The Australian folk song Moreton Bay is sometimes referred to as The Convict’s Lament.
The penal settlement of Moreton Bay was established in 1824 and continued to operate until 1842 on the site of present-day Brisbane. Along with several other penal stations in eastern Australia, it had been established to house recalcitrant (worst of the worst) prisoners.
From 1826 to 1830 the settlement was under the command of Captain Patrick Logan. Hated by the convicts for his harsh treatment, he was a relentless flogger and was widely regarded as a tyrant.
The lyrics of the song are attributed to Francis MacNamara. Convicted of stealing some cloth in his native Ireland, he had been 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 19th Century.
Captain Logan was speared to death on October 17, 1830.
These three arrangements of Moreton Bay are 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 the three arrangements of Moreton Bay are available below.
Featured Image: Watercolour painting “Moreton Bay Settlement 1835” by Henry Boucher Bowerman. Public domain, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland.