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Decisions of the Superior Courts of New South Wales, 1788-1899

Tour to Hell

convicts, views of officials - Wardell, Robert, convict's view of - Australian Agricultural Company

A Convict's Tour to Hell


Frank MacNamara, 23 October 1839

Source: Les Murray, A Working Forest, Duffy and Snellgrove, Sydney, 1997,

pp 365-370 [1]

Composed at Stroud AA Co. Establishment Station New South Wales


Nor can the foremost of the sons of men

Escape my ribald and licentious pen



Composed and written

October 23rd day, Anno 1839


You prisoners of New South Wales,

Who frequent watchhouses and gaols

A story to you I will tell

`Tis of a convict's tour to hell.


Whose valour had for years been tried

On the highway before he died

At length he fell to death a prey

To him it proved a happy day

Downwards he bent his course I'm told

Like one destined for Satan's fold

And no refreshment would he take

`Till he approached the Stygian lake

A tent he then began to fix

Continuous to the River Styx

Thinking that no one could molest him

Stranger I say from whence art thou,

And my own name, pray tell me now,

Kind sir I come from Sydney gaol

My name I don't mean to conceal

And since you seem anxious to know it

On earth I was called Frank the Poet.

Are you that person? Charon cried,

I'll carry you to the other side.

Five or sixpence I mostly charge

For the like passage in my barge

So stranger do not troubled be

For you shall have a passage free

Frank seeing no other succour nigh

With the invitation did comply

And having a fair wind and tide

They soon arrived at the other side

And leaving Charon at the ferry

Frank went in haste to Purgatory

And rapping loudly at the gate

Of Limbo, or the Middle State

Pope Pius the 7th soon appeared

With gown, beads, crucifix and beard

And gazing at the Poet the while

Accosts him in the following style

Stranger art thou a friend or foe

Your business here I fain would know

Quoth the Poet for Heaven I'm not fitted

And here I hope to be admitted

Pius rejoined, vain are your hopes

This place was made for Priests and Popes

`Tis a world of our own invention

But friend I've not the least intention

To admit such a foolish elf

Who scarce knows how to bless himself

Quoth Frank were you mad or insane

When first you made this world of pain?

For I can see nought but fire

A share of which I can't desire

Here I see weeping wailing gnashing

And torments of the newest fashion

Therefore I call you silly elf

Who made a rod to whip yourself

And may you like all honest neighbours

Enjoy the fruit of all your labours

Frank then bid the Pope farewell

And hurried to that place called Hell

And having found the gloomy gate

Frank rapped aloud to know his fate

He louder knocked and louder still

When the Devil came, pray what's your will?

Alas cried the Poet I've come to dwell

With you and share your fate in Hell

Says Satan that can't be, I'm sure

For I detest and hate the poor

And none shall in my kingdom stand

Except the grandees of the land.

But Frank I think you are going astray

For convicts never come this way.

But soar to Heaven in droves and legions

A place so called in the upper regions

So Frank I think with an empty purse

You shall go further and fare worse

Well cried the Poet since `tis so

One thing of you I'd like to know

As I'm at present in no hurry

Have you one here called Captain Murray?

Yes Murray is within this place

Would you said Satan see his face?

May God forbid that I should view him

For on board the Phoenix Hulk I knew him

Who is that Sir in yonder blaze

Who on fire and brimstone seems to graze?

