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Come all you wild colonial boys, and attention to me pay,
For in my song I will unfold the truth without delay.
'Twas of a famous outlawed band that roamed this country round,
Ned Kelly was their captain and no better could be found.
But the Governor of Victoria was an enemy of this man,
And a warrant he likewise put out to take his brother Dan.
But alas, one day, some troopers came, young Dan to apprehend,
And he like a tiger stood at bay, his mother to defend.
Five hundred pounds reward was made for Ned, wherever he was found,
And from place to place was hunted as if he was a hound.
Now driven to desperation to the bush brave Ned did take,
With Dan, Steve Hart and brave Joe Byrne, all for his mother's sake.
And although they deemed them outlaws, brave men they proved to be,
And vengeance ranked in every breast for Kelly's misery.
They burned his mother's vine-clad hut, which caused his heart to yearn,
And angered his companions, Dan, Steve Hart and brave Joe Byrne.
One day as Ned and his comrades in ambush were concealed,
They spied three mounted troopers and their presence did reveal.
They called to them, 'Surrender!' These words to them he said -
'Resist a man amongst you and I'll surely shoot you dead.'
Now Kennedy, Scanlon and Lonergan, in death were lying low,
When Ned amongst them recognised his old and viscious foe;
Then thoughts came of his mother with a baby at her breast,
And it filled his heart with anger, and the country knows the rest.
It was at the Wombat Ranges where Ned Kelly made his haunt,
And all those Victorian troopers at that name would surely daunt;
For months they lay in ambush until finally were betrayed,
By traitor Aaron Sherritt, and his life the treachery paid.
It was at the Glenrowan station where the conflict raged severe,
When more than fifty policemen at the scene then did appear.
No credit to their bravery, no credit to their name,
Ned Kelly terrified them all and put their blood to shame.
Bushwacker Broadside #12 from the Bush Music Club's publication, Six Authentic Songs from The Kelly Country. Collected by Alan Scott from Bill Shawcross of Lithgow.
Here are Gary Shearston's notes to his release of this song on his 1964 album, Folk Songs and Ballads of Australia:
KELLY WAS THEIR CAPTAIN: A song about Australia's best-known bushranger and his well-organised gang whose daring raids baffled the police and governments of New South Wales and Victoria for more than 18 months in the late 1800s. It is but one of dozens of poems and songs about the Kelly gang that have circulated throughout Australia for over 80 years. At the time of their origin many were declared "treason songs" and the authorities made efforts to suppress them. "Kelly was their Captain" is one of "Six Authentic Songs from the Kelly Country" collected and edited by John Meredith and published by the Sydney Bush Music Club in 1955. In summing up the legend of Ned Kelly author Clive Turnbull has written: "When a nation has bestowed upon a man the highest tribute in its power to give, in the phrase 'game as Ned Kelly', what remains to be said?"