“The Boston Burglar”

Alternate titles: “Bound for Charlestown”; “Bound for Sydney Town”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: before 1886 (broadside, Bodleian Harding B 11(4372)); c.1840 (broadside, NLScotland APS.4.86.33)
Keywords: crime outlaw trial punishment warning father mother transportation prison
Found in: US(All) Britain(Scotland) Australia Canada(Mar,Newf) Ireland


The youth is brought up by honest parents, but turns wild. At last he is taken and, despite his parents' entreaties, sentenced to transportation (in American texts, prison). He dreams of release, plans to give up bad ways, and warns others to do the same


For the history of the penal colony (that never was) at Botany Bay, see the song with that title.

The original version of the piece was a transportation song to Botany Bay, but this seems to have been largely overshadowed by the ""X Burglar" type, so we have lumped them and filed them under the "Burglar" type.

The subfamily of texts known as "The Boston Burglar" is now credited (Marks, Spaeth, Cazden et al; cf. Randolph) to Michael J. Fitzgerald. The amount of reworking done by Fitzgerald, however, was slight, and older and newer versions continue to mix. - RBW

One of the Meredith/Anderson references goes under the name "Moreton Bay". This should not be confused with the song by the same name, indexed as "Moreton Bay (I), which includes the killing by an Aborigine of the oppressive Captain Logan. - PJS

Cross references




  1. Laws L16, "Botany Bay A [Laws L16A]/The Boston Burglar (Botany Bay B) [Laws L16B]"
  2. Randolph 136, "The Louisville Burglar" (2 texts, 1 tune)
  3. Eddy 85, "The Boston Burglar" (1 text, 1 tune)
  4. Gardner/Chickering 131, "Botany Bay" (1 short text); 137, "The Boston Burglar" 1 text pllus an excerpt and mention of 1 more, 1 tune)
  5. Meredith/Anderson, pp. 64-65, "Bound for Charlers Town"; pp. 96-97, "Bound for Sydney Town"; pp. 139-140, "Moreton Bay"; pp. 257-258, "Boston City" (4 texts, 4 tunes)
  6. Paterson/Fahey/Seal, pp. 48-50, "The Botany Bay Transport" (1 text)
  7. Flanders/Brown, pp. 53-54, "Boston Burglar" (1 text)
  8. Friedman, p. 220, "Botany Bay; p. 222, "The Boston Burglar" (2 texts)
  9. FSCatskills 114, "The Boston Burglar" (1 text, 1 tune)
  10. BrownII 242, "The Boston Burglar" (1 text plus 2 excerpts and mention of 3 more)
  11. Chappell-FSRA 56, "The Boston Burglar" (1 text)
  12. Cambiaire, pp. 69-71, "Botany Bay (The Boston Burglar)" (1 text)
  13. Scarborough-SongCatcher, pp. 289-296, "The Boston Burglar" (5 texts plus a fragment of a playparty, with local titles "The Boston Burglar," "Covington," "I Was Borned and Raised in Covington," "Frank James, the Burglar" (which despite the title is clearly not about Jesse's brother), "The Boston Burglar"; 3 tunes on pp. 433-435)
  14. Scarborough-NegroFS, pp. 243-244, "To Huntsville" (1 text, which seems to have lost the beginning)
  15. Brewster 41, "The Boston Burglar" (2 texts plus mention of 3 more)
  16. Fahey-Eureka, pp. 10-11, "Bound for Botany Bay" (1 text, 1 tune)
  17. SHenry H691, p. 119, "Botany Bay"; H202, pp. 119-120, "The Boston Burglar" (2 texts, 2 tunes)
  18. OLochlainn 44, "Boston City" (1 text, 1 tune)
  19. Dibblee/Dibblee, p. 73, "The Boston Burglar" (1 text, 1 tune)
  20. Cohen/Seeger/Wood, pp. 132-133, "Louisville Burglar" (1 text, 1 tune)
  21. Spaeth-ReadWeep, pp. 158-160, "The Boston Burglar" (1 text, 1 tune)
  22. LPound-ABS, 23, pp. 57-58, "The Boston Burglar"; pp. 59-60, "Charlestown" (2 texts)
  23. JHCox 84, "The Boston Burglar" (3 texts)
  24. JHCoxIIA, #29, p. 105, "The Boston Burglar" (1 fragment, 1 tune)
  25. MacSeegTrav 92, "The Boston Burglar" (1 text, 1 tune)
  26. Leach-Labrador 101, "The Boston Burglar" (1 text, 1 tune)
  27. Creighton-NovaScotia 96, "Boston Burglar" (1 text, 1 tune)
  28. Darling-NAS, pp. 108-110, "Botany Bay"; "Louisville Burglar" (2 texts)
  29. Silber-FSWB, p. 67, "The Boston Burglar" (1 text)
  31. Roud #261
  32. BI, LL16