Bathurst Free Press and Mining Journal Wednesday 18 June 1862 p.2
[FROM OUR OWN CORRESPONDENT.]
FRANK THE POET.
A DAY or two since I got up from the perusal of the beautiful extract from the " Lost Genius," published in a late impression, of the Empire, and almost immediately heard a mixed conversation on the character of an unfortunate Irishman, known as Frank, the poet, who lived some time with a storekeeper on this Creek.
In as few words as possible his history is as follows. He was of a respectable family, was well educated, and possessed an original, and indeed very eccentric genuis, greatly degraded by a perpetual love of mischief, and occasional offences of a very grave character. For forging at home, he was condemded to be hung, and was reprieved as the rope was being adjusted round his neck for execution. When he reached this country, he never would work as a government man, and was repeatedly flogged. Perhaps to avoid endangering his life with the whip, he was sent to a station in the interior.
The first duty appointed him was to drive off the cockatoos from a paddock of newly sown grain. Frank performed this duty in the following provoking manner ; he wrote out a number of threatening notices to the cockatoos, that they were prohibited from crossing the fence to the grain, and these notices he put at the tops of poles which he fastened at regular distances all round the paddock fences.
When asked by the "Super," what all those papers meant, he replied. "Did you not tell me to order the cockatoos off the ground ?"
Though reared in the Catholic faith, it was his delight to profess to be an unbeliever, for the sole purpose of mischief. He had every part of scripture at his tongue's end, and he scorned to have studied the Bible to justify himself as an adept at puzzling and irritating criticism ; and where he could take provoking liberties with clergymen, he was not backward in doing so. It was his boast that he had confounded two or three just aftor they had been preaching. On one occusion he obliterated a whole verse, and inserted in its place with his pen a sentiment utterly unscriptural. He did this so cleverly that it looked in no way different from the other print on the leaf ; and he had the audacity to assert in the face of a clergyman, that it was a part of the Protestant Scripture. With one of his own clergymen, he took an unpardonable liberty. Frank was reading the Illustrated London News. The Rev. Gentleman spoke very kindly to him. He immediately pretended that he had turned Protestant, and began to feign an anxiety to convert him to the Protestant faith. Father ——— rose up and left him to his own reflections.
Frank was offensively eccentric in his manners, he never put a string to his shoes, assigning as a reason, "that God never made man to stoop to anything so low as his feet," he generally wore his small clothes inside out.
Some times he was better employed, his penmanship seemed almost miraculous; and many persons who admired demonstrations of that kind, employed him to write on the blank leaves of prayer-books, bibles, and other valued books. On the soft leaf of a prayer-book now before me, he wrote besides the name, the following lines impromptu :—
"THE GIFT OF AN AFFECTIONATE MOTHER."
[Then follows the name very beautifully written.]
" 'Tis not a little toy
That I give to thee, my boy,
As your good sense will see,
'Tis a book of prayer
Keep it with fond care
In remembrance of me."
In another Prayer-book before me on a leaf equally soft, he has printed distinctly with his pen :— " Presented, April 10, 1859, by the dearest Friend in tho world, to —— ," and then in very beautiful italic :— "The Lord hath chastened me sore : but He hath not given me over unto death." Ps. CXVIII, 18 v.
Whether he really possessed poetical abilities, I cannot say, having seen nothing of that kind, beyond the above lines, which can hardly be called poetry. I am told he was the author of a published volume of sarcasm on the Government ; but, so far is I can learn, it was an imitation of that presumptuous and unpardonable part of Dante, in which he puts lately dead, yes, and living characters into hell, and assigns them horrible torments. To speak of such a state at all, as that of final perdition, except in religious teaching, and in the language of Scripture, is pitifully contemptible ; and to put living men into eternal torments is disgustingly malignant, and is only less revolting than artistic pulpit oratory on such a painful subject.
But the great crime of Frank was intemperate drinking, the crime from which all his mischievous propensions took their origin. When sober he was generally a quiet, harmless man.
All I know of him more, is, that I read in the Mudgee News, some time back, that he died from exhaustion, the consequence of too much drink and too little food. What a ruinous thing drink is ! Frank was unquestionably a man of unusual powers of mind, and but for habitual drinking, might have been a very useful man.
If Frank had been my enemy I should not like the idea of his thus dying, without some notice of his abused gifts and perverted genius. And if you will find a place for this little notice of him in the Free Press, I shall feel greatly obliged; and, if you will permit me, I may observe, Frank was not the only genius utterly lost to society through an intemperate use of strong drink. I remember taking up a volume of poems in a provincial town in the North of England, the home of its author. His versification was quite as sweet as Moore's, and possessed as much power as Byron's. A plan was mooted to elevate him in society ; but he became so wrecklessly intemporate, that nothing could be done for either him or his family.
Permit me to add, that, from several specimens I have seen of Mr. Harpur's poetry, published in the Empire, it is my humble opinion, that gentleman will be a much greater poet than either Akenside, or Byron, if he properly cultivates his very promising genius.
This interesting article is another example of the importance of the digitisation of newspapers in this case through the National Library of Australia's TROVE project. The statement "I am told he was the author of a published volume of sarcasm on the Government ; but, so far is I can learn, it was an imitation of that presumptuous and unpardonable part of Dante, in which he puts lately dead, yes, and living characters into hell, and assigns them horrible torments" clearly refers to MacNamara's most famous poem 'A Convict's Tour To Hell'. The article also places MacNamara at Clarke's Creek, Meroo as late as 1959, and the statement "his penmanship seemed almost miraculous; and many persons who admired demonstrations of that kind, employed him to write on the blank leaves of prayer-books, bibles, and other valued books" reinforces the view that he was an expert calligrapher and possibly a forger.
[article transcribed by Mark Gregory 29 April 2011]
|The Sydney Morning Herald Wednesday 27 November 1861 showing official name change of Devil's Hole Creek|