make of The Convict Maid? It appears in printings from Paul and Such in London and Harkness in Preston: no Pitts nor Catnach but specifying Botany Bay as destination for the transports.

If we take the London printings first, we find the setting in London itself and a maid who 'sin my youthful heart betrayed'.  This and the following lines come from Paul.  In order to 'wed my love' she took 'my master's property', was sent to prison, stood 'at the bar' and:

At length the Judge did me address,
Which filled with aching pain my breast,
To Botany Bay you will be conveyed,
Since doomed to be a Convict Maid.
The sentence was for seven years during which:
While my poor mother cried,
My lover wept, and thus he said,
May God be with my Convict Maid.
As we have almost come to expect the situation described can be found in other ballads about maids (and apprentices) and there is precious little about the maid's new experience.  She has a 'mournful tale' to tell alright and is full of 'grief'.  Most of all, she is far from her friends, her punishment 'is most severe' and her 'woe is great', all this echoing Botany Bay above.  A final, badly printed stanza continues the lament in, firstly, a bizarre image - 'Tooth scheds (sic) in grief and pain' and then 'leepless (sic) thought the night remain' …
My constant toils are unrepaid,
And wretched is the Convict Maid.
Such printed the piece in the same four-line stanza format but the printing is clearer than that of Paul, its penultimate stanza making more 'sense' of Paul's lines:
I toil each day in grief and pain,
In sleepless thought the night remain;
My constant toils are unrepaid,
And wretched is the convict maid.
The final stanza, however, incorporates new material:
Oh could I but once more be free,
I'd ne'er again a captive be,
But I would seek some honest trade,
And never become a convict maid.
A Harkness printing parallels that from Such except that in Harkness there is a changed pattern to an eight-line stanza piece.  Finally, one printing without imprint begins with 'Ye Glasgow maids attend to me…', but the stanzaic patterning and the narrative, including those final four lines, are the same as that of Such and Harkness although with minor orthographic changes.11

The London Convict Maid, printed by Birt, is another version of the same ballad but in this case there is one of those giveaway transpositions set out in a prose introduction.  The girl evidently sailed to Hobart Town and sent her mother 'a very affecting and pathetic letter' from which the ballad had been made.  In the ballad itself she is found in Botany Bay.  It is not at all clear if The Convict Maid derived from Birt's piece or vice versa but the place of both in the succession of balladry here reviewed is clear enough with no substantial detail that might reveal conditions in Botany Bay (nor, indeed, Van Diemen's Land).  The involvement of the various printers would look to be simple exploitation of the notion of criminality and its connection to transportation and the suspicion, in Birt's case, must be of a spurious authenticity.12

We may add that the address on Birt copy is that of 39 Great St.  Andrew Street, thus - as indicated in the course of the previous article in this series - suggesting a time when the Birt firm was operating under the auspices of either Ann or Mary Birt, Thomas Birt having ceased operation in 1841.

So that it looks as if all these printings are centred round the mid-century mark, interesting in that Botany Bay ceased to be a penal colony in 1840.  They may well indicate some particular relevance to the phenomenon of transportation at that point or just after but do not offer details of the by now expanded experience, concentrating instead on the personal dilemma of the maid and this in terms recognisable from ballads that have gone before even unto a proper sense of repentance familiar from execution balladry … an extension, then, of previous practice.13  The one thing worth singling out is the crime that the maid commits, that of larceny (the same as the crime of the apprentice boy discussed in the previous piece in this series), which accurately reflects the overwhelming reason for any sentence of transportation.14

Nevertheless, as contemporary reference to Botany Bay the piece - obviously one looks in hindsight but, then, so, apparently, does the ballad - lacks strict credibility, especially when, in the Birt printing, Van Diemen's Land appears to have been substituted as destination.  This must surely indicate a commercial exploitation, a means of reminding a potential audience of what had passed as well as what was happening in terms of other destinations but the same dread system.

