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Gullett, Henry (Harry) (1837–1914)

by G. N. Hawker

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

Henry Gullett (1837-1914), by Falk Studios, c1910

Henry Gullett (1837-1914), by Falk Studios, c1910

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H18147

Henry (Harry) Gullett (1837-1914), journalist and politician, was born on 20 January 1837 at Newton-Bushell, near Teignmouth, Devon, England, eldest child of Henry Gullett, stonemason, and his wife Isabella, née Keats (who was a cousin of the poet). He was educated at sundry schools in London and the provinces, wherever his father found work, then did odd jobs and assisted his father. The family reached Melbourne in the Emigrant on 29 April 1853. Henry junior spent the next three years working as a mason and a goldminer, and in 1856 went to his father's small farm at Mount Macedon.

An omnivorous reader, Gullett sailed for England in July 1861 in a fruitless search for a literary career. He returned to Melbourne in February 1863 and was employed as a court reporter on the Argus by Edward Wilson. He represented the paper in Ceylon in 1869 and on his return to Melbourne next year became a sub-editor. At Williamstown on 25 November 1872 Gullett married his first cousin Lucinda (d.1900), née Willie. That year he became editor of the Australasian; his wife, under the pseudonym 'Humming Bee', contributed to its women's pages.

In 1885 Gullett became associate editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, in which he had acquired an interest. In June 1890 he and its editor, F. W. Ward, now a close friend, resigned over the question whether the directors or the editors should determine policy. Gullett moved to the Sydney Morning Herald as associate editor. A free trader, he absorbed the ideas of his friend Sir Henry Parkes on Federation and combined them with his own belief in the iniquity of new States, outlined in his pamphlet, Tropical New South Wales (1887). In the 1890s Gullett fervently advocated Federation and supported a White Australia, better treatment of Aboriginals and rapid expansion of public works. Appointed acting editor of the Herald during the Constitution campaign of 1898, he gained much credit for the success of the referendum next year.

After his return from a tour of England in 1899, Gullett tried to retire from journalism but in 1901 was induced to edit the Daily Telegraph. By February 1903, when he finally retired, he was the largest shareholder in the Daily Telegraph Newspaper Co. Ltd, and remained a director until he was nominated to the Legislative Council in 1908. He attended regularly but he was nervous of making 'extempore speeches'; his only legislative contribution was the Defamation Amendment Act of 1909.

Gullett found writing difficult and his journalism was subdued and reflective. He had a literary outlet for his scholarly inclinations in the Shakespeare Society of New South Wales; its president in 1904-11, he published two booklets, the Making of Shakespeare and other papers (1905) and the Study of Shakespeare (1906). He was an enthusiastic member of the Sydney branch of the Royal Astronomical Society, a vice-president of the New South Wales Institute of Journalists and a director of the Mutual Life & Citizens Assurance Co. Ltd in 1908-14.

Placid and usually methodical, Gullett was rather dapper in appearance and enjoyed his large home and garden, Hindfell, Wahroonga, where he entertained often but quietly. He died there on 4 August 1914 and was buried in the Anglican section of Gore Hill cemetery. He was survived by four daughters including Dr Lucy Gullett and Amy, who married T. W. Heney, his successor at the Herald; Sir Henry Somer Gullett, was a nephew. His estate was valued for probate at £137,831. The Art Gallery of New South Wales holds his portrait by Julian Ashton.

Select Bibliography

  • C. B. Fletcher, The Great Wheel (Syd, 1940)
  • R. B. Walker, The Newspaper Press in New South Wales, 1803-1920 (Syd, 1976)
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 5 Aug 1914
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 5, 15 Aug 1914
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • Henry Gullett papers (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

G. N. Hawker, 'Gullett, Henry (Harry) (1837–1914)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/gullett-henry-harry-6504/text11155, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 24 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (MUP), 1983

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