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Van Diemen’s Land
(Laws L18; Roud 519)
Pat MacNamara
Kilshanny, near Ennistymon
Recorded in Kilshanny, summer 1975

Carroll Mackenzie Collection

Pat McNamara

Come all you rambling heroes and rambling boys beware,
Whenever you go hunting take your dog, your gun and snare,
And it's true those lovely mountains will be at your command,
And think on that tedious journey going to Van Diemen’s Land.

There was one Brown from Galway Town, Pat Martin and Lyall Jones,
They was the true loyal comrades, sure, the country well did know,
But they being taken prisoners by the keepers of the land,
And for fourteen years transported, into Van Diemen’s Land.

Now the first place they arrived in, now, it was on a foreign shore,
The negroes gathered around them, sure, about five hundred score,
They yoked them up like horses and they sold them out of hand,
For they yoked them to the plough, my boys, for to plough Van Diemen’s Land.

Now the house we had to live in it now was built with sods and clay,
Rotten straw to lie on and we dare not one word say,
The burning flames around us, we slumbered as we stand,
While the worst of threatening they gave us while in Van Diemen’s Land.

One night as we lay on our bed, sure we had a pleasant dream,
We dreamed we were in old Ireland down by a purling stream,
We dreamed that we were a-walking with our true loves by that hand,
But we woke quite broken-hearted all in Van Dieman’s Land.


“Transportation has always been a common theme of traditional song throughout Britain and Ireland. Poaching songs from England were inspired largely by the seizing of ‘common land’ following the the Enclosure Acts which were a series of United Kingdom Acts of Parliament which enclosed open fields and common land in the country, creating legal property rights to land that was previously considered common. Between 1604 and 1914, over 5,200 individual Enclosure Acts were put into place, enclosing 6.8 million acres of land. Common land was by no means recreational. It enabled impoverished workers on breadline wages to feed their families by grazing animals and also by ‘taking’ hare, pheasant, or deer. Mill workers and other factory employees living in gardenless terraced cottages in the towns that sprung up around their places of work even had small market gardens on common land to provide vegetables to supplement the family table. All this disappeared when the commons were converted into private estates, largely for the pleasure of the gentry. Poaching became a necessary way of staying alive and the punishment was severe, ranging from heavy fines and imprisonment to transportation for long periods to Australia. Ireland produced her own repertoire of transportation songs, often centering on dissidents and revolutionaries, John Mitchel being among the best known of these. Pat’s Van Diemen’s Land, though it refers to Ireland, almost certainly originated in England; some similar versions actually locate it in Liverpool.”
Jim Carroll

See also
Van Diemen's Land sung by John Lyons

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