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AUSTRALIAN SONGS

John Gilbert

traditional Australian song
composer unknown

This song tells the story of one of the exploits of the notorious bushranger John Gilbert, Ben Hall and the rest of his gang. Gilbert was considered the most reckless of the gang.

In 1863 Gilbert (alias "Happy Jack") and his gang took over the village of Canowindra, NSW. They herded everyone in town into Robinson's Hotel.  For three days they held a compulsory party, amusing themselves, but it's in doubt whether their captive guests enjoyed it.

Sung to the tune Four And Twenty Blackbirds Baked In A Pie.

What the words mean

  • bobbery ~ disturbance, uproar
  • Canowindra ~ derives from the language of the Aboriginal Wiradjuri, original inhabitants of the area. It is said to mean 'home' or 'camping place'.

The city is in NSW and has become a centre for hot air ballooning.

See also the songs
Ben HallDunn, Gilbert & Ben Hall
Ballad of Ben Hall's Gang

John Gilbert was a bushranger of terrible renown,
For sticking lots of people up and shooting others down.
John Gilbert said unto his pals, “Although they make a bobbery
About our tricks we have never done a tip-top thing in robbery.

“We have all of us a fancy for experiments in pillage,
Yet never have we seized a town, or even sacked a village.”
John Gilbert said unto his mates—“Though partners we have been
In all rascality, yet we no festal day have seen.”

John Gilbert said he thought he saw no obstacle to hinder a
Piratical descent upon the town of Canowindra.
So into Canowindra town rode Gilbert and his men,
And all the Canowindra folk subsided there and then.

The Canowindra populace cried, “Here’s a lot of strangers!!!”
But immediately recovered when they found they were bushrangers.
And Johnny Gilbert said to them, “You need not be afraid.
We are only old companions whom bushrangers you have made.”

And Johnny Gilbert said, said he, “We’ll never hurt a hair
Of men who bravely recognise that we are just all there.”
The New South Welshmen said at once, not making any fuss,
That Johnny Gilbert, after all, was “Just but one of us.”

So Johnny Gilbert took the town (including public houses),
And treated all the “cockatoos” and shouted for their spouses.
And Miss O’Flanagan performed in manner quite gintailly
Upon the grand planner for the bushranger O’Meally.

And every stranger passing by they took, and when they got him
They robbed him of his money and occasionally shot him.
And Johnny’s enigmatic feat admits of this solution,
That bushranging in New South Wales is a favoured institution.

So Johnny Gilbert ne’er allows an anxious thought to fetch him,
For well he knows the Government don’t really want to ketch him.
And if such practices should be to New South Welshmen dear,
With not the least demurring word ought we to interfere.


Bushranger John Gilbert's Grave

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