Union Songs

A poem by Colleen Z Burke©Colleen Z Burke 2011

             A rebellious spirit - Frank the poet - 
             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.

Sailing out of Cork aboard the Eliza II
he arrived in Sydney in 1832.
And for ten years 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 in underground coal mines
he was bound in leg irons
put on the treadmill and
in solitary confinement over and over again.
Flogged repeatedly -
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 firearms 
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.
His only possessions were some papers.
And he never cared much for clothes.

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, subversive wit
and ever defiant spirit 
because he never ever 
let the bastards keep him down.


Many thanks to Colleen Burke for permission to add this poem to the Union Songs collection.

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