Van Diemen’s Land

Christy Moore (Trad Arr.)

Me and three more went out one night into the Squire’s Park
We were hoping that we’d get some game the night it being dark
To our sad misfortune they captured us with speed
And they brought us down to Warwick jail it caused our hearts to bleed
Young Men all be aware
Lest you be drawn into a snare
Come Monday morning at the court we did appear
Like Job we stood with patience our sentence to hear
No jury, bail nor witness our case it did go hard
Our sentence was for fourteen years straight away being sent on board
The ship that bore us from the land the Speedwell was her name
For full five months and upwards we ploughed the ragin’ main
We saw no land nor harbour I tell you its no lie
All around us one Black Ocean above us one Blue Sky
About the Fifth of August its then that we made land
And at 5 o’clock next morning they tied us hand to hand
To see our fellow sufferance it filled me heart with woe
There’s some chained to the harrow and others to the plough
To see our fellow sufferance filled me with despair
They’d leather smocks and Lindsay shorts their feet and hands were bare
They tied them up two by two like horses in a dray
And the ganger he stood over them with his Malacca cane
There was a female servant there Rosanna was her name
For 16 years a convict from Wolverhampton came
She often told her tale of love when she was young at home
Now its rattling of her chains in a foreign land to roam
So come all of you young poaching lads and a warning take from me
Mark you well the story that I tell and guard your destiny
It’s all about transported lads as you must understand
The hardships we did undergo going to Van Diemen’s land

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I played Waterson’s Folk Club in Hull in 1968. Later, Mike Waterson sang this song for me. A unique and influential singer, Mike was a member of the Watersons. Their sound still reverberates around this poor old head. Verse 6 always gets me. Earlier verses describe miscarriages of justice, slavery, savage cruelty and terrible exploitation but the heart-breaking loneliness of Rosanna from Wolverhampton has kept me singing this song for over 50 years. I recorded it once before in the 1970s. There are many different versions of Van Diemen’s Land. One which has a Tipperary setting. I sometimes get to sing this song in the Góilín Singers Club. It lifts off when 80 singers join in the chorus and harmonise with gusto.