Tune of the Day: Botany Bay
This song can be traced back to the musical burlesque Little Jack Sheppard, first staged in London in 1885 and then in Melbourne in 1886. The show's music was composed and arranged by Wilhelm Meyer Lutz, but the show's programme credits “Botany Bay” as “Old Air arr. Lutz”.
The melody's earlier history is not quite clear. The British weekly paper The Era of 25 October 1890 describes it as “written over a hundred years ago”, and it appears to have been adapted from a folk song known as “Mush, Mush”, whose refrain goes “Mush, mush, mush, turaliaddy! Sing, mush, mush, mush, turalia!”
Botany Bay was the designated settlement for the first fleet when it arrived in Australia in the eighteenth century. It was a settlement intended for the transport of convicts to Australia. The song describes the period in the late 18th and 19th centuries, when British convicts were deported to the various Australian penal colonies for seven-year terms as an alternative to incarceration in Britain.
After the production of Little Jack Sheppard, “Botany Bay” became a popular folk song, sung and recorded by Burl Ives and many others. It is also played as a children's song, particularly in Australia.
Thanks to Michael for suggesting this tune!