“Bold Jack Donahoe”


The singer sadly recalls the death of Donahoe. He and his companions are overtaken by three policemen. Walmsley refuses to fight, and Donahoe is left alone. He is shot and killed


This ballad often mixes with "Jack Donahue" (for obvious reasons), and they are lumped by Roud, but the two can be distinguished by the mention of Donahue's companions at the time of Donahoe's capture. Some scholars think this the older of the two.

For historical background on Donahue, see "Jack Donahue" [Laws L22]. - RBW

Zimmermann 76 makes a Fenian connection: "I turned out as a Fenian boy as I'd often done before"; "...that Fenian bold called Jack O'Donoghue."

Zimmermann: "The name of Captain Mackey ["There was MacNamara, Andrew Ward, and Captain Mackey too, They were the chiefs and associates of bold Jack Donoghue"] helps us to date this version. William Mackey commanded the Fenians at Ballyknockane, County Cork, in an attack upon the police barracks during the rising of 1867. He was sentenced to 12 years' penal servitude in March 1868." The connection with Jack O'Donoghue, killed in 1830, would -- if Zimmermann is right -- be fictitious. - BS

Zimmermann's version is attributed to "John McCarthy." But the list of co-conspirators is unusual at best. The version of this song I know best lists Donohue's companions as "Jacky Underwood, and Webber and Walmsley too."

According to Harry Nunn's _Bushrangers: A Pictorial History_, p. 16, the members of the Underwood Gang (active 1820-1832) were "William Underwood, John Donohue [not O'Donohue, note], George Kilroy, William Smith, John Walms[l]ey, John Webber and others." It notes that "Donohue and Webber shot by police 1830. Underwood shot 1832. Walmsley turned informer, Smith and Kilroy hanged 1832." Thus my guess would be that McCarthy took an existing song and converted it for Fenian purposes. - RBW

Historical references

  • Sept 1, 1830 (the ballad says Aug 24) - Jack Donahue, formerly of Dublin (transported 1823), is killed by police near Sydney

Same tune

  • Jim Jones at Botany Bay (File: PBB096)
  • The Wreck of the Eliza (File: Ran056)
  • The Aranmore Disaster (File: Ran125)

Cross references


  1. Meredith/Anderson, pp. 63-64, "Bold Jack Donahoe" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Beck 89, "Bold Jack Donohue" (1 text)
  3. Manifold-PASB, pp. 50-51, "Bold Jack Donahue" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. O'Conor, pp. 22-23, "Bold Jack Donahoe" (1 text)
  5. Zimmermann 76, "Bold Jack O'Donoghue" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  6. Roud #611
  7. BI, MA063


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1941 (Beck); c.1870 (Zimmermann)
Found in: Australia US(MW) Ireland