Long Ago a Giant


As we board the 504 or the 438 for the CBD, most of us miss a little street 50 metres on our right hand side, Henry Lawson Avenue.

Henry Lawson, an Australian literary giant of poems and stories, wrote mainly about the average Australian. He died 79 years ago, and should we today read his works, we would have no trouble relating to the ‘simple bloke’ he so often wrote about.

Henry Lawson was born on 17th June 1867 at Grenfell, NSW. His father was Scandinavian. The family name of Larsen was changed to Lawson. His mother instilled in him a love of reading books and the written word. This love never deserted him throughout his life.

His parents separated when Henry was young and he found himself living at 138 Phillip Street, Sydney with his mother who was an ardent republican. The house was always filled with people wanting reform.

Bertha Marie Louise Brendt accepted Henry’s offer of marriage. Bertha Lawson was an independent, self-willed person. 1897 saw the Lawsons in New Zealand, Henry teaching. There was a son born, Joseph, and later a daughter, Bertha. Between 1900 and 1902 saw the Lawsons in London.

Back in Australia, relations between Henry and Bertha deteriorated and a separation was agreed. From that point on, his life entered a descending curve. He kept writing, his last work being ‘Song of the Dardanelles’.

Henry Lawson died on 2nd September, 1922 at Abbotsford. Folklore tells us that he walked out of the house and looked up at the Southern Cross for the last time, collapsed and died in his home.

At least ten books have been written about his life. One writer, Denton Prout, described him as ‘the grey dreamer’.

This would seem to sum up Henry Lawson’s life.

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