In another ballad - entitled, variously, The Transport, Botany Bay, and The Transport Of Botany Bay - the protagonist had 'become a roving blade', once again a well-known circumstance in balladry.15  Indeed, this whole piece illustrates throughout its narrative a range of broadside expression found elsewhere:

Come all young men of learning a warning take by me,
I'd have you quit night walking or else you'll rue the day …
begins a Catnach version16, night walking being a familiar expression from, say, poaching balladry as discussed previously in this series.  In the next stanza:
I was brought up in London a place I know full well
Brought up by honest parents the truth to you I'll tell,
Brought up by honest parents and rear'd so tenderly
Till I became a roving blade which prov'd my destiny …
In the next stanza, 'My character was taken', the unfortunate is put in jail, his friends try to 'clear' him, but at the Old Bailey (a reminder of the first ballad discussed in the previous piece in this series) the Judge tells him that 'the jury hath found you guilty' and that he must go to Botany Bay.  His 'aged father' and his 'aged mother' whose 'old grey locks she tore' are distressed and the mother asks, 'Oh Son! Oh Son! What have you done …'.  All these expressions can be found in a range of other balladry, some instances already having been recounted in the previous article in this series.

The scene shifts more pertinently to the physical process of transportation - 'As we sailed down the river clear' - and a date is given - 'the 28th of May' which might, if taken at face value, suggest sentencing at the March assizes (we also know, on the other hand, that transports often languished in jail for a long time before any voyage took place, as will be seen in a future piece in this series).  All around sailors observed that 'There goes a ship of clever lads we are sorry for to say', an echo of the Cockney observations in our first example of balladry as given above.  In the final stanza the transport gains an apparent comfort in thinking on a girl 'in London town'.  'If ever I get my liberty along with her I'll dwell'; indeed, forsaking all other girls.  And he will also 'shun all evil company and adieu to New South Wales'.

Yet again it is to a brief and perhaps predictable extent the inner turmoil and the immediate sequence to sentencing that is prominent, not life in Botany Bay.  The piece is classic broadside balladry but does not enlighten where the location is concerned.  Pitts copy (The Transport) is set out slightly differently in eight-line instead of four-line stanzas and with orthographic details sometimes altered but with a narrative line intact.  Evans of Chester (The Transport) has the same narrative line.  So have Such and Harkness (both as Botany Bay).  The printers have London as home for the girl except for Harkness who changes the location to Manchester; and Harkness also has the Pitts layout in eight-line stanzas.  The penultimate stanza in both Evans and Harkness, though, is slightly changed as compared to Catnach and Pitts.  Harkness has:

It was on the twenty-eight of May,
     From England we did steer,
And all things being safe on board,
     We sail'd down the river clear,
And every ship that we pass'd by,
     We heard the sailors say -
"There goes a ship of clever hands,
     And they are bound to Botany Bay.
Evans has:
As we sailed down the river clear, the twenty eight of May,
Every ship that we passed by we heard the sailors say,
There goes a ship of handsome lads,
And they are bound to Botany Bay.
Finally, the penultimate stanza in copy entitled The Transport, in a more significant change still, has:
As we came up Market-street it was a dismal sight,
Every person [illegible] by look'd at us with a sigh,
There goes a set of transports, to leave their native land,
And shotly (sic) they must proceed unto Van Diemen's Land.
These changes, especially that of the destination, must indicate how a printer reworked his - or someone else's - material.17

A piece that Catnach entitled Adieu to Old England or the Transport's Farewell18 tells a by now familiar story but with some variations.  It begins:

COME all you wild young fellows wherever you may be,
     One moment give attention and listen unto me;
I am a poor unhappy soul, within these walls I lay,
My awful sentence is pronounc'd, I'm bound to Botany Bay.
The transport had been brought up 'in tenderness' where his parents 'found delight' and were never happier than when he was 'in their sight'.  The parents nourished him and often told him to 'Avoid all evil company'.  He was, in fact, bound apprentice to a linen-draper 'all in fair Devonshire' and had an excellent character until he fell in with a harlot, a 'lofty dame' whom he entertained in some splendour before she enticed him to rob his master of 'costly robes and money'.  This from 'the best of masters'; followed by another robbery 'Of full 500 sovereigns' for which he was taken and sent 'to Exeter' for the assizes.  'The harlot then forsook me quite in this extremity'.

His 'aged parents dear bitterly did cry':

O must we with bleeding hearts bid our boy good-bye.
The transport's 'master and friends' pleaded for mercy but he was transported for life to Botany Bay.  There is a scene of farewell between the transport and his parents who came to see him the night before the ship set sail.  His mother 'fainted in my arms' and his father 'tore off his aged hair'.  The transport then takes his last farewell and issues a warning to 'Young men' to listen to their parents and to 'Avoid all harlot's (sic) company least you go to Botany Bay'.

