Jack Donahue

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Jack Donahue (1804 — 1 September, 1830),[1] sometimes called John Donohue, was a famous Australian bushranger. With the exception of Ned Kelly, there have been more songs, poems and stories about him than any other bushranger.[2] He quickly became a folk hero. Governor Ralph Darling told hotel owners they would have their hotels closed if they allowed people to sing songs about Donahue.[2]

Early life[change | change source]

Jack Donahue was born in Dublin, Ireland in 1804. He was in trouble with the police for his political activities to gain independence for Ireland. In 1824, he was found guilty of “intent to commit a felony”. This means he was going to do something wrong, but he had not done it yet. He was sent to Sydney on the convict ship Ann and Amelia, which arrived on 2 January, 1825. He was sent to work for a Mr. Pagan at Parramatta. He was soon in trouble and put to work on a road gang. Major West, at Quaker’s Hill, employed Donahue to look after his pigs.[2]

With two other men, George Kilroy and Bill Smith, he held up some carts on the Richmond Road. The police soon caught them and the court sentenced them to death. As he was being taken back to gaol (jail) in Sydney he escaped. The government offered a reward of £20 for his capture.

Bushranger[change | change source]

In August 1828, Donahue and a gang of eight robbed houses south of Bathurst. A police group nearly captured Donahue near Goulburn. They shot at the gang, and killed several gang members.[2] Donahue escaped and was not seen for several months.

He next appeared in the Nepean River valley around the towns of Liverpool, Penrith, Windsor, Parramatta and Liberty Plains. They robbed the Reverend Samuel Marsden near Windsor.[2] Donahue was working with a man known as “Darky” Underwood, and an escaped convict Jack Walmsley. The government increased the reward to £50.

In April 1830, Governor Ralph Darling made a special law to try to stop bushranging. The police could arrest anyone, enter and search houses without having to have a warrant. There were many stories, some people said Donahue and Underwood had gone to New Zealand, others said they had been killed by the aborigines. On 22 May, 1830, Donahues' gang held up the famous explorer, Charles Sturt. Donahue recognized Sturt and told the others to let him go.[2]

Captured[change | change source]

On 1 September, 1830, a group of police and soldiers searching for Donahue found him near a creek at Bringelly. Donahue shouted at them to try to capture him. Private John Muckleston fired his rifle and pistol, hitting Donahue in the neck and forehead. He died soon afterward. His body was taken to Sydney. The surveyor and explorer, Sir Thomas Mitchell, drew a picture of Donahue. This is the only known picture of him.[2]

Walmlsey was shot and killed soon after. Gang member Bill Webber was caught and hanged. Darky Underwood was shot and killed in 1832.

Donahue in poetry and song[change | change source]

There are many songs and poems about the life of Jack Donahue. These include:

  • "Bold Jack Donahoo", a song that begins “In Dublin town I was brought up, in that city of great fame".[1]
  • "Bold Jack Donahoe", a song that begins “’Twas of a valiant highwayman and outlaw of disdain”
  • "Old Ireland Lies Groaning'", a song
  • "Brave Donahue", a song that begins “A life that is free as the bandits of old”
  • "Jim Jones at Botany Bay", a song that mentions Donahue in the line “And join the brave bushrangers there, like Donahue and Co.”[2]
  • "The Wild Colonial Boy", is a famous folk song that is believed to have been written about Jack Donahue.[3] Jack Jones sang this song to Ned Kelly during the siege at Glenrowan, Victoria.

References[change | change source]

  1. "Bushrangers John Donohoe". scs.une.edu.au. http://scs.une.edu.au/Bushrangers/donohoe.htm. Retrieved 2009-03-11.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Wannan, Bill (1963). Tell 'em I died game: The Stark Story of Australian Bushranging. Melbourne: Lansdowne Press.
  3. Orr, Hazel (1/10/04). "John Donohoe". The Bushranger Site. http://scs.une.edu.au/Bushrangers/donohoe.htm. Retrieved January 29, 2009.