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Botany Bay is a song from the musical burlesque, Little Jack Sheppard, a comedy staged in Londonmarker, England in 1885 and Melbournemarker, Australia in 1886. The show was written by Henry Pottinger Stephens and William Yardley, though the music for "Botany Bay" was written by Florian Pascal, a pseudonym for Joseph Williams, Jr. (1847-1923), a music publisher and composer. The song shares two verses with Fairwell to Judges and Juries which had been performed in 1820.

Botany Baymarker was the designated settlement for the first fleet when it arrived in Australia in the eighteenth century. It was a settlement intended for the transport of convicts to Australia. The song describes the period in the late late 18th and 19th centuries, when British convicts were deported to the various Australian penal colonies by the British government for seven-year terms as an alternative to incarceration in Britain. The second verse is about life on the convict ships, and the last verse is directed to English girls and boys as warning not to steal.

After the production of Little Jack Sheppard, the song became a popular folk song and has been sung and recorded by Irish folk singers, Burl Ives, and many others. It is played as a children's song on compilations, particularly in Australia.

The song is referenced in many documentaries researching the transport of convicts to Australia, a practice that had ceased before the song was made.


Black-eyed Sue and Sweet Poll of Plymouth taking leave of their lovers who are going to Botany Bay
Farewell to old England forever,Farewell to my rum culls as well,Farewell to the well–known Old BaileymarkerWhere I used for to cut such a swell.

Chorus:Singing too-ral, li-ooral, li-addity,Singing too-ral, li-ooral, li-ay,Singing too-ral, li-ooral, li-addity,And we're bound for Botany Bay.

There's the captain as is our commander,There's the bosun and all the ship's crew,There's the first– and the second–class passengers,Knows what we poor convicts go through.

'Taint leaving old England we cares about,'Taint cos we mis-spells what we knows,But because all we light–fingered gentryHops around with a log on our toes.

These seven long years I've been serving nowAnd seven long more have to stay,All for bashing a bloke down our alleyAnd taking his ticker away.

Oh had I the wings of a turtle–dove,I'd soar on my pinions so high,Slap bang to the arms of my Polly love,And in her sweet presence I'd die.

Now all my young Dookies and Dutchesses,Take warning from what I've to say:Mind all is your own as you touchesesOr you'll find us in Botany Bay.


The song Toorali, on the 2008 album Summerland from Australian band: The Herd, uses an adapted excerpt from the song "Botany Bay" for its chorus.


  1. "Botany Bay" catalogue information
  2. See Florian Pascal profile at the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive and "A Thirty-ninth Garland of British Light Music Composers" at MusicWeb International
  3. Liner notes on Australian Folk Songs.
  4. Lyrics and links to recording at Irish Song Lyrics.Com
  5. Decca Recording at The National Library of Australia
  6. "Children's Songs and Nursery Rhymes" Mama Lisa's World (Australia)

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