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Henry Halloran (1811–1893)

by Brian Dickey

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Henry Halloran (1811-1893), civil servant and poet, was born on 6 April 1811 at Cape Town, son of Laurence Halloran and Lydia Anne, née Hall(?). After some years in England he went to Sydney with his mother in 1822. Educated at his father's school, in 1827 he became a clerk in the Survey Department. In 1841 he married Elizabeth Henrietta, daughter of Joseph Underwood. He became chief clerk and in 1859 supervised the merger of the Crown Lands Office with the Survey Department.

From the 1830s Halloran's verses were published in newspapers and magazines. A close friend and correspondent of Henry Parkes, Halloran in 1841 promised to subscribe to a volume of poetry that Parkes hoped to publish Accepted in Sydney's literary circles, Halloran encouraged young writers and was reputed to have found Henry Kendall a job in the Colonial Secretary's Department. 'A scholar as well as a poet', his work was admired by Daniel Deniehy who considered some of his verses 'remarkable for their classic grace' and 'manly gentleness', but believed that those 'connected with home affections … [gave] him the truest title to the rank of poet'. Halloran also made 'charming' translations from the Greek poems of Anacreon.

In February 1866 Parkes appointed him under-secretary in the Colonial Secretary's Department and in 1867 a justice of the peace. In 1870 he served on the board for opening tenders for pastoral runs. He undertook extra administrative duties and in 1867 and 1873 was a member of the commissions to make arrangements for welcoming the Duke of Edinburgh and the public funeral of William Charles Wentworth. His contemporaries credited Halloran with a remarkable organizing ability. He retired on a pension in 1878 and was made a C.M.G. Between 1875 and 1880 he was a New South Wales commissioner for exhibitions in Philadelphia, Melbourne, Paris and Sydney. Parkes would not find Halloran any additional work after 1878. He set up as a land agent but was unhappy and soon retired to write poetry at his home, Mowbray, Ashfield. Inclined to be querulous, he disputed for years with the government over compensation for land resumed at Ashfield.

In 1887 he published Poems, Odes and Songs, dedicated to Lady Carrington. Much of his later poetry was written for special occasions and revealed his loyalty to the throne. These poems were unimaginative and he was 'quite unable to break free of conventions'. He published A Few Love Rhymes of a Married Life (1890) but also enjoyed boxing and was a lieutenant in the volunteer calvary. He died on 19 May 1893 at Ashfield and was buried in St John's Church of England cemetery. He was survived by four sons and four daughters of his first wife (d.1889) and by his second wife Julia Margaret (Bella), née Guerin, and their eight-month-old son. Bella was the first woman graduate of the University of Melbourne (M.A., 1885) and contributed to magazines and journals. Halloran's estate was valued at £2700.

Select Bibliography

  • G. B. Barton (ed), The Poets and Prose Writers of New South Wales (Syd, 1866)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, New South Wales), 1872, 1, 666
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 4 July 1887
  • Town and Country Journal, 20 May, 3 June 1893
  • Henry Parkes letters (State Library of New South Wales)
  • manuscript and printed catalogues under Henry Halloran (State Library of New South Wales).

Additional Resources

Citation details

Brian Dickey, 'Halloran, Henry (1811–1893)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 16 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (Melbourne University Press), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


6 April, 1811
Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa


19 May, 1893 (aged 82)
Ashfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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