Wright in Birmingham and Disley and Such in London (his copy is entitled The Transport's Farewell) have the same story.  Each copy has the expected small changes but each narrative is commensurate.  Walker in Durham called it The New Transport's Farewell - sometimes, it seems, an indication of a reissue as found with The Irish Girl and The New Irish Girl, for instance.  Walker has the apprentice in Lancashire and, when taken for his crime, he is 'to prison sent straightway' (not - of course - Exeter).19  In view of the list of printings, currency for the piece may be said to have been quite extensive over a period of time but there is no focus on Botany Bay: rather on the business of transportation itself.

The New Transport, from Armstrong in Liverpool20, is a parallel story to that described above although there are one or two extra details - a pale reflection of May morning lines, for instance - before any voyage took place:

I own it was one morning clear,
When the sun did shine and the sky look'd
                        clear,                        [walls,
When the sun did shine on cold Newgate
Whilst our silly crews' men to the legs are called.  Fal, lal, &c.
The transport's progress is from 'Newgate Stays', and 'down Gatehill', passing by Blackfriars and onto Woolwich town where 'we made no long stay' but 'bore away' to Sheerness and on board 'bound for Botany Bay', a seemingly authentic progress. 

The voyage itself is discounted but the mention of a 'Governor' is important for establishing a specific context:

Now we are landed at Botany Bay,
Our Governor unto us did say,
You have serv'd your king and your coun-
                        try too,
And I will behave like a friend to you.
However, scarce had the transports reached land when 'they clapp'd the shovel in our hand'…and 'the wheelbarrow too'.  Again much is then left out and we would guess that these images were related to known scenes in England.  Further still, and quite suddenly, 'Now my seven years are gone and past' and the transport will return to his 'favourite lass': drinking 'success to sweet liberty'.

It is hardly an epic piece; and it is not easy to think of it as anything but London-inspired with those details of the route that the transports take through and out of London.  The glimpse of life in Botany Bay is, perhaps, an improvement on other ballads described above.  The title, 'New' may suggest either a rehash or an attempt to distinguish the piece from Armstrong's The Transports noted above.  The inclusion of a chorus does give it a certain character albeit, in a sense, a contradictory one for such a grave subject.

More so in the latter respect in a piece without imprint entitled The Jolly Lad's Trip to Botany Bay21, where the tone is entirely at odds with that of any others considered so far, beginning 'Come come my jolly lads…' and ''Tis no use to weep nor to complain' because 'we' may see old England again.' This is followed by a chorus:

So come, come away, for I can no longer
Let us hope that we meet with a far better
The piece continues to make relative light of the particular occasion and of the state of mind of 'young lads juft in our prime' who by 'wifdom' might have been 'better taught': but 'wifdom's never any good without it is dear bought".  So these jolly lads look forward to a time and place where there may well be 'many a pretty lass' even in the guise of an 'Indian Queen', decked out in diamonds.  'A fig for tranfportation little do we care'.

And the first thing to do would be to choose a King:

Tis no ufe to laugh, nor to make fun,
For who knows that it may be the noted Bar-
This particular invocation goes a little way to indicating that some news of Botany Bay had been in circulation (for Barrington see more below) but the piece throws no further light ending with a farewell to all 'pretty girls' and the observation that it might well be some time 'before I do fee you'.  Meanwhile 'fill up the glass' and drink 'Success to the poor lads that's bound for Botany Bay".  In the king episode we gain a faint impression that life in a penal colony could even offer a relative freedom for action as compared to existing miseries in the mother country in a similar way to there being a prospect of riches to be brought back, usually, to Polly (as noted in the previous piece in this series); but this is woefully lacking in any sense of actuality.  On the other hand, we might hardly expect any convincing argument one way or the other.  As noted before in connection with individual psychology, this is not the ballad way.

The historical currency of the piece - it is without imprint but is listed in Madden as a slip song and has the long 's' - was probably early.  That Barrington's name is included may underline this possibility (given that the famous surfaced at other odd intervals).  Barrington was taken for theft, proclaimed an outlaw and tried in 1788, being then sent for transportation in 1790.  By 1792 he is described as 'Head Constable' at Parramata.  In all this Barrington himself can be seen as a character from an earlier epoch when hangings appeared to be almost festive occasions and where 'flash' blades dressed in finery and made glorious, defiant speeches from the gallows (as described in V A C Gatterell's admirable book, The Hanging Tree).22  Hugh Anderson, as pointed out in the last article in this series, included material on Barrington in his invaluable Farewell to Judges and Juries 23  Yet mention of the man does offer an insight into how ballads did sometimes manage to relate their well-worked themes to a current situation.

