Harry McNamara joined Norwood with fellow Victorian Arthur Longden in 1881 and both contributed to three successive premierships. A goalkicking follower, Harry impressed from the outset and earned selection in the South Australian team which played two matches against Victoria at East Melbourne in August that year. Norwood captain ‘Topsy’ Waldron ably led the visitors but they were no match for the Victorians, who won 9.14 to 1.8 and 4.14 to 1.5.
Norwood went through the season undefeated, recording 10 wins and three draws to complete a hat trick of premierships and take the Fowler Challenge Cup. Harry’s reward was a gold medal, now held by the State Library of South Australia. One side of the medal is inscribed: ‘S.A.F.A. season 1881 The Fowler Champion Medals won by Norwood 1st 20’; on the other side, the name ‘H. McNamara’ is engraved.
Summing up the season, The South Australian Advertiser said: “The strength of the clubs was greatly augmented by the advent in our midst of many Victorian players of reputation, notably Watt, McShane, Longden, McNamara and Lindsay.”
In 1882 McNamara and Longden were joined at Norwood by Tom Lindsay, who switched from South Adelaide. All three were members of the Norwood party which visited Victoria for matches against Melbourne, South Melbourne, Carlton, Essendon and Ballarat City Imperials.
All three were premierships players in 1882 and 1883. Harry was busy up forward and kicked a goal in Norwood’s famous 5.5 to 1.6 defeat of Essendon at Kensington Oval in 1883. With seven goals he shared the club’s goalkicking honours that season with Fred Letchford, Joe Pollock and Steve McKee.
Norwood’s run of six premierships ended in 1884, but Harry stayed on for two more seasons. We know almost nothing about his private life. He may well have been the H. McNamara who was a member of a deputation of unemployed artisans received by Mayor Henry Bundey early in 1885 to discuss measures to prevent starvation among the working people of Adelaide.
The Express and Telegraph of 1 July 1899 carried the following item from an unidentified correspondent: “Another old football identity has passed away in the person of the late Mr ‘Harry’ McNamara, who was at one time a well known member of the Norwood Football Club. Unfortunately his widow and family are left in straightened circumstances, and a benefit concert on their behalf is to be held at the Trades Hall on Thursday evening next, when it is hoped that all footballers will endeavor to make it a success by being present.” The Southern Cross of 14 July 1899 reported that a “very large attendance“ at the concert was entertained by singers, a female impersonator, an Irish jig and “humorous effusions”.
Harry was born in Victoria on 24 October 1861 to James Alphonsus McNamara and his wife Catherine Mary (née Mullins). He had a brother, Charles. Henry married Clara Davis Haddy. He died in Adelaide on 27 May 1899.
P. Robins August 2021, M Giles August 2023