Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Walter John Enright (1874–1949)

by W. A. G. Enright

This article was published:

Walter John Enright (1874-1949), solicitor and scientist, was born on 10 March 1874 at West Maitland, New South Wales, eldest of seven children of John Enright, a dealer (auctioneer) from Limerick, Ireland, and his locally born wife Julia, née Maher. Educated at West Maitland at St Mary's Dominican Convent and at the Sacred Heart College under Fr P. V. Dwyer, he went on to St John's College, University of Sydney (B.A., 1893). At the university he studied modern languages and geology; Professor (Sir) Edgeworth David made a lifelong impression on him.

On completing his articles of clerkship, Enright was admitted as a solicitor on 22 August 1896. He successfully practised at Maitland and throughout the Hunter valley until the end of his life; he found a knowledge of geology very useful in coal-mining cases. Active in local affairs, he was elected to the West Maitland Municipal Council in 1899, was mayor in 1906 and president of the hospital board in 1914. He was a member of the Maitland French Circle and fluent in German and Italian. On 31 December 1914 at St Mary's Catholic Church, Clermont, Queensland, he married Adelaide Abelia Appleton.

Enright's absorbing interest was in his total environment. An 'amateur scientist of distinctly high calibre', he gladly assisted those 'seeking information in local geology, entomology, forestry, ichthyology and anthropology'. He helped to organize visits to the Maitland area of sections of the British Association for the Advancement of Science in 1914 and the second Pan Pacific Science Congress in 1923. From his youth he had associated with local Aboriginals and his interest in anthropology was stimulated by R. H. Mathews, and later by A. P. Elkin, who became a close friend. He contributed many notes to such journals as Mankind and Oceania. He was a member of the Royal, Linnean and Geographical societies of New South Wales, the Royal Australian Historical Society, the Royal Australasian Ornithologists' Union, the Australasian (Australian and New Zealand) Association for the Advancement of Science, the Numismatic Society of New South Wales, the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland and the Royal Geographical Society of London.

In his youth Enright played cricket and Rugby football and belonged to the Maitland Rowing Club; later he enjoyed tennis and bowls. Throughout his life a practising and reasoning Catholic, he had strong ecumenical leanings; he was a lay fellow of St John's College in 1916-28. Enright died at his Maitland home on 27 September 1949 and was buried in Campbell's Hill cemetery. He was survived by his wife and two sons. His estate was valued for probate at £22,702.

Select Bibliography

  • Mankind, 4 (1950), no 4, p 162, and for publications
  • Royal Society of New South Wales, Journal, 84 (1950), p xxv
  • St John's College records (University of Sydney Archives)
  • letter, 21 Sept 1938, from Director Australian Museum, and 8 Feb 1939, from Mr L. E. Stachelin to Mr W. J. Enright (privately held).

Citation details

W. A. G. Enright, 'Enright, Walter John (1874–1949)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 18 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (Melbourne University Press), 1981

View the front pages for Volume 8

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


10 March, 1874
Maitland, New South Wales, Australia


27 September, 1949 (aged 75)
Maitland, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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