The ballad Moreton Bay/The Convict’s Lament first appeared in Australia around the time of the murder of Captain Patrick Logan in October 1830.
At that time, Captain Logan was the commandant of the penal settlement that he had established at Morton Bay, in the colony of New South Wales, in 1824. Soon after the first penal colony in Australian had been established at Port Jackson (on a site which is now more or less the centre of the city of Sydney), other penal stations were established for recalcitrant prisoners. These included, along with Moreton Bay, Emu Plains (now a western suburb of Sydney), Toongabbie and Castle Hill (north-eastern suburbs of Sydney), Port Macquarie (now a ﬂourishing town on the lower north coast of New South Wales) and Norfolk Island—perhaps the most notorious of all for brutal treatment of convicts—which lies off the coast of New South Wales.
The lyrics for Moreton Bay are attributed to Francis MacNamara, more commonly known as Frankie the Poet. Frankie had been convicted by a court in Kilkenny (Ireland) of smashing a shop window and stealing some cloth. He was sentenced to transportation to Australia for seven years. He landed in Australia in 1832 and quickly established himself as a talented writer who produced several songs and poems critical of the treatment of convicts by the authorities.
The song is based on Frankie’s own experiences as a convict and describes the cruelty of the penal stations in Australia in the middle of the 19thCentury.
Captain Logan was hated by the convicts for his harsh treatment. He was a relentless flogger and was widely regarded as a tyrant. On a positive note, he did explore and develop the Moreton Bay area. It was while he was out surveying the Upper Brisbane River that he was speared to death by aborigines on October 17, 1830.
When Logan’s body was brought back to Moreton Bay, the convicts “manifested insane joy at the news of his murder, and sang and hoorayed all night, in defiance of the warders.”