All the same, there is an even more abrupt turn in another piece, entitled Botany Bay Song, which is very much in the nature of lighthearted comment.24  A subtitle notes that it was 'As fung at the Crown and Anchor Tavern in the Strand''.  It consists of an opening reference to Cook and Joseph Banks and their discovery of and naming of Botany Bay, 'a place where the King might fend the thieves to' (our original motivation touched on in the previous article in the series).  There is a chorus - 'Row dow dow, row dow de roude dowdy, row dow dow…'.  'All things are prepared' and there is no going back on plans.  So the piece lists the personnel expected to be sent away, 'flender Billy, a noted knowing prig' who contrived to make money in a 'fhop-taxing ring'; 'Surly Ned' who had helped Billy; 'Squinting Jack' and 'fat Charley' … and so on … one set 'making too free with a houfe beyond the Horfs Guards'; another name being that of 'Warren Green Peafe'.  Eventually, after perusal of such a list, the anonymous commentator wrote that:

I examin'd them all round, found them birds of a
Then I threw the paper down, and I lump'd them
                        all together.

Of females I have faid ne'er a word all the while,
But no doubt they will be fupply'd from this fav'rite
Then Britannia fill your bumpers, rejoice now and fing,
What a glorious fet fhall we have from their offspring.
Can we assume irony in that final line?

This piece has no imprint but is listed in Madden as a slip song and, employing the long 's' which together with the Cook and Banks references and those relative to governmental proposals - an unusual subject in transportation ballads, bespeaking acquaintance with breaking news (as it were) - would have been a relatively early issue.  It is altogether a somewhat surprising piece to encounter and may just, as do Barrington pieces, reflect an earlier, almost defiant sort of mentality as much as it illuminates matters Antipodean - in the latter respect we do begin to find the small reference that help to establish the contemporary context.

Perhaps we might have expected even more illumination in a piece from Pitts entitled Landed in Botany Bay…but would have been disappointed25:

MY dear girl I am landed in Botany Bay,
Never more to thy arms to return
Tho' I like a negro do labour all day,
Tis for thee I am mostly concerned …
The piece goes on to indicate that the transport's "spirits are drooping' and the first stanza ends:
I think of my Polly and then heave a sigh,
Drop a tear and cry never more
The pain had been less if condemn'd for to die,
When banished from her I adore.
No poet can pen what his heart feels, nor write of all the troubles he feels.  In a third stanza the lament ends with a slight variant on the 'chorus' lines:
Then I never more might heave a sigh,
Dropt a tear and cry'd never more …
Copy was issued from '14, Great St.  Andrew Street' thus indicating printing before 1819 when Pitts moved premises.

Collard in Bristol also printed this piece as Pitts had it.26

As in most other examples considered this piece relies on conventional attachment and conventional phrasing.  There is no special news of Botany Bay as location.  Altogether, we are learning rapidly that details of the lives of convicts in the new continent were not usually of paramount interest to broadside printers.  It might be argued that news was slow to circulate but there are certainly many letters extant that were sent back to England by convicts, let alone the journals and correspondence of officials.  It is difficult to calculate the extent of exposure, of course, nut no one printer took such a bull by the horns and all seemed content to vest any possible interest in known archetypes, known imagery and known themes. 

At a slight remove to Landed in Botany Bay, with a seeming authenticity vested in a name, Lindsay in Glasgow printed Lament of Charlotte Mills although there is no evidence so far that would confirm an actual case-history.27  The narrative concerns 'A merchant's daughter' born 'of very good degree' with 'tender parents'.  Unfortunately, when this Charlotte was 'sixteen years of age', her mother died:

She clasped me in her dying arms and strict advice she gave
To guard my steps and keep from harm when she was in
                        the grave.
However, a 'gentleman did gain my virgin love' persuading her that she would be the 'richest' lady in town.  'His artful tongue did me decoy', she left her father's house, and she lived for 'twelve months with the man who then 'betrayed' her:
Distracted by his conduct base, disconsolate and poor,
My father would not see my face, but turned me from his
I wandered weeping up and down till almost dead,
Till I was forced upon the town for miserable bread.
She nonetheless contrived to take lodgings with a 'kind' landlady, but was then put out again 'when dying with disease' - which she self-evidently did not because for six months she endured 'want and poverty' until a 'fatal day' when she was driven to robbery.  Then:
I straight to -- gaol was sent, my trial to await,
And then did bitterly lament my poor unhappy fate.
The gap in the lines seems to give away the 'fictional' nature of the heroine and her crime.

