Francis Macnamara, Irish poet, 1886 – 1946


Francis Macnamara by Augustus John: Over six feet tall, golden haired and blue bright eyes, he carried himself like a conqueror (Michael Holroyd in Augustus John’s biography)

Francis Macnamara was the hereditary owner of Doolin and Ennistymon in Co. Clare, Ireland, and son of H V Macnamara ( who died of wounds received in an ambush in the Burren in 1919). His mother Edith Cooper was an Australian heiress, the daughter of Sir Daniel Cooper of Woolhara, Ist Baronet, and First Speaker of the NSW parliament. Sir Daniel Cooper inherited the fortune made by his uncle, also Daniel Cooper, who was transported to Australia in 1816 following a conviction for armed robbery at Chester Assizes.

A protestant even though from a very ancient Clare family, Irish independence and the forfeiture of most of the family lands put paid to the Macnamara fortune, and his life was spent in relative poverty and unproductive idleness. He had three marriages, none of which lasted, and his life is chronicled in his daughter Nicolette Devas’s classic autobiography Two Flamboyant Fathers. He was an enthusiastic and highly experienced sailor and had his own Galway hooker the Mary Anne fitted out as a yacht, and sailed this regularly from the West of Ireland to England and beyond. He converted his home the Falls in Ennistymon into a hotel , but this venture was not a success and he sold it in 1943, finishing his years in Dublin. Francis had four children by his first wife: John, Nicolette, Caitlin, and Brigit. Caitlin married the poet Dylan Thomas, see below.

Books/poems/translations by Francis Macnamara

  • Marionettes , a book of poems published in 1909
  • The physiology of marriage, by Honore de Balzac, translated and with an introduction by Francis Macnamara, Casanova Press, 1925
  • Wessex Review, quarterly appearing in the 1920s: edited and largely written by Francis Macnamara, often under pseudonyms ( see for instance Quarterly No. 2, Lady Day 1923)
  • Poetry in various magazines, for instance the June 1914 edition of Poetry and Drama
    see Sonnet written on the birth of his son John Macnamara

Books and other sources with information about Francis Macnamara

  • Two Flamboyant Fathers, by Nicolette Devas,
  • Form of Diary, anonymous but in fact by Erica Cotterill, Pushkin Press, 1939, which depicts Francis Macnamara as the character F. Francis Macnamara was her lover, and the book describes their often violent relationship
  • Caitlin- life with Dylan Thomas, by Caitlin Thomas with George Tremlett, 1986
  • Caitlin- the life of Caitlin Thomas, by Paul Ferris, 1993.
  • The Seventh Child, by Romilly John ( a son of Augustus) , 1975: contains amusing descriptions of Francis as his teacher
  • Yachting Monthly, article about the Mary Anne Galway hooker
  • Augustus John, by Michael Holroyd, Vintage 1997, where Francis Macnamara’s long friendship with Augustus John is documented
  • It isn’t this time of year at all, by Oliver St John Gogarty, 1954, republished Sphere books 1983, in which Gogarty makes disparaging but possibly true remarks about Francis Macnamara’s mother, as well as about Francis himself