`Tis Captain Logan of Moreton Bay

And Williams who was killed the other day

He was overseer at Grosse Farm

And done poor convicts no little harm

Cook who discovered New South Wales

And he that first invented gaols

Are both tied to a fiery stake

Which stands in yonder boiling lake

Hark do you hear this dreadful yelling

It issues from Doctor Wardell's dwelling

And all those fiery seats and chairs

Are fitted up for Dukes and Mayors

And nobles of Judicial orders

Barristers, Lawyers and Recorders

Here I beheld legions of traitors

Hangmen gaolers and flagellators

Commandants, Constables and Spies

Informers and Overseers likewise

In flames of brimstone they were toiling

And lakes of sulphur round them boiling

Hell did resound with their fierce yelling

Alas how dismal was their dwelling

Then Major Morriset I espied

And Captain Cluney by his side

With a fiery belt they were lashes together

As tight as soles to upper leather

Their situation was most horrid

For they were tyrants down at the Norrid

Postrate I beheld a petitioner

It was the Company's Commissioner

Satan said he my days are ended

For many years I've superintended

The An. Company's affairs

And I punctually paid all arrears

Sir should you doubt the hopping Colonel

At Carrington you'll find my journal

Legibly penned in black and white

To prove that my accounts were right

And since I've done your will on earth

I hope you'll put me in a berth

Then I saw old Sergeant Flood

In Vulcan's hottest forge he stood


He gazed at me his eyes with ire

Appeared like burning coals of fire

In fiery garments he was arrayed

And like an Arabian horse he brayed

He on a bloody cutlass leaned

And to a lamp-post he was chained

He loudly called out for assistance

Or begged me to end his existence

Cheer up said I be not afraid

Remember No. Three Stockade

In the course of time you may do well

If you behave yourself in Hell

Your heart on earth was fraught with malice

Which oft drove convicts to the gallows

But you'll now atone for all the blood

Of prisoners shed by Sergeant Flood.

Then I beheld that well known Trapman

The Police Runner called Issy Chapman

Here he was standing on his head

In a river of melted boiling lead.

Alas he cried behold me stranger

I've captured many a bold bushranger

And for the same I'm suffering here

But lo, now yonder snakes draw near

On turning round I saw slow worms

And snakes of various kinds and forms

All entering at this mouth and nose

To devour his entrails as I suppose

Then turning round to go away

Bold Lucifer bade me to stay

Saying Frank by no means go man

Till you see your old friend Dr Bowman

Yonder he tumbles groans and gnashes

He gave you many a thousand lashes

And for the same he does bewail

For Osker with an iron fail

Thrashes him well you may depend

And will till the world comes to an end

Just as I spoke a coach and four

Came in full post haste to the door

And about six feet of mortal sin

Without leave or licence trudged in

At his arrival three cheers were given

Which rend I'm sure the highest Heaven

And all the inhabitants of Hell

With one consent range the great bell

Which never was heard to sound or ring

Since Judas sold our Heavenly King

Drums were beating flags were hoisting

There never before was such rejoicing

Dancing singing joy or mirth

In Heaven above or on the earth

Straightway to Lucifer I went

To know what these rejoicings meant

Of sense cried Lucifer I'm deprived

Since Governor Darling has arrived

With fire and brimstone I've ordained him

And Vulcan has already chained him

And I'm going to fix an abode

For Captain Rossi he's on the road

Frank don't go till you see the novice

The magistrate from the Police Office

Oh said the Poet I'm satisfied

To hear that he is to be tied

And burned in this world of fire

I think `Tis high time to retire

And having travelled many days

O'er fiery hills and boiling seas

At length I found that happy place

Where all the woes of mortals cease

And rapping loudly at the wicket

Cried Peter, where's your certificate

Or if you have not one to show

Pray who in Heaven do you know?

Well I know Brave Donohue

Young Troy and Jenkins too

And many others whom floggers mangled

And lastly were by Jack Ketch strangled

Peter, says Jesus, let Frank in

For he is thoroughly purged from sin

And although in convict's habit dressed

Here he shall be a welcome guest

Isaiah go with him to Job

And put on him a scarlet robe

St Paul go to the flock straightway

`And kill the fatted calf today

And go tell Abraham and Abel

In Haste now to prepare the table

For we shall have a grand repast

Since Frank the Poet has come at last

Then came Moses and Elias

John the Baptist and Mathias

With many saints from foreign lands

And with the Poet they all join hands

Thro' Heaven's Concave their rejoicings range

And hymns of praise to God they sang

And as they praised his glorious name

I woke and found `twas but a dream.


[1]  Les Murray's introduction to this poem (pp 360-364) states that MacNamara was a convict who was often in further trouble in New South Wales, seeing the inside of a number of places of secondary transportation.  Some of his other poems refer to his time at the Australian Agricultural Company's premises in the Hunter district, and to his refusal to work in the underground coal mines there.

Published by the Division of Law, Macquarie University