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Bold Jack Donahue
Born John Donahoe born in Dublin, Ireland 1806, Jack Donahue became one of Australia's prominent bushrangers, becoming a member of the Wild Colonial Boys and has many ballads written in regards to his life and death. Jack was a local bushranger of the Bathurst/Richmond/Penrith/Wollondilly/Illawarra area and a big part of our local history here in Warragamba.
When Jack was 17 he was convicted and sentenced to 'transport for life' on April 3, 1823, where he joined the many men and women sent to Australia, now known as 'the convicts'. He departed for Australia on September 8, 1924 and arrived in Sydney Cove aboard the Ann and Amelia on January 2, 1925. From here he was assigned to John Pagan of Parramatta where he was to join a road-gang. After several months he was then transferred to Major West, a surgeon who owned an estate in Quakers Hill.
In February 1828, Jack found himself in the courts again as he along with two other comrades (Kilroy/Kilray/Gilroy and Smith), were caught robbing a number of bullock-drays on the Sydney Windsor Road. Supreme court judge, John Stephen found the 3 men guilty and were sentenced to death. Kilroy/Gilroy and Smith were duly hung, however Jack Donahue found a way to escape custody between the court house and the Sussex Street gaol. He then spent the next two and a half years building his reputation as one of NSW's leading bushrangers.
Jack formed a formidable gang of bushrangers who terrorised many colonies from as far west as Bathurst, South to Yass, East to the Illawarra, and North to the Hunter River Valley. He was quit adept at finding all the best nooks and crannies to hid out in, many of these caves and outcrops ranged from the Hawkesbury/Penrith region to Picton in the Wollondilly Shire. One famous hideout is that commonly known as the 'Honeycomb Cave' found on private property along Flaggy Creek in Glenmore.
Donahue was described in a warrant for 20pounds, as a 22 year old man of 5 foot 4 inches with a brown freckled complexation, flaxen hair, blue eyes and having a scar under his left nostril.
His luck run out when he and his gang were discovered camped out in bushland in Bringelly by a detachment of soldiers and police on the afternoon of September 1, 1980. Subsequently the gang would not go willingly to the gallows and a gun fight erupted. During the onslaught of gun fire, Trooper Muggleston got off the deadly shot that ended the freedom and life of Bold Jack Donahue.
In life, Jack Donahue was defiant, brutal and dangerous, however in death his story has become legend. Glamorised by the press of the time, perhaps overly exaggerated and romanticised, his deeds of robbing from the rich, have passed in to Australian folklore. Many poems, songs and Ballad's have been relayed about Bold Jack and his gang, however many only ever existed in oral form and were then banned because they incited rebellion. This possibly has led to the debate between some historians on weather the 'Wild Colonial Boy' Ballad is in relation to Jack or not as it shares a common chorus to the 'Bold Jack Donahue' ballad (link below) and Jack has often been referred to as 'the wild colonial boy'.
'Australian Songs. Bold Jack Donohue', alldownunder.com accessed 18/7/2018
McHardy, C., 2017, 'Bushrangers in Parramatta', City of Parramatta, Parramatta Heritage Centre
Nightingale, D., 2015, 'John Donohoe', Convict Records: John Donohoe. Accessed 27/6/18 https:/convictrecords.com.au/convicts/Donohoe/john/132545
Ward, R., 1966, 'Donohue, John (Jack) (1806-1830)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University
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