Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Sir Harry Barron (1847–1921)

by G. C. Bolton

This article was published:

Harry Barron (1847-1921), by Beatties Studios

Harry Barron (1847-1921), by Beatties Studios

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H22627

Sir Harry Barron (1847-1921), soldier and governor, was born on 11 August 1847, son of Charles Barron of Denmark Hill, Surrey, England, and his wife Elizabeth, née, Pigeon. Educated privately and at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, he was commissioned lieutenant in the Royal Artillery in 1867 and enjoyed the steady promotion of a successful peace-time professional officer: from captain in 1879 to major general in 1904. He was chief instructor in 1897 at the School of Gunnery, Shoeburyness, then commander of the Royal Artillery in the Thames district (1900-04) and in Malta (1904-08), being appointed C.V.O. in 1907 and K.C.M.G. on his retirement.

Barron became governor of Tasmania from September 1909 to March 1913, then governor of Western Australia until February 1917. Completely inexperienced in politics, he met more than his fair share of minor constitutional crises, but handled them safely. In October 1909, just after his arrival in Hobart, Sir Neil Lewis's government was beaten through the defection of some of its members; Barron summoned the leader of the Opposition, John Earle, to form Tasmania's first Labor government, but on his immediate defeat refused him a dissolution and commissioned Lewis to form another and more durable ministry. His judgment was more generally approved in this case than in December 1912, when he granted a dissolution at the request of the Liberal premier A. E. Solomon, who had lost a vote of confidence. The Labor Daily Post, then agitating for abolition of the office of governor, described him as 'a conservative partisan'.

In Western Australia Barron refused the Labor premier John Scaddan a dissolution in July 1916 when he was defeated in the Legislative Assembly by a combination of Liberal and Country party members, and commissioned the Liberal leader F. Wilson to form a ministry. In February 1917, because the Labor Party broke pairs with the Country Party, the Wilson government was four times defeated in the House. When Wilson sought a dissolution he too was refused, Barron stating that it was important to avoid the turmoil and expense of a general election at a time when legislation was needed to look after returned servicemen, and when an election was in any case due within eight months. Instead, Barron summoned the Country Party leader F. E. S. Willmott, and won from him an undertaking to restrain hostilities against the Wilson ministry for the remainder of the session. These manoeuvres were followed by a Labor motion of no confidence in the Wilson government which led to the most tumultuous scenes ever experienced in the State legislature; by that time, however, Barron was no longer in Government House, and only one or two Labor back-benchers ventured even a hint of criticism of his actions.

Barron retired to Weybridge, Surrey. He was made colonel commandant of the Royal Artillery in 1920, and died on 27 March 1921. He had married in 1877 Clara Emily, daughter of Major General T. Conyngham Kelly, C.B.; they had one daughter.

Select Bibliography

  • A. B. Keith, Responsible Government in the Dominions, vol 1 (Oxford, 1928)
  • Mercury (Hobart), 28 Dec 1912
  • West Australian (Perth), 13 Mar 1913, 3-8, 26, 27 Feb 1917.

Citation details

G. C. Bolton, 'Barron, Sir Harry (1847–1921)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1979, accessed online 22 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 7, (Melbourne University Press), 1979

View the front pages for Volume 7

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Harry Barron (1847-1921), by Beatties Studios

Harry Barron (1847-1921), by Beatties Studios

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H22627

Life Summary [details]


11 August, 1847
Denmark Hill, Surrey, England


27 March, 1921 (aged 73)

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.