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The Wreck of the Dandenong

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Oh, wild and furious blew the blast
And the clouds were hanging round
When the Dandenong from Melbourne sailed
For Newcastle port was bound
With eighty-three poor souls on board
Through the storm she cleaved her way
And it's sad to relate of the terrible fate
'Twas just off Jervis Bay

While steaming through the briny waves
Her propelling shaft gave way
And the waters they came pressing in
Which filled them with dismay
All hands on board did all they could
Till at length all hope was gone
And they hoisted a signal of distress
On board of the Dandenong

It was not long ubtil a barque
A brisk and lively crew
Came bearing down and the Captain said
"We'll see what we can do!"
Came bearing down with might and main
In spite of wind or wave
They did all they could as Christians would
Those precious lives to save

While some in boats they tried to reach
That kind and friendly barque
And numbers of their lives were saved
And then the night came on pitch dark
What mortal man then could do more
When the storm increased on strong
And the rest now sleep in the briny deep
Along with the Dandenong.


John Meredith collected this song from 73 year old Mary Byrnes in 1954. In his "Folk Songs of Australia" he writes

"This was one of the songs learned by Mary Byrnes when she was a little girl. When asked about her age at the time, she laughed, held her hand a couple of feet from the floor and said "When I was about that high!". We presume she meant eight or nine years of age.

The wreck described in the ballad ocurred in September 1876."


In April 2005 I had an email from Margaret Lloyd-Jones asking for the words of the song for her father who was about to turn 90. After receiving the words she replied with her father's version of the song and the following comment

"I am forwarding a copy of the words which I have which Dad remembered. His father used to sing them many, many years ago around the fireplace at their home in Drayton, which is on the Darling Downs, and dad can still remember the tune, but had lost the verse mentioned. You will note the difference in style and words and the extra last stanza"

Later Margaret Wrote

michael frawley"We've returned from a week in Drayton, with dad officially handing over his sister's work to the History Library in Toowoomba and also celebrating his 90th birthday on 16 May, followed by a surprise party for him with all the friends and relatives coming from far and wide. I managed to record his singing, although the equipment I had was very second rate - I'd like to do it again with a better quality recorder and tape. I'll send you some photos, the cutting from the Toowoomba Chronicle as well as a copy of the tape.

A bit of background : Dad was the youngest of ten children of Catherine O'Connell of Southbrook and Patrick Joseph Frawley of Ireland. Mary, Annie, Hanora, Janie, Jack, Bridget, Tom, Pat, Margaret and Mick (dad) were accomplished various musical and cultural activities viz writing poetry, reciting, singing, playing piano and strings (mainly violin). As you are aware, in ;those days it was the custom of countless Irish-Australian families to gather around the piano for a sing-a-long every week as well as at friends and neighbours' homes for numerous celebrations.

Every Saturday night after the evening's entertainment, dad would follow his father out to the fireplace in the kitchen, where he would sit on his knee and learn the songs and verses he would recite, and he always finished with the song "The Wreck of the Dandenong" , which of course became one of dad's favourites. Now that dad has taught this song to me, I will pass it on to my children and to their children, so that it will be preserved in our family in the oral tradition of yesterday."

The Wreck of the Dandenong (Michael Frawley's version)

Wild and furious blew the wind and the sky with anger frowned
When the Dandenong from Melbourne to Newcastle port was found
With eighty-two poor souls on board through the storm she cleared the way
But sad to relate the terrible fate when just off Jervis Bay

While steaming through those angry seas the propelling shaft gave way
The water, it came rushing in and filled all with dismay
All hands on board did all they could , till at last all hope was gone
And they hoisted a signal of distress on board of the Dandenong.

(Some lines missing here about another vessel trying but failing to
reach the Dandenong.)

Some of them in boats they tried to reach that kind and friendly craft
And numbers of them too were lost as the night came on pitch dark
No mortal man could do more then as the gale increased so strong
And they rest, they sleep in the yawning deep on board of the Dandenong.

Now God bless Captain Walker and likewise his gallant men
On land and sea where'ere they be, may they always find a friend
And those who are left of friends bereft still mourn for those that are gone
May they find relief from the terrible grief of the wreck of the Dandenong


Many thanks to Margaret Lloyd-Jones for her permission to use this new information about the song and for her efforts to ensure that her father's version has come to light and been recorded.


australian traditional songs . . . a selection by mark gregory