Mudcat Café message #1116111 The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #66885   Message #1116111
Posted By: Bob Bolton
14-Feb-04 - 09:23 PM
Thread Name: DTStudy: Bold Jack Donohue
Subject: RE: DTStudy: Bold Jack Donohue
G'day again Cobber,

Jack Lefroy is an interesting oddity of a song. It was around at the very start of the Australian "Folk Revival" as it was one of the 13 songs in Vance Palmer's Old Australian Bush Ballads, Allen & Co, 1950. This booklet was one of the sources for songs used in the 1953 Australian musical play Reedy River, which launched public awareness of a surviving and interesting Australian song tradition.

The version in Old Australian Bush Ballads is from Vance Palmer's memory, with tune "restored" by Margaret Sutherland (Vance was no great singer, by then). I don't know that tune, as I've never located a copy of the Palmer book though I should really seek one out for my archives or the Bush Music Club's!

Another version, collected by Stan Arthur (presumably in Queensland) appears in Bill Scott's Complete Book of Australian Folk Lore, Ure Smith, Sydney, 1976. Bill gives no collecting details and the tune (arr. Arthur) is, more or less, Little Old Log Cabin in the Lane ... or its hymn form; He's the Lily of the Valley with an interesting second part, repeated for the chorus. I must ask Bill (or Ron Edwards) if Stan ever mentioned any relevant background to his collected version.

Anyway, I notice that Bill Scott's notes remark on the similarity in style and content of . Jack Lefroy to English "execution ballads" although I find his attempt to lump the I'm Donahoe ballad into the same category rather forced. Jack Lefroy fits in well, with its tale of youthful derring-do, warnings, imprisonment, recidivism, capture, imminent execution and repentant warnings to the listeners. On the other hand I'm Donahoe presents a considered location of the history of English oppression of the Irish into a view of classical history, a plan and resolve to fight to the death if necessary, the justification and consolation of his religious faith and the final summary: "You still are the stranger - and I'm Donahoe!".

I think this could sum up the way that Jack Lefroy doesn't fit in with the Donahoe genre. Lefroy's tales is of a misspent youth, brought to its doom by the 'proper authorities'. Donahoe lays the foundations for the continuation, in an Australian context, of a millennium of resistance by the Irish!

Q: That verse is well attached to "Donahoe / Wild Colonial Boy" songs and I've not heard it in Ben Hall songs ... but it is a later insertion, as John Donahoe never rode horses in his bushramging career on the outskirts of old Sydney ... horses are too easily traced in a small community.

Cattail: That name is Freincy - presumably an historical outlaw from British or Irish history (I must check him out ... off-line!). The "Donahoe" line of ballads uses a lot of 'historical' antecedents and justification.


Bob Bolton