A Dialogue between two Hibernians in Botany Bay

A Poem by Francis Macnamara
First Published in the Sydney Gazette 8 February 1840

Musha welcome to Botany, Paddy my dear,
Yer the last man in Ireland, I thought of seeing here.
By my aunty Kate's side, you are my cousin jarmin.
And wid you I oft went to hear Father Mike's sarmon.
But how did this lagging of yours come to pass,
I'm inclined to think you neglected the mass
And robbed your poor soul of felicity's joys,
By joining yourself to the cursed White Boys.
The sea sickness, Darby, has made me so weak,
That I'm hardly able at present to speak.
From wearing the darbies, my limbs are grown feeble,
And all the blame lies on the Man of the People.
Cursed Daniel O'Connell the great Agitator,
Is in my opinion a double faced traitor,
From his seditious harangues had I kept away,
I ne'er should have visited Botany Bay.
But tell me Darby, do you enjoy good health :
I heard when at home you possessed immense wealth.
'Twas the common conversation each night round the hearth,
That the Governor puts all his countrymen in berths.
And they all flock round him like terrier dogs,
His first breath, like ourselves too, he drew in the bogs.
And the English assail him with vociferations,
For putting his countrymen in situations.
Places and offices of the greatest trust,
But Darby, my friend, you know it is but just,
For never was a Paddy yet born of a mother,
That would not fight till death in defence of another
So we care not for Atheist, Jew, Christian, or Turk,
So long as we're back'd by our countryman Bourke.
Musha Darby, my friend, aint the sea mighty deep,
Rather than be a sailor, I'd enlist for a sweep,
For sweeps can repose on their soft sooty pillows,
While mariners are tost up and down on the billows.
But if ever I return from cursed New South Wales,
I'll tell the ould people some wondertul tales,
Describing the elements and waves in commotion.
And the curious animals I've seen in the ocean,
How black whales and sperm in droves gathered round us.
Spouting water on our decks, sufficient to to drown us.
How sharks followed after us like peelers and swaddies.
Auxiously waiting to devour the dead bodies;
How the dolphin changes al colors when dying;
How I've seen heaps of fish in the elements flying.
Well I know they'll pitch myself to the dickens,
When I tell them about Mother Carey's fine chickens,
I'll tell the Mahers, McNamaras and McCarty's
All about iron gangs and road parties,
How famous the hulk is for chaining and gagging,
How the penal men are used, when doing their lagging ;
I'll them about delegates, cooks, mates and victuallers,
And give them a letter on Dungaree settlers.
Now Darby, since you're going to ould Ireland back,
Give my loving respects to my young brother Jack
And pay the same tribute to Shamus my brother,
The same give to my affectionate mother.
And dont forget to tell my dear daddy,
That I'm still his dutiful darling son Paddy,
And likewise Darby, tell my sister Onagh
That I saw the big fish that swallowed up Jonah.
Forget it not Darby, a fool can think of it,
Says you, it is the same beast, wolfed the poor prophet.
Give my love to my sweetheart, Mary,
The star of Hibernia, the pride of Tipperary
Tell her that tho' twixt us there is a great barrier,
I may yet see the day that Pauddeen can marry her,
Yerra, well I know, that my neighbours and cousins,
Will all gather round you in scores and in dozens.
And when you have told them all about lagging,
Musha Darby, tis yerself will get many a naggin
Yerra then Darby, you'll be in clover
And when all the hugging and kissing is over,
Stroll down to Maushe Counel, that lives in the moor,
And planted in the thatch, just over his door,
You'll find seven muskets and an old pike,
Deliver them yerself to ould Father Mike.
To the right owners let his reverence return them,
If he refuses to do so, my honest friend, burn them,
Only for the muskets, well may I remark,
Poor Paddy to-day wouldn't be in Hyde Park.
Tell the boys to beware of the great instigator,
Daniel O'Connell, the great agitator
The poor Paddys can't comprehend what he's doing
Damn him for evr, 'twas he wrought my ruin.
Tell the boys to desist from killing peelers and arson,
But cheerfully pay the tithe proctor and parson;
Why should they, Darby, be left in the lurch,
You know they're the heads of the Protestant Church.
To protect them, faith I'd spill my blood every drop.
And not only the tenth, but the half of my crop,
I'd freely give them without hesitation.
To free me from Botany and vile transportation.
I'd forsake the chapel, and ould Father Mike,
The caravats, shillelagh and Ribbonman's pike;
I'd make peace with my God, live in charity with men,
Musha Darby, Botany Bay wouldn't catch Pat again.


The line "From wearing the darbies, my limbs are grown feeble", shows how familiar the author was with prison argot. The darbies are, of course fetters, or irons that transportees wore even as they were on board the prison ships. This use is given in the 1811 Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue which gives as examples "To twig the darbies; to knock off the irons." and "To chive the darbies; to file off the irons or fetters."

The fact that this poem was published in the Sydney Gazette suggests it eluded the censorship at the time by being read literally. The most likely reading is to see it as replete with coded messages for Irish rebels, and what better way would there be to get the message out than in a semi official newspaper? That is what Meredith and Whalan suggest in Frank the Poet. The poet Les Murray includes this poem in Hell and After (2005) and writes: "The curious gallimaufry ... was the only work by MacNamara to appear in print in his lifetime"