Friday Australian poem: #NS6 – Mary Gilmore “Old Botany Bay”

longbottom convicts

Inevitable really, given my convict ancestor Jacob Whitfield has appeared here so often in recent days. Yes, he was for a time in an iron gang…

Old Botany Bay

I’m old
Botany Bay;
Stiff in the joints,
Little to say.

I am he
Who paved the way,
That you might walk
At your ease to-day;

I was the conscript
Sent to hell
To make in the desert
The living well;

I bore the heat,
I blazed the track –
Furrowed and bloody
Upon my back.

I split the rock;
I felled the tree:
The nation was-
Because of me!”

Old Botany Bay
Taking the sun
from day to day…
shame on the mouth
that would deny
the knotted hands
that set us high!


Dame Mary Gilmore (1865-1962) was a Utopian then a Communist just about all her life, but paradoxically became a Dame of the British Empire and had her face on our currency as you can see: click on the $10 to read all about her. I can still recall her regular column in the Communist Party newspaper Tribune. A reminder of the time when there really were influential socialists in Australia, some time in the Cretaceous period…

road gang


2 thoughts on “Friday Australian poem: #NS6 – Mary Gilmore “Old Botany Bay”

  1. Hi Neil – was intrigued by the image tag “longbottom convicts” so did a search to see what it meant, and came upon the answer to something I’ve always wondered about – how we got the name “Canada Bay” into Sydney. Here’s a brief but informative post on the subject, and because it sometimes seems that all of life is circular, you will note that the last survivor ended up in good old Illawarra!

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