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Henry Greensill (Harry) Barnard (1869–1966)

by Glen Ingram

This article was published:

Henry Greensill Barnard (1869-1966), zoologist, naturalist and grazier, was born on 11 April 1869 at Crescent Lagoon, Rockhampton district, Queensland, fourth of seven children of George Barnard (1831?-1894), pound keeper and grazier, and his wife Maria Trafalgar (d.1874), née Bourne, both from England. In 1873 the family moved west to Coomooboolaroo, an unstocked station of some 170 sq. miles (440 km²) near Duaringa.

George built his collection of insect and bird eggs into one of the best in the southern hemisphere; in regard to insects, he specialized in moths, butterflies and beetles. He corresponded extensively with experts in Australia, England, France, India, Chile and Finland, and supplied A. J. North with notes for his Descriptive Catalogue of the Nests and Eggs of Birds Found Breeding in Australia and Tasmania (Sydney, 1889). Maria Barnard was a talented artist who drew and painted specimens while the colours were still fresh. By 1891 the collection had grown so large that George built a private museum at the station. Following George's death the collection was acquired by (Baron) Rothschild's private museum at Tring, England, now part of the British Museum (Natural History).

Many naturalists and zoologists visited Coomooboolaroo. The Norwegian Carl Lumholtz, a guest in 1883, had described the remarkable abilities of George's sons in Among Cannibals (London, 1889). The boys were trained in collection and preservation from an early age; they were also tutored in Aboriginal lore by Blacks who lived on the property; and they excelled at mimicking bird calls. Lumholtz was astonished at their skill on excursions where they went barefoot, unworried by any type of ground. To collect certain insects, they climbed the highest trees by cutting toe-holes with tomahawks. They were able to run and catch flying beetles in their hands. Lumholtz was further impressed by their dexterity with guns, by the quality of their observations and by the extent of their knowledge, much of it derived from expeditions, such as the one they had made seventy miles (112.7 km) south to Fairfield station in 1882.

When Henry Barnard was 19, his father gave him permission to accompany Archie Meston on a government-sponsored expedition to explore the Bellenden Ker Range. The party made important geographical and biological discoveries, and found a male golden bowerbird (Prionodura newtoniana). Meston named Barnard's Spur in Harry's honour. Harry was to alternate collecting trips with his usual station-work at Coomooboolaroo and his later management of Rio cattle-station in the Central district. In 1894 he accompanied the family's English friend A. S. Meek (then collecting for Rothschild) on an expedition to Cooktown, and to the Trobriand, Woodlark and Egham islands off mainland New Guinea. Two years later Harry collected at Cape York for (Sir) Charles Ryan, William Snowball and W. H. D. Le Souef.

On 22 November 1899, at Mount Perry, Harry married a governess Alice Maud Mary Elworthy with Presbyterian forms; they were to have eight children. He collected again at Cape York in 1899 for H. L. White, and his contributions figure prominently in White's bird collection now in the Museum of Victoria, Melbourne. A member (from 1901) of the Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union, Henry wrote numerous papers on birds. Having retired from Bimbi, his property near Duaringa, he lived at Rockhampton and then in Brisbane. Survived by three sons and three daughters, he died on 7 October 1966 in South Brisbane and was cremated.

His elder brother Charles Ashmall Barnard (1867-1942) was a founding member and president (1922-23) of the R.A.O.U. He wrote little, but a paper (with notes by Henry) on the birds of Coomooboolaroo, presented to the 23rd congress of the R.A.O.U. at Rockhampton in 1924, was an outstanding contribution to ornithology. Covering a period of fifty years, it allowed him to detail and speculate on changes in the composition of the bird fauna. In 1937 Charles and Harry collected a rare specimen of the northern hairy-nosed wombat (Lasiorhinus krefftii) from Epping Forest station, 75 miles (121 km) west of Clermont. A 'gentleman in his outlook and mode of life', Charles was retiring and shunned publicity. He was a councillor of Duaringa Shire for fifty years and sometime president. When he died, his collection of bird-skins—acquired initially by G. M. Mathews—passed to the American Museum of Natural History, New York.

Another brother Wilfred Bourne Barnard (1870-1940) accompanied Meek in 1890 on his first collecting trip into the ranges near Coomooboolaroo, but arthritis obliged him to leave Meek alone for some time. Although he went with Meek and Harry to Cooktown and New Guinea in 1894, rheumatism and fever forced him to return to Queensland from Woodlark Island. Meek bought Wilfred's collection for some £500. Wilfred managed an outstation in the Peak Downs region and did not resume collecting until the 1920s. Chiefly interested in moths and butterflies, he collected from Cape York, the south and west of Queensland, northern New South Wales, Western Australia and Tasmania. After Wilfred's death, A. J. Turner described new species in the collection which was bequeathed to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, and then donated to the Queensland Museum.

Two other members of the Barnard family were active naturalists. A sister Mabel Theodore (Hobbler) specialized in lepidoptera; she also wrote notes on beetles, contributed to the journal of the Queensland Naturalists' Club and was a councillor of the Nature-Lovers' League. Her half-brother Ernest (by George's second marriage—to Sarah Ann Wilkinson) was interested in ornithology and published several notes on birds.

Select Bibliography

  • A. S. Meek, A Naturalist in Cannibal Land (Lond, 1913)
  • A. Musgrave, Bibliography of Australian Entomology 1775-1930 (Syd, 1932)
  • H. M. Whittell, The Literature of Australian Birds (Perth, 1954)
  • L. McDonald, Rockhampton (Brisb, 1981)
  • N. Chaffer, In Quest of Bowerbirds (Adel, 1984)
  • Entomologist (London), 27, 1894, p 228
  • Queensland Naturalist, 5, 1922, p 48, 18, 1967, p 74
  • Emu (Melbourne), vol 22, 1923, plates 62, 64, vol 24, 1925, plates 27, 44, p 252, vol 42, 1942, p 128, vol 66, 1967, p 391
  • Memoirs of the Queensland Museum, 11, 1939, p 283, 12, 1941, p 40, 24, 1986, pp 57, 185.

Citation details

Glen Ingram, 'Barnard, Henry Greensill (Harry) (1869–1966)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1993, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 13, (Melbourne University Press), 1993

View the front pages for Volume 13

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


11 April, 1869
Rockhampton, Queensland, Australia


7 October, 1966 (aged 97)
South Brisbane, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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