Union Songs

Moreton Bay

A song by Francis MacNamara
Sung by Simon MacDonald

- [play]

I am a native of the land of Erin
I was early banished from my native shore
On the ship Columbus went circular sailing
And I left behind me the girl I adore

Over the bounding billows which were loudly raging
Like a bold sea mariner my course did steer
We were bound for Sydney our destination
And every day in irons wore

When I arrived 'twas in Port Jackson
And I thought my days would happy be
But I found out I was greatly mistaken
I was taken a prisoner to Moreton Bay

Moreton Bay you'll find no equal
Norfolk Island and Emu Plains
At Castle Hill and cursed Toongabie
And all time places in New South Wales

Now every morning as the day was dawning
As we rose from heaven fell the morning dew
And we were roused without a moments warning
Our daily labour to renew

For three long years I was beastly treated
And heavy irons on my legs I wore
My back from flogging was lacerated
And oft-times painted with crimson gore

Like the Egyptians and ancient Hebrews
We were oppressed under Logan's yoke
But a native black there lay in ambush
Did give this tyrant a mortal stroke

Now fellow prisoners be exhilarated
That all such monsters such death may find
And when from bondage we are liberated
From our former sufferings shall fade from mind

But Moreton Bay you'll find no equal
Norfolk Island or Emu Plains
At Castle Hills and cursed Toongabie
And all time places in New South Wales


Patrick Logan became Commandant of the Moreton Bay penal settlement in 1826. He was hated by the convicts for his harsh methods. He did some exploring and was surveying the Upper Brisbane river when he was killed by Aborigines in 1830. Logan was a relentless flogger as shown in a sample record of his floggings that were noted in the diary of one of the prison clerks. This records that from February to October in 1828 Logan ordered 200 floggings with over 11,000 lashes. When Logan's body was brought back to Moreton Bay, the convicts "manifested insane joy at the news of his murder, and sang and hoorayed all night, in defiance of the warders." Bushranger Ned Kelly used lines from the ballad in his "Jerilderie Letter" in 1879 ("Port McQuarrie Toweringabbie Norfolk island and Emu plains and in those places of tyranny and condemnation many a blooming Irish man rather than subdue to the Saxon yoke were flogged to death and bravely died in servile chains.") In 1911, Bushranger Jack Bradshaw printed a version in his True History of the Australian Bushrangers . Bradshaw printed the song again in Twenty Years of Prison Life in the Gaols of NSW attributing it to "poor old Frank McNamara". Francis MacNamara (Frank the Poet) recited it as he stepped off his convict ship in 1832 at Sydney Cove. MacNamara was subjected to all the brutality of the convict system in Australia, and was to spend years in various penal settlements. He served time in Port Arthur in Van Diemen's Land concurrently with John Kelly, Ned Kelly's father. No doubt it was there that Kelly learnt MacNamara's 'The Convict's Arrival' or 'The Convict's Lament on the Death of Captain Logan' which we now know as 'Moreton Bay'. Francis MacNamara wrote many fine poems including 'The Convict's Tour of Hell', 'The Cyprus Brig' and one of the many versions of 'The Wild Colonial Boy'.