Thomas Keneally, Australians Origins to Eureka, Crows Nest, Allen & Unwin, 2010. pp.306-307
A much-flogged, apparently eccentric convict, Frank MacNamara, known as
Frank the Poet, was flogged fourteen times to receive a total of 650 lashes, served
three and a half years in iron gangs doing hard labour on roads, docks and in
quarries, served thirteen days of solitary confinement and three months on the
treadmill near Sydney's Brickfield Hill.
He then spent two years on the hulk Phoenix in Sydney Harbour, from which
he tried to escape five times, and addressed the superintendent about potential
time in solitary:
Captain Murray, if you please
Make it hours and not days.
You know it becomes an Irishman
To drown the shamrock when he can.
[Drowning the shamrock is to drink, probably to excess.]
Frank's final punishment was seven years at Port Arthur. There he made a
number of attempts at absconding and imagined himself a potential bushranger,
bushranging being an assertion of liberty to his mind:
Then hurl me to crime and brand me with shame
But think not to baulk me my spirit to tame,
For I'll fight to the last in old Ireland's name,
Though I be a bushranger,
You still are the stranger and I'm Donahue
[Donahue was a mythic Irish bushranger.]
Despite his numerous punishments, Frank would be permitted to perform
for his fellow convicts in New South Wales and Van Diemen's Land during
the 1830s and 1840s. On Christmas Day 1842 at the prison settlement at Port
Arthur he entertained his fellow prisoners, including the Irish bushranger
Martin Cash, with his recitations, announcing himself as he always did at his
My name is Frank MacNamara,
A native of Cashel, County Tipperary,
Sworn to be a tyrant's foe,
And while I live, I'll crow.
Were the more than six hundred lashes given to Frank the Poet of therapeutic
value for him or the body of society? They certainly warned other felons not to
be too flamboyant. Crowing itself was the triumph for Frank. He never became
a bushranger, but he understood the meaning of that gesture of renouncing the
settled regions and the orderly progress of a sentence to conclusion.