The Life and times of Francis MacNamara - convict, poet and Goldminer

– All photographs by Joe Franklin –
Mark Gregory viewed through Guard's rifle look out
Guard look outs Cockatoo Island
Francis MacNamara was imprisoned here before his transfer to Van Diemen's Land.
Solitary cells, Cockatoo Island.
Golden Gully diggings, Tambaroora, near Hill End,  NSW - scene of a great Australian  gold rush.
Rich alluvial  gold deposits were found along these creeks, triggering a gold rush in the early 1850's.
At its height, the town of Tambaroora was home to around 2,500 people - among them Francis MacNamara
- better known as Frank The Poet for his rebellious epic work 'A Convict's Tour To Hell'.
On gaining his freedom MacNamara, like many convicts headed for these goldfields.
The Arch - Golden Gully, Tambaroora, NSW. Once Australia's early gold miners had worked through the
ground surface of their lease, they had to dig down to bedrock through ancient river gravels
in search of new gold bearing seams. Massive erosion has exposed the underground
warren of mines that stretched 5 kilometres along this creek line from  Hill End to Tambaroora.
Gnarly tree, Golden Gully.
Close up erosion at Tambaroora Diggings, near Hill End, NSW.
Francis MacNamara was  - according to contemporary press reports - active here in the 1850's.
Although one journalist wrote disparagingly of the poet's potential as a gold miner, a witness
at his inquest claimed Frank The Poet was highly successful earning "hundreds of pounds a week"
- a small fortune in his day - from his work on these diggings.
Reflections Golden Gully, Tambaroora, NSW.
The town went into decline in the mid 1860's as most of its river gravels had been
picked over by the gold miners and by 1899 all active mining had ceased .
The creeks and gullies produced over 1,400kg of gold.
Remains of a Tambaroora pub. Like many gold miners, Frank was reputed to be a heavy drinker.
He wrote: " becomes the Irishman to drown the shamrock while he can".
Interpretive sign Hill End.
Mine Head, Hill End.
Exposed wall, Hill End Cottage.
"Accidentally killed" - gravestone, Catholic Cemetery, Tambaroora, near Hill End NSW.
Gold mining was dirty , dangerous and often life threatening work. If the mine didn't kill you,
there was always the possibility that a fellow miner might.
Local historians say that the words "accidentally killed" on a gravestone was
sometimes a euphemism for a miner having a bucket dropped on his head.
Irish Section, Tambaroora Cemetery.
Gravestone, Irish Section, Tambaroora.
Grave stone of black tracker - David Benjamin Johnson, born USA.
Ted Abbott, grave digger, Tambaroora.
Mudgee Court House, NSW - opened in 1861 - the year of  Frank The Poet's death in Mudgee.
After a life time battling the law - his epic poem A Convict's Tour To Hell - turns the law on its head,
sending all the convicts to heaven and condemning the law makers to hell, Frank spent his last days
relatively peacefully by his standards living near Mudgee, and his inquest indicates
that like a number of Irish born poets, he quietly drank himself to death
Mudgee, NSW - the day before his death Frank was drinking in the town "on and off all day".
Memorial Park, Mudgee contains headstones from three earlier cemeteries - converted into parks.
Frank the poet died near here, but his burial place remains a mystery.