“Botany Bay (I)”


The singer is paying for his life of crime by being transported to Botany Bay. He describes the miserable fate of the convicts on board the prison vessel, warns others against such crimes, and wishes he could return to his love at home


The American Revolutionary War meant that, after the 1780s, Britain could no longer transport convicts to America. In 1788, therefore, an expedition was mounted to carry prisoners to Australia.

The fleet's original destination was Botany Bay (so-called because of all the wildlife found by the original explorers), but this proved so barren that the fleet's commander, Captain Arthur Phillip (1738-1814; governor 1788-1792), decided to move a short way up the coast to Sydney. Despite the fact that Botany Bay was never settled, its name came to be synonymous with Australian penal colonies.

This song seems to have begun life in the music halls, perhaps as a rewrite of "Here's Adieu to All Judges and Juries." It is credited to Stephens and Yardley, and appeared in the 1885 comedy "Little Jack Shepherd." - RBW

Historical references

  • 1788 - First penal colony founded in Australia

Cross references


  • John Greenway, "Botany Bay" (on JGreenway01)


  1. Randolph 96, "Botany Bay" (1 text, 1 tune)
  2. Meredith/Anderson, pp. 36-37, 113, "Botany Bay" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  3. Sharp-100E 86, "Botany Bay" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Fahey-Eureka, pp. 24-25, "Botany Bay" (1 text, 1 tune)
  5. Manifold-PASB, p. 22, "Botany Bay" (1 text, 1 tune)
  6. Silber-FSWB, p. 67, "Botany Bay" (1 text)
  7. DT, BOTBAY2*
  8. Roud #3267
  9. BI, R096


Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1885
Found in: Britain(England) US(So) Australia