The judge sentenced her to fourteen years' transportation in Botany Bay to which she was sent with others all of whom had 'heavy hearts' (we have seen a range of sentences doled out).  After the fourteen years, seemingly unaffected by the experience, she returned to England though even then:

Our ship was wrecked on the way, and many found a watery grave,
But I upon the wreck did stay, and heaven did me save …
Once again the idea of tall tales rears up its head.  Moreover, 'My aged father' who had long given her up for dead then she 'floods of tears':
No longer he would me disown, his anger died away,
He took the weary wanderer home who long had gone astray.
The piece has a familiar ring in its employment of the figure of the maid and her misfortune even if the lot of the abandoned female as seen here can be substantiated in part.  The ballad also has an element of sentimentality in it, a sniff of religiosity which may suggest mid-nineteenth century feelings and, carrying the name of Lindsay, who printed in the 1850s, would appear to confirm issue at this approximate time.  What this signifies in respect of Botany Bay or, indeed, the whole subject of transportation, is that there is no change in form and method in ballad-printing as the nineteenth century wore on that would take much actuality into consideration.

There were, all the same, some ballads that do portray actual experience - to be considered more closely in a forthcoming piece.  Suffice for the moment to mention two.  Firstly, The Convict's Return, printed by Reynolds in Edinburgh (there are also two other printings, one of which - without imprint - went under the title The Transport's Return and another under that title from Ross in Newcastle), concerns the fate of some Scottish political prisoners in 1821:

Forty-five of us were banished away,
As exiles for life in Botany Bay.
The particular convict returned in 1832 so a relatively late date for issue is indicated.28

Secondly, in a way that lends some credibility to apparently suspect tales, there is a piece from Hillat and Martin in London entitled Sarah Gale's Lament - to the air of Death of Parker, itself a ballad concerned with the 1797 naval mutinies - which concerns the fate of the woman associated with James Greenacre in the killing of Hannah Brown in 1836.29  The employment of the Parker tune is evidence of how ballad printers relied on precedent, in this case, with a gap of some thirty-eight years (we see the tune for Tars of the Blanche emerging and re-emerging in the same way).  The piece begins:

As I walk'd down by the walls of Newgate,
I thought I heard a female say,
I am doom'd my days to linger,
In the land of Botany Bay…
The narrative informs us that Sarah Gale 'did cohabit' with Greenacre, knowing that he had a wife and then how Sarah had, in conventional ballad style, been 'brought up by honest parents' but, falling in with Greenacre, had been 'Tried by a British Jury' for the death of Hannah Brown and had seen Greenacre die 'on the scaffold':
… now his life is paid the forfeit,
he died a death of public scorn,
And I am left a wretched creature,
In agony I weep forlorn.

In a foreign land I'm doom'd to linger
Out my days, oh, what a tale,
Sad was the day, that James Greenacre,
Got acquainted with Sarah Gale.
A warning is given to 'Rich and poor, high and low' who are urged 'to walk in the paths of virtue'.  This is almost an execution ballad in style rather than one linked to transportation.

Sarah Gale was certainly a real person.  At the time of Hannah Brown's murder in December 1936 she had been living with Greenacre for over a year and had, it seems, borne him a male child who suddenly disappeared after only a few days' life.  Subsequently the body of a male child was found nearby and there was strong suspicion that that this was the missing infant.  Sarah Gale had, in any case, lived with a man named Gale - but had not married him - and had had a child by him.30  She was, then, no victim in the sense that Charlotte Mills, as character, had been and although The Times described her as an 'unfortunate' woman, an attempt to raise a petition on her behalf was refused.31

One more report noted that she had been transferred from Newgate to Woolwich in readiness for transportation to New South Wales.32

Nothing, then, is said in the ballad about Botany Bay save as a destination.  And all through this brief survey this has been the case.  Botany Bay remains, more or less, as an abstract.  Balladry with Botany Bay in title form is just as vaguely inclined as other transportation balladry lacking specificity of location such as McIntosh's The Convict as discussed in the last piece in this series. 

As already noted Botany Bay - New South Wales, indeed - ceased to be a penal colony in 1840 and was superseded initially by Van Diemen's Land with western Australia being added as destination late on during transportation up to the ending of the system in 1868.

Roly Brown - 30.5.06
Oradour sur Vayres, France


Article MT178

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