Jim Jones at Botany Bay is a very forceful Australian convict transportation song. It was probably written in the period 1825 to 1830, as it mentions the bushranger Jack Donahue, who plied his trade during that time period and was shot by police in 1830. Charles McAlister, who drove bullock-teams in south-eastern New South Wales in the 1840s, included the text of this remarkable convict ballad in his book of reminiscences, Old Pioneering Days in the Sunny South (1907). If not for this, the song may never have become well-known.
It is a very bitter and defiant song of transportation to the penal colony in New South Wales, which was originally intended to be at Botany Bay, but was soon relocated to Sydney Cove in the much larger anchorage at Port Jackson, not far to the north of Botany Bay. It is not common to find such unashamed resentment and hatred expressed in a song written in the first person. Perhaps that is why the song has such impact.
This arrangement of Jim Jones at Botany Bay is part of a larger collection of choral arrangements of 20 Australian folk song titles. The works were commissioned in 2022 by the Queensland Kodály Choir as a legacy project of Australian Choral Music and are collectively available in a two-part anthology titled On a Distant Shore.
The Queensland Kodály Choir has generously determined that these anthologies and all of their associated resources should be made freely available to anyone who would like to make use of them. To facilitate this, whilst each of the arrangements is copyright, the full set of project resources has been licensed under Creative Commons International Licence, meaning that they can be freely shared, copied and/or redistributed.
Conductors/choirs wishing to access the Anthology – Parts 1 & 2 – and/or the companion rehearsal tracks, can do so by following the link to the Cuskelly College of Music website. The complete individual titles (including cover title page, vocal score, piano accompaniment, extracted instrument parts, performance notes and glossary of terms) are available in the Anthology Catalogue on this website.
Perusal and download copies of this arrangement of Jim Jones at Botany Bay are available below.
Featured Image: “View of Sydney Cove” by Thomas Watling, public domain, Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales.