MacNamara: 1839 - 1842

From Frank the Poet pp.12-13

Newcastle Gaol Entrance Book for 1838-39 carries the following entry under the date of November 1st, 1839:

"Prisoner No.1097, Francis MacNamara per Eliza, 1832, a native of C. Limerick, Catholic, Mariner; tried for absconding, sentenced at Newcastle to 12 calendar months in an Ironed Gang. Forwarded to an Ironed Gang in Sydney on 9th November, 1839."

There are some discrepancies between details in this entry and the 1832 indent for the "Eliza", and these, we feel illustrate MacNamara's facility for extemporising. On different occasions he gave various towns and counties as his place of origin; the reason for changing to the Catholic faith has already been explained, and in stating his occupation as a mariner, no doubt he was taking into account the years worked as a member of the boat's crew on the "Phoenix" hulk. An entry in the Newcastle Gaol Description Book for the same date has only one difference, the date of birth, which is given as 1806; the Indent states this to be 1811. The description leaves no doubt that this is the same Francis MacNamara who was sentenced at Kilkenny:

"Born 1806, 5 feet 5½ ins. tall; stout, fresh complexion, light brown hair, gray eyes, and with a scar on the corner of the right eye."

Escorted by a constable, MacNamara and six other prisoners left for Sydney by the morning boat on November 9th. They arrived the same day, and in the book labelled "Miscellaneous Returns 1836-41, Index of Prisoners Sentenced to Work in Irons", there is the entry which gives, for the first time, his place of origin as Cashel:

"9th November, 1839. 2980. Francis MacNamara, per Eliza 1832, Cashel, Catholic, Labourer. Admitted Sydney Gaol 9th November 1839, from Newcastle, Iron'd Gang 12 months, Disposed of: Iron'd Gang to Wooloomooloo (sic) 11th November 1839."

A subsequent entry in the same book, giving the returns of the Woolloomooloo Stockade, states that MacNamara was discharged from there on 5th December and sent to the Parramatta Gaol. The Entrance Book of that institution seems to have taken its information from Newcastle, for the relevant entry is:

"2431 Francis MacNamara, per Eliza 1832, Limerick, Catholic, Mariner, admitted 5th December 1839, Sydney Iron'd Gang. Disposed of to Stockade Parramatta 7th December."

Assuming that he served twelve months in the Ironed Gang at Parramatta – it may have been longer if he received further punishment – MacNamara most likely would have been returned to Hyde Park Barracks towards the end of 1840, but we could find no further official record of his whereabouts until the middle of 1842, when he escaped from custody and was recaptured near Razorback Mountain.