August 2012 marks the 151st anniversary of the death of Francis MacNamara, better known in convict Australia as Frank the Poet. According to one of Australia’s leading contemporary poets, Les Murray, MacNamara’s epic work A Convict’s Tour to Hell should be placed right at the beginning of English literature in Australia.
Frank’s attitude to the colonial authorities, embodied in this now famous poem, can also be gauged from the punishments he received. Lashed 590 times, he was sent to solitary confinement, to the treadmill, and worked on chain gangs. All through his incarceration, Frank continued to entertain his fellow convicts with his rebellious verse.
Now a new generation of musicians is producing fresh work inspired by Frank the Poet, whom they regard as giving Australia a tradition akin to the Mississippi blues.
Folklorist, and co-producer of this feature, Mark Gregory, has spent thirty years searching for this often elusive poet, accompanied by his sometimes doubting partner, film maker Maree Delofski.
Les Murray, poet
Emeritus Bob Reece, (http://www.murdoch.edu.au/News/Find-an-expert/History-and-Theology-experts/)
Professor Hamish Maxwell-Stewart, Keith Cameron Chair of Australian History, School of History and Archives, University College, Dublin
Professor Bob Hodge, (http://www.uws.edu.au/ics/people/researchers/bob_hodge)