Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Henry Challinor (1814–1882)

by Douglas Gordon

This article was published:

Henry Challinor (1814-1882), medical practitioner, was born on 22 June 1814 in England, son of James Challinor, merchant, and his wife Mary, née Tinsdale. He studied medicine in London (L.S.A., 1842; M.R.C.S., 1842; F.R.C.S., 1864). He arrived in January 1849 as surgeon superintendent in the Fortitude, which brought the first of John Dunmore Lang's migrants to Moreton Bay. By April he had taken up medical practice in Ipswich, where for much of the rest of his life he was proud to be a citizen. He later lived in Brisbane but did not venture far afield. He never returned to England and probably did not visit even Sydney. He married Mary Bowyer Hawkins at Ipswich on 12 July 1855; they had six daughters and two sons.

Challinor contributed to the life of the Moreton Bay District in four main fields: medicine, civic affairs, the Congregational Church and colonial politics. In the first three he was eminently successful. In the last his importance is difficult to assess, yet perhaps it was the most significant of all. In politics his was the voice of the precursor crying out in the wilderness making straight the path for what was to come. Highly trusted and competent he remained as general practitioner until 1869, when he was appointed the second medical superintendent of the Mental Asylum at Woogaroo (Goodna) to straighten out a scandal. This he did successfully but by 1872 his health showed signs of deterioration and he then took up the less onerous position of health officer for the port of Brisbane (quarantine) and medical officer to various official institutions. From 1876 he was inspector of public institutions such as the Orphan Schools and in 1878 was principal medical officer of the Queensland Volunteer Brigade. Thus in his professional life he practised in the three main official branches of clinical medicine, preventive medicine and mental health services.

In town and church affairs he was a member and usually an office bearer of almost all the societies and associations designed to promote the common good. He was aligned with the incipient urban commercial interests as opposed to the predominating squatter establishment. He campaigned for separation from New South Wales and fought against the renewal of convict transportation. He was a member of the first Legislative Assembly in Queensland but through a comedy of political errors was not elected till June 1861. He was narrowly defeated in 1868 mainly because of a stand on principle. In his short parliamentary career he made his mark as an ardent if naive Liberal in a legislature dominated by squatters and their allies. He advocated a just land policy which would give opportunity to the small settler, efficient agriculture, free secular education, political equality, religious tolerance and railway construction free from the scandal of land grants. He opposed the cotton bonus and the aggregation of pastoral land by wealthy companies. None of this programme made him popular; instead he was actively disliked and even feared in parliamentary circles.

For his time he was an unusual doctor: Nonconformist by religious persuasion, an advocate of temperance, quiet and astonishingly industrious in private life, but constantly and tiresomely loquacious in public. His life was ruled by principle in defence of which he showed a blunt courage and cared not a whit for public opinion. He was the archetype of what is now called a 'do-gooder'. He wore his social conscience like a hair shirt, yet even before his death on 9 September 1882 at Brisbane his real virtues of tolerance and liberalism had come to be recognized. At a time when they were unpopular choices he had backed the political horses that eventually won.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Harrison (ed), Jubilee History of Ipswich (Brisb, c1910)
  • Parliamentary Debates (Queensland), 1867-68, 1027, 1882, 1278, 1406
  • Moreton Bay Courier, 4 Aug, 22 Dec 1849, 5 Jan 1850, 14 June 1855, 28 July, 18 Aug, 4, 18 Sept, 24 Nov 1858, 1, 8, 26 Jan, 19 Feb, 30 Mar, 14 May, 18, 29 June, 27 Aug 1859, 5 Jan 1860, 21 Feb, 11 Apr 1861
  • Brisbane Courier, 3 June, 26 July, 2 Sept 1861, 11, 12 Sept 1882
  • Telegraph (Brisbane), 11 Sept 1882
  • Queensland Times, 12 Sept 1882
  • Queensland Evangelical Standard, 16 Sept 1882.

Citation details

Douglas Gordon, 'Challinor, Henry (1814–1882)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1969, accessed online 17 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 3, (Melbourne University Press), 1969

View the front pages for Volume 3

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 June, 1814


9 September, 1882 (aged 68)
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

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