Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson was born near Grenfell on 17 June 1867, died 2 September 1922 at Abbotsford, Sydney.

Lawson's father was Niels Hertzberg Larsen, a Norwegian-born miner. Niels Larsen went to sea at 21 and arrived in Melbourne in 1855 to join the gold rush. Lawson's parents met at the goldfields of Pipeclay (now Eurunderee, Gloucester County, New South Wales). Niels and Louisa Albury (1848–1920) married on 7 July 1866 when he was 32 and she 18. On Henry's birth, the family surname was Anglicised and Niels became Peter Lawson. The search for gold led the couple to Central West NSW and Henry was born just outside Grenfell goldfields. Louisa Lawson travelled by horse and cart from Grenfell to Forbes to register her son's birth at Forbes Court House. Unfortunately the newly married couple were to have a very unhappy marriage. 

Louisa Lawson

Picture Courtesy of State Library of NSW

Louisa filed for divorce and in her affidavit she stated:

“My husband has during three years and upwards been a habitual drunkard and habitually been guilty of cruelty towards me. My affidavit consists of the acts and matters following. That my husband during the last three years struck me in the face and about the body and blacked my eye and hit me with a bottle and attempted to stab me and pulled me out of bed when I was ill and purposely made a noise in my room when I was ill and pulled my hair and repeatedly used abusive and insulting language to me and was guilty of divers other acts of cruelty to me whereby my health and safety are endangered.”

Henry and his siblings joined her and they lived in Phillip Street, Sydney. Henry commuted daily by train to the Railworks in Clyde where he worked as a carriage painter. Louisa continued to urge Henry to greater achievement and he attended night school to improve his education. Juggling work and study proved difficult for Henry and he failed his entrance exams to University several times. As Louisa was a poet and author in her own right she encouraged Henry to start writing poetry and short stories.

Lawson has been described as the "first articulate voice of real Australia". He is best known for his verse and stories on outback themes which shows his deep sincerity and keen observations of life.