Van Diemen's Land

from The Lonesome Hours of Winter by The Lost Forty

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The island known today as Tasmania was called Van Diemen’s Land in the early 1800s when it served as a British penal colony. This is Dean’s version of one a well-known “transportation ballad” from that era in which the crime is poaching. In the 1800s, the right to hunt in colonized Ireland was limited to the aristocracy. Poaching was considered an assault on the property of the wealthy who kept game on their lands. Poachers were usually people from the lower classes seeking food or money from the sale of wild game on the black market.

Dean, whose parents left Ireland around 1840, enjoyed free access to hunting and fishing in the New World. He made many trips around Minnesota hunting prairie chickens and other game while living in Pine County.


Come, all you lads of pleasure and rambling boys beware,
Whenever you go a-hunting with your hound, your gun and snare,
Whenever you go a-hunting, those valleys at your command,
Think of the tedious journey, boys, going to Van Diemen’s Land.

There was Joe Brown from Nottingham, Jack Williams and Jack Jones,
They’re three as jolly fellows, as well their country knows,
They were taken one night by the bay, with their guns at hand,
And for fourteen years transported unto Van Diemen’s Land.

There was a girl from Nottingham, Sal Simons was her name,
For seven years transported for carrying on the game,
Our Captain bought her freedom and married her off hand,
Well, she gave us very good treatment going to Van Diemen’s Land.

The landing port we went to was on a foreign shore,
The planters they surrounded us, full a score or more,
They yoked us up like horses and sold us out off hand,
Well they hitched us to the plows, me boys, to plow Van Diemen’s Land.

And the lodging that that they built for us was made of sods and clay,
The beds we had to sleep on were made of rotten hay,
It’s rotten hay for beds, me boys, slumber if you can,
Well, they gave us the very poor treatment while in Van Diemen’s Land,

Last night I lay me down to sleep, I had a pleasant dream,
I dreamt I was back in Ireland, down by a purling stream,
My Irish girl beside me, walking hand in hand,
But when I awoke my heart was broke, back in Van Diemen’s Land.


from The Lonesome Hours of Winter, released November 23, 2018
Brian: vocals, guitar
Randy: mandola


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The Lost Forty Saint Paul, Minnesota

Brian Miller and Randy Gosa (aka The Lost Forty) craft intricate arrangements of rare old songs entwined with the history of the Great Lakes region. Their sources and their approach celebrate two centuries of Irish musical influence on the under-explored folk song traditions of the north woods. ... more

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