Off She Goes

From a Police Report in the Sydney Herald, 2nd of September 1833

EIizabeth Fisher, Matthew Fisher, and Hamilton Murray, belonging to the Waterloo, were charged with dancing a reel on the King’s Wharf, at the hour of eleven overnight, to the music of a black fiddler, who, seated on an anchor stock, most manfully scraped away, all parties being at that time in a very happy state of forgetfulness.
On the charleys making their appearance, the three prisioners made some demur to their sports being interupted, which caused them to be marched off to the Watch-house; the black fiddler being too good a judge to be caught in that manner, bolted, pulling out of his instrument as he went “Off she goes.” Elizabeth and Matthew were discharged, as their faces were new to the Bench; Hamilton, was under the necessity of handing out the rhino, to prevent an exhibition of his ancles.

From a Police Report in the Sydney Herald, 25th of October 1832

Isabella Seperate, her second appearance on the boards, was accused of muzzling her master in his sanctum sanctorum, ejecting him, therefrom, down a flight of stairs, thereby placing his neck in jeopardy, singing a song of triumph, and dancing among the crockery, and finally, emptying a bottle of tawny port, to the tune of “off she goes,” and then bolting, was ordered to try a cast of her office at Mrs. Gordon’s Menagerie.

From a Police Report in the Sydney Herald, 8th of November 1832

Jane Spriggs, with a proboscis like the catastrophe of a Cape sheep stuck full of cloves, made her bow before the Bench, charged with amalgamating, and while in that state with packing up her traps and walking her pumps declaring that she could not understand why she, Jane Spriggs, should not be allowed the run of the buttery and cellar, it was deuced hard ‘pon her amiability it was, but stand it she neither would or could, so whistling the air of “off she goes,” off she went. Six weeks where you might imagine.

[Note: this would be the female factory]


The Rhino is slang referring to a fine; handing out the rhino meant paying the fine. For drunkeness, the standard fine at this time was 5 shillings, which was distributed to the poor. Failure to pay this particular fine would result in being put in the stocks for between one and four hours depending on the level of disturbance caused or the frequency of offense.

Mrs. Gordon’s Menagerie is the Female Factory, run by Mrs. Gordon.

The tune of Off She Goes regularly occurs in dance and music collections up to the modern day, notably including the Scottish convict Alexander Laing’s tunebook in 1863 and the British sailor William Litten’s collection in 1800. As is the case with many tune references in reports of the time, it is not particularly clear whether the tune was actually sung or whether it is journalistic sensationalisation.


This version of the tune comes from David Johnson’s Bush Dance, although it has changed little since its original publication. There are dance instructions for the tune in 1805, ’06 and ’07, but they are dissimilar, suggesting there was no unique dance for this tune at this time.


Collection of the Most Fashionable  Country Dances for the Year 1805. (1805). London: Hodsoll.

John Paine’s Annual Collection of Twentyfour Country Dances For 1807. (1807). London: Paine.

Johnson, D. (1985). Bush Dance. Bush Music Club.

POLICE INCIDENTS. (1832, October 25). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved January 23, 2017, from

POLICE INCIDENTS. (1832, November 8). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), p. 3. Retrieved January 23, 2017, from

POLICE INCIDENTS. (1833, September 2). The Sydney Herald (NSW : 1831 – 1842), p. 2. Retrieved January 23, 2017, from

Sixteen Favourite Country Dances. (1806). Strand, London: Wheatstone.


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