A rebellious spirit – Frank the poet –

                                                                                    Colleen Z Burke

                 Francis MacNamara (1811-1861)
I dread not the dangers by land or by sea,
That I'll meet on my voyage to Botany Bay;
My labours are over, my vocation is past,
And 'tis there I'll rest easy and happy at last.

Francis MacNamara,
born in Cashel, Tipperary,
convicted when he was 21 –
for breaking a shop-window
and stealing a piece of worsted plaid,
was transported to NSW for seven years
but instead served nearly fifteen years.

He arrived in Sydney in 1832 aboard the Eliza II.
And from 1833 to 1843 for crimes
committed in the colony of NSW
such as absconding, disobeying orders
possessing a stolen shirt,
for insubordination, being absent from duty,
using obscene and threatening language,
destroying a government cart,
for refusing to work, refusing to mount the treadmill,
for mutinous conduct, drunkenness,
disobeying orders, insolence,
refusing to work underground
he was bound in leg irons
put on the treadmill and
in solitary confinement over and over again.
Flogged repeatedly
100 lashes, 75, 50, 100 –
Frank received a total of 590 lashes
in 12 separate floggings –
my back with flogging was lacerated
And oft-times painted with crimson gore.

And after absconding once again
and found in possession of fire arms
he was sentenced to Van Diemen’s land for life
but became a free man in 1849.

Frank always bucked the system.
And after such an intense, harrowing life
and through all his inhumane
and brutal punishments
he was only fifty when he died
at Pipe Clay Creek, near Mudgee, NSW.

He was known for his erudition,
calligraphy, fine penmanship,
his passionate, satirical and provocative poetry
bequeathing us a rich treasure trove
of words and rhyme
highlighting his quirky wit
and ever defiant spirit
because he never ever
let the bastards keep him down.

Many thanks to Colleen Burke who wrote this poem for, and performed it at the bicentenary celebration of Francis MacNamara at the Gaelic Club Sydney on 27 August 2011