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Al McCartan

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The Australianization Of Marmaduke McNab
By Al McCartan
Sunday, April 17, 2011

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How an Irish law clerk - found a new world and career Downunder





























Marmaduke McNab's obituary in the Chronicle of December 2nd, 1960, spoke glowingly of how the Irish-born Shearers' Union Representative and later on well respected lawyer, lived his life in Kikacro and how by just a simple misunderstanding – a mispronunciation of a word -  Marmaduke did not become an American…


Marmaduke McNabb represented the shearers from 1896 until 1940, as a Union Rep and later as a lawyer.  During the war years of 1914-1918, Marmaduke dropped his age, enlisted and served with distinction in France, returning home with the rank of Major and a Military Cross.

He opened his law practice, in Kikacro, in 1920 after his Irish credentials had been sufficiently worked on to achieve Australian equivalent.  His WW1 MC and contacts also helped.

In 1895, one, Marmaduke Eustace McNab, arrived in Kikacro. The third son of wealthy Irish landowner, Claude McNab, of County Down, Marmaduke - or Mem, had no family title or fortune to fall back on, so at the age of just eighteen, he was articled to a Belfast law firm and by dint of study and hard work, was promoted to the position of Junior Clerk. 


Mem was born under a wandering star and no sooner than he had passed his final law examination and status commensurate with his rank, decided that America the Golden was the place to be and with a little help from the family, would set up a practice and then represent all transplanted Irishmen in Massachusetts.   A fortune just waiting to be made was there for him. 

Thus, with a first class ticket, a tearful farewell from his mother and two brothers; his father was not there to see him off, he had other matters in hand, Marmaduke embarked on the SS Star Of Down for a new life in America.  Not enough time perhaps to begin a serious shipboard romance, but enough time to begin making a network of potential clients.

  The potential network consisted, wealthy Irish-Americans who might know of suitable situations for a young and ambitious lawyer; and of course, those who had left Ireland for a new life in America. 

  All was rosy, until the Star Of Down reached Ellis Island.


Marmaduke, not wanting to sound officious or better than his fellow emigrants, decided to tell the Immigration Officials he was a law clerk.   

On this particular misty, moisty morning, Mr.  Murphy, of Murphy's Law fame and Robert Burns' "Best Laid Plans," got together with US Immigration Officer, Jubal T. Henderson.


 Jubal, who had over celebrated the night before, was sore of head and sore of nature and was in no mood to be trifled with by New Americans whatever their nationality.   Unluckily for Marmaduke, Jubal T was the official, handling his entry. 

"Mornin', sir.  Name, please." 

"Good morning to you too, officer.  The name is McNab.  Marmaduke Eustace McNab." 

"You joshin' me. Boy?  Who the hell has a name like Marmaduke, less'n ye're one of them queer limeys.  You a limey, boy." 

"Irish, officer, I'm from County Down." 

"Oh! a Mick, eh!   This country's got enough Micks.  Whaddya do, Paddy?"

Marmaduke, blessed with a good nature, smiled.  "I'm a law clerk, officer."   Perhaps it was the pronunciation of the word, clerk, as in dark, which upset Jubal T. 

"Ye're a, what?" 

"Law Clerk, sir." 

Jubal T. Henderson reddened. 

"Are you bein' a smartass, son?" 

Marmaduke shook his head in disbelief. 

"I'm sorry, what have I done to upset you?" 

"Okay, lad, one more chance.  "What-do-you-do-for-a-living?" 

"As I said before, I'm a law clerk." 

Jubal T. Henderson stood up and waved to another man, not in uniform.   The man came over. 

"What's the problem, Officer Henderson? 

"This Mick, here, claims he's a clock." 

Marmaduke's jaw dropped.   "I assure you, gentlemen, I said no such thing." 

Henderson's teeth clenched.  "You callin' me a liar, Paddy?" 

"Not in the least.  I merely told the officer here, I was a law clerk?" 

"I see," said the man in civilian dress.  He scribbled something in a notebook, tore out the page and gave it to Henderson.  "Take him over to the doc." 

Jubal and Marmaduke walked over to another room where other emigrants were to be examined by a hard-working medical staff. 

"Wait here, Paddy."   Jubal T, then knocked on the door of an office and entered.  He came out of the office in just a minute or so and beckoned Marmaduke to follow him. 

"Inside, Paddy." 

Marmaduke found himself in another room where there were other emigrants sitting around, some were weeping, others sat there in stony silence. There was wailing and gnashing of teeth in divers languages. 

Marmaduke approached a well-dressed man, who seemed calm and asked him where they were. 

