The Day I Will Be Free

Bunyip (Gawler, SA) Saturday 7 October 1865 p. 4.

Sir.— In the year 1835 an individual, whose name I will not mention, but who was designated as "Frank, the Poet," appeared at the Police Court in Sydney ; and being a most incorrigible offender—having, by various sentences, accumulated enough punishment. to last the lives of three men—he was thus addressed by the presiding magistrate :—

MAGISTRATE—When do you think you will obtain your freedom ? You are constantly appearing here and receiving additional sentences.
FRANK—That I can easily answer, your  Worship.
MAGISTRATE—I rather think it will be a most difficult matter for you to do, as it is almost beyond calculation.
FRANK—Not so, your Worship; for if you will allow me I will tell you.
MAGISTRATE— Well, when ?

Frank's statement was as follows, and only now sees the light for the first time :—

When Sydney town, of high renown.
Goes to the Windsor races ;
When the Surrey hills, and Barker's mills,
Do visibly change places.
When New South Wales is blessed by God—
Which I think will never be—
And branches new grace Aaron's rod,
That day I will be free.

When Rossi-Bowman, and such men,
Show to poor convicts justice ;
And when the world is taxed again
By Caesar, famed Augustus ;
When David's bear and Balaam's ass
Dine with King Solomon's bee ;
And when Lord Farnham goes to mass—
That day I will be free.

When horses all wear Hessian boots,
And mountains are brought low ;
When bullocks play on German flutes,
And lilies cease to blow.
When geese like Presbyterians preach,
And truth is proved a libel ;
When heaven is within our reach,
And Deists love the Bible.

When Britain's isle goes to the Nile,
Or visits Londonderry ;
And the Hill of Howth goes to the South,
Or to the County Kerry ;
When Dublin town, of good renown,
Pays a visit to the Dee ;
And when millstones on the ocean float—
That day will see me free.

Magistrate—That is about the time. Take him away for another twelve months
C. L.


John Meredith and Rex Whalan write about MacNamara's many punishments in 1835 including one 12 month sentence:
For Assaulting a constable on April 16th, the young Irishman was awarded 12 months work in irons, but this did little to quell his spirit, for exactly a month later he was flogged again. On this occasion it was 36 lashes for "refusing to work and insolence". [Frank the Poet p. 6.]

If this poem was written in 1835 it predates a very similar petition/poem in the Trimingham manuscript, "For the Company Underground", by four years. The closeness of the two compositions is remarkable and the fact that this "only now sees the light for the first time", thirty years after it was composed on the spot and four years after MacNamara's death suggests that his verse quickly spread orally rather than in print. It could have been titled On Freedom like letter to the editor, but I have chosen to echo the poem by titling it "The Day I Will Be Free". It not been cited before and has lain hidden in the Bunyip for 148 years, freed it seems by the electronic revolution.

[This article and poem was discovered and the spelling corrected by the researcher 22 March 2013]