Van Dieman's Land (MacEdward Leach)

Now, ye rambling boys of pleasure
That goes rambling far from home,
Over hills and lofty mountains,
then be at my command,
Think on the lonely journey
going to Van Dieman's land.

There was one Pat Brian from Galaway,
Tom Martin and Poor Joe,
They were three loyal comrades,
their country well do know,
Until they were trepanned
by the keeper of the land,
And got fourteen years transportment
going to Van Dieman's Land.

Now the place that we were landed,
it was on the foreign shore,
Where the planters gathered
'round us about a hundred score;
They yoked us in like horses
and sold us out of hand,
They bound us to a treatment
to plough Van Dieman's Land.

The house we had to live in,
it was built in sods and clay,
We had a straw bed to lie on
and not a word to say;
Where the planters gathered 'round us,
saying, "Slumber if you can,
But beware of the Turks and tigers
that's in Van Dieman's land."

Last night, as I lay on my bed,
I had a pleasant dream,
I dreamed I was in old Ireland,
down by yon purling stream,
With my true love all on my knee
and her at my command,
But when I awoke with a broken heart,
I was in Van Dieman's land.

####.... Author unknown. Variant of a British broadside ballad, Van Dieman's Land, [Laws L18] American Balladry From British Broadsides (G Malcolm Laws, 1957). Also a variant of a 19th-century British broadside ballad, Van Dieman's Land, published by T Birt (London) sometime between 1828 and 1829, and archived at the Bodleian Library Broadside Ballads, shelfmark: Harding B 25(1979) ....####

Collected in 1951 from Cyril O'Brien [ca.1902-?] of Trepassey, NL, and published in MacEdward Leach And The Songs Of Atlantic Canada © 2004 Memorial University of Newfoundland Folklore and Language Archive (MUNFLA).

In The Ballad Index at California State University, Fresno, Editor Robert B Waltz notes the following:
"Van Diemen's Land was named after Anthony Van Diemen of the Dutch East India Company; Van Diemen chartered the expedition which discovered the island. Said expedition was led by Abel Tasman, who found the island in 1642 (as well as sighting New Zealand and some lesser islands).
"The reputation of Van Diemen's Land was so bad that the residents in the nineteenth-century demanded a name change. It therefore was renamed Tasmania after its discoverer.
"The irony is that Van Diemen's Land was not really overburdened with "hard cases"; some were sent to the island, but most wound up on Norfolk Island or in settlements like Moreton Bay. But the settlers of Van Diemen's Land were perhaps the most destructive of all the colonists; the Tasmanian aborigines were systematically eradicated, as opposed to simply being brushed aside in most of Australia.
"The reference to convicts driving the plows is an exaggeration - of the wrong sort. At many of the British colonies, the convicts were indeed used instead of draft animals (few of which were available). But they didn't normally use plows; they had to hoe their own furrows!" - RBW


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