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Edmund Finn (1819–1898)

This article was published:

Edmund Finn (1819-1898), by John William Lindt, c1880

Edmund Finn (1819-1898), by John William Lindt, c1880

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H3494

Edmund Finn (1819-1898), journalist and author, was born on 13 January 1819 at Tipperary, Ireland, the son of William Finn and his wife Catherine, née Mason. He was educated for the priesthood at Galbally Abbey, near Limerick. He arrived in Melbourne on 19 July 1841 and was employed as a tutor of the classics until 1845 when he joined the staff of the Port Phillip Herald under George Cavenagh. He worked on the Herald for thirteen years. In 1858 the chief secretary, (Sir) John O'Shanassy, who had been at school with Finn, appointed him clerk of the papers of the Legislative Council, a post from which he retired on a pension in 1886 because of failing eyesight.

In 1878 he published Der Eggsberiences ov Hans Schwarts … with Humorous Interleaves. In February 1873 another loquacious Irishman, Sir Charles Gavan Duffy, had urged Finn to write an 'anecdotal history' of Melbourne. At first Finn was unwilling but Gavan Duffy persisted and in February 1880, after he had published some sketches signed Garryowen in the press, he agreed to undertake a larger work. Garryowen (Owen's Garden) is on the outskirts of Limerick. The Garryowen Sketches … 'by an old Colonist' were reprinted as a book in 1880. The Chronicles of Early Melbourne 1835 to 1852 … by Garryowen, 2 vols, appeared in 1888.

For the period 1835-40 Finn relied on the recollections or papers of the few survivors, including Robert Russell, Robert Hoddle and others. From 1841 onwards he was himself, as he declares in the preface of the Chronicles, 'a spectator of almost everything that went on, whether the burning of a house or the founding of a Church, a Mayor-making or a prize-fight, a charity sermon or an execution, a public dinner or a “corroboree”.' Of these events he had kept voluminous notes, and the Chronicles contain great quantities of valuable information about early Melbourne. Increasingly weak eyesight compelled him to commit the editing of the work 'to competent and considerate hands'. He died on 4 April 1898. Finn was twice married. A son, Edmund, published A Priest's Secret (Melbourne, 1888) and other works.

Select Bibliography

  • P. E. O'Grady, ‘Edmund Finn (Garryowen)’, Victorian Historical Magazine, vol 15, 1935, pp 108-10.

Related Entries in NCB Sites

Citation details

'Finn, Edmund (1819–1898)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 18 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (Melbourne University Press), 1966

View the front pages for Volume 1

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Edmund Finn (1819-1898), by John William Lindt, c1880

Edmund Finn (1819-1898), by John William Lindt, c1880

La Trobe Picture Collection, State Library of Victoria, H3494

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Garryowen
  • Garryowen

13 January, 1819
Tipperary, Tipperary, Ireland


4 April, 1898 (aged 79)
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia

Cultural Heritage

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