"We are to be sent home," the man replied in faultless English.  "Apparently, we are neither physically or mentally fit enough to enter America.  There is another boat leaving for Europe tomorrow, all of these people, including you will be on it. 

Luck of the Irish, however, prevailed. Another Immigration Official entered the room and announced that for any single, male emigrants, there was a ship leaving for Sydney, New South Wales, within the hour and an opportunity for three men to work their passages. 

"They ain't that pertikular in Ostrelya," said the official. 

"I'm in," said the adventurous Marmaduke.  Two others volunteered.  Thus Marmaduke Eustace McNab, set sail for Australia. 

Back at Ellis Island, the two officials were laughing over the McNab incident. "Ya know," said the civilian-dressed officer.  "Y'know, the limeys and Micks pronounce the word clerk," here he rhymed it with jerk," as, 'clark'.  The way that guy said it sounded like clock.  Can't be too careful now, can we?"   

"Hell no," answered Jubal T. Henderson.  "Anyway, America won't miss one more Mick." 

"Keep this up, Officer Henderson and our reject quota will exceed expectations."  

Marmaduke, on arriving in Sydney, was amazed.  It was a clear day, cloudless, the waters sparkled and over in the northern suburbs and near South Head, he could see the white sails of yachts and green bushland, bushland, for as far as the eye could see.  This was far different from the cold, grey weather, which greeted him on arrival in New York.  To Marmaduke Eustace McNabb, LLB, this was heaven on earth. 

He had befriended a middle-aged couple who told him that they had once lived in a town named Kikacro, a good day and early night's journey, by rail, west of Sydney.  There's work to be had for and ambitious young fellow, like you," effused the middle-aged gentleman. 

The good folk then gave Marmaduke directions of how to get to Sydney Station and then on to Kikacro. 

To Marmaduke it was as if he had arrived in heaven.  The immigration official was polite and after convincing him he was not a smuggler, Fenian or would-be latter day bushranger, at the official’s behest, Marmaduke was free to go and enjoy what life the Colony had to offer and the best of British luck to him. 

Following his fellow-passengers’ instructions, Marmaduke hailed a hansom cab and set out for the Station, drinking in the sights of busy, bustling Sydney, comparing it to his own Belfast. 

After finding his way to the ticket office, he bought his first class ticket for Kikacro, three and a half hours east of Bourke, the last station on the journey. 

His travelling companions were two businessmen, bound for Bathurst and a priest, headed for his new parish in Dubbo. 

Rail travel in NSW is not the best at anytime has not changed overmuch since 1895; still Marmaduke enjoyed the new experience, especially the views of the Blue Mountains and the Western Plains. 

It was a tired begrimed Marmaduke who arrived in Kikacro in the early evening.    He greeted the ticket collector with a smile. 

"Good evening to you, sir, where might I find a good hotel, I am sorely in need of a good bath and dinner." 

"Stumpy Morgan's 'Otel's the closest, mate.  It's clean and the tucker's pretty grouse, there's no cabs at this time o' night, so you'll 'ave ter leg it.  'Cos yer first class, all yer left luggage will be delivered tomorrer, when we get the wagon."   He pointed up the road. 

"The 'otel on yer left, that's the Railway 'Otel, then a bit further on is Greg O' Reilly's.  Stumpy's is at the end of this road, 'bout arf a mile on." 

"Bless you and thank you," said Marmaduke with a smile; "by the way, would you be knowin’ if there is any work around? 

The railwayman looked Marmaduke up and down, taking in the well-cut but travelled-soiled and crumpled suit. 

"Wotcher do, mate?" 

Marmaduke straightened up.  "Sir, I am a newly qualified lawyer, but I'm willin' to be actin' as a law clerk; if there's nothing available in that field, whatever's going." 

"Nothin' too much 'round here, but Bob Malley, he's a big cocky, is always lookin' fer blokes on his sheep run.   He's about five miles out of town; 'ow ya gonna get there?" 

"I'll be walking, sir, five miles is nothing." 

"Mightn't be where you come from, but in this bloody 'eat an' on these roads, it's a mongrel, 'specially if ye're not used to it.   Tell yer what.  Norm Dunnicliffe comes in 'ere of a mornin' ter pick up parcels an' stuff.  You get 'ere be seven thirty tomorrer an' I'll jack up a lift for ya.  Ye'll 'ave ter make yer own way back if things don't pan out." 

After another round of effusive thankyous, Marmaduke picked up his valise and headed for Stumpy Morgan's. 

I think, no, I know, I’ve found me a new home, new country, new life.  Mem McBride was happy as he broke into song.






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