Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Walsh, Henry Deane (1853–1921)

by C. J. Lloyd and P. N. Troy

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

Henry Deane Walsh (1853-1921), engineer, was born on 16 September 1853 in Dublin, son of John Edward Walsh, barrister, and his wife Blair Belinda, née MacNeill. John was conservative member of the House of Commons for the University of Dublin, attorney general for Ireland in 1866 and master of the rolls for Ireland. Henry was educated at Portora Royal School, Enniskillen, and at Trinity College, Dublin (B.A., B.A.I. [Engineering], 1874). Captain of the university football club, he was foundation secretary of the Irish Football Union in 1874 and played twice for Ireland against England in 1875. He was engaged on engineering works in England in 1875-76, then joined the Great Southern and Western Railway Co. in Ireland.

Migrating to New South Wales in 1877, Walsh joined the Department of Public Works in January 1878 as a surveyor for the Sydney water supply scheme. Appointed resident engineer at Newcastle in 1879, he took charge of constructing the Walka pumping station and reservoir, and supervised flood protection works on the Hunter River at Maitland. He married Lucy Gwendoline Steele at St Thomas's Anglican Church, Enfield, Sydney, on 23 April 1879.

Promoted supervising engineer in January 1891, Walsh was confirmed as district engineer in 1895. He was responsible for all public works programmes from Lake Macquarie to the Queensland border. At Newcastle, Walsh developed a new harbour basin and Walsh Island (site of the State dockyards), built mid-stream in the Hunter River from dredged silt. He was appointed an official member of the Hunter District Water Supply and Sewerage Board in 1892, succeeding Alexander Brown as president in 1896.

On the establishment of the Sydney Harbour Trust in 1901, Walsh moved to the capital as engineer-in-chief. His engineering and administrative abilities were evident in the remodelling of Dawes and Millers points, including the design and construction of the Walsh Bay and Jones Bay wharves and cargo-handling systems. Almost £5 million was spent on the Sydney harbour front under his direct supervision. Appointed commissioner of the trust in 1913, he retired in 1919.

In 1891 Walsh had joined the Royal Society of New South Wales (president, 1909) and contributed papers to its proceedings. He was a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers, London, from 1889 and of its local advisory committee (1902-21). Closely involved with the Church of England, he was a Freemason, a member of the Boy Scouts' Association's council, and honorary district treasurer for the New South Wales centre of the St John Ambulance Association (1909-21). Genial, witty and tactful, he was adept at handling difficult situations; he endeared himself alike to the 'humblest workmen on the wharves' and to his superiors. For relaxation, he played golf and tennis.

The death of his only son in 1916 bereft Walsh of his usual cheer and energy. Survived by his wife and five daughters, he died of arteriosclerosis on 29 August 1921 at his Roseville home and was buried in the Field of Mars cemetery. His achievements were commemorated in the eponymous designation of Walsh Island in Newcastle Harbour and Walsh Bay on Sydney's waterfront.

Select Bibliography

  • S. Diffley, The Men in Green (Lond, 1973)
  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • Dictionary of National Biography, vol 20, 1964-65
  • J. W. Armstrong, Pipelines and People (Newcastle, 1967)
  • J. W. Armstrong, (ed), Shaping the Hunter (Newcastle, 1983)
  • Royal Society of New South Wales, Journal, July 1922, p 7
  • Sydney Harbour Trust Officers Journal, 1, no 4, Sept 1925, p 14
  • 'England and Ireland', Times (London), 14 Dec 1875, p 7
  • Newcastle Morning Herald, 1, 22 Apr, 9, 13 May 1901
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 30 Aug 1921
  • S. Schreiner, research notes on H. D. Walsh (privately held).

Citation details

C. J. Lloyd and P. N. Troy, 'Walsh, Henry Deane (1853–1921)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/walsh-henry-deane-8968/text15781, published first in hardcopy 1990, accessed online 23 August 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 12, (MUP), 1990

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