For three-quarters of a century, transportation to Australia was one of the great themes of folk song in the British Isles, particularly with the street ballad singers. Some of the Convicts were tough and desperate criminals. Others were transported for minor crimes, such as poaching. into which they had sometimes been forced by sheer hunger. Ewan MacColl, who is one of the finest folk singers in Britain, here sings one of the best-known poaching ballads, VAN DIEMAN'S LAND. As a contrast to this song about the countryside, he sings a transportation ballad set in the city, in Belfast. In THE BLACK VELVET BAND a pretty girl steals a watch, but the young man with her gets the blame, and so, like the poacher, he ends in Van Dieman's Land. As well as these ballads from the British Isles, Ewan MacColl sings JIM JONES AT BOTANY BAY, a song that was made by convicts in Australia. It is one of the very few convict songs that has survival.
In the days when Australia had more migrants — unwilling or otherwise — than she had native-born, sons and daughters, the latter were called currency lads and lasses. The three convict songs are by no means doleful, despite their subject: but we thought the currency-born should be represented, so we have added two of the liveliest bush songs. These come from a much later date. EUABALONG BALL, probably comes from the 1890s: it tells about a rather rowdy bush dance. We had to ask the singer to censor it a bit. LIME JUICE TUB is it shearers' work song, that pokes fun at Pommy new chums, trying their hand at shearing and making a mess of it. These two songs are sung by A. L. Lloyd. who learnt them when he was a Pommy new chum working on sheep stations in western Ncw South Wales.