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Vicary Horniman (1863–1929)

by Cecil J. Broome and Richard Broome

This article was published:

Vicary Horniman (1863-1929), civil servant and sportsman, was born on 28 November 1863 at Victoria Street, Sydney, fourth surviving son and twelfth child of Robert John Horniman from Devon, England, and his Scottish wife Catherine, née McLachlan. His father taught at Rev. J. D. Lang's Australian College, then started his own school where Vicary was educated. Horniman entered the Treasury on 23 January 1882 as a clerk, rising to the positions of assistant paymaster in November 1915 and paymaster on 1 July 1923, but was temporarily transferred to the Resumed Properties Department, of which he became manager in December 1924. He retired in 1927.

Commissioned in the 1st Infantry Regiment of New South Wales in January 1890, Horniman was promoted captain in 1898. His militia service ended when the regiment passed to Commonwealth control in 1901, but he continued to parade a military-looking moustache. A keen sportsman, Horniman rowed regularly till late in life, although he never represented his colony or country. He was a foundation member of the North Shore Rowing Club (1879) and its honorary secretary or captain for forty-three years, and an early member of the Manly Life Saving Club (1911). However, his major contribution was in administration—he was a committee-man, starter, judge and umpire of the New South Wales Rowing Association for over a decade and its chairman in 1917-18; he was also vice-president of the New South Wales Rugby Union in 1924-27.

A strong belief in amateurism guided Horniman's involvement. For twenty-seven years he was an active honorary director of the New South Wales Sports Club Ltd, formed in 1896 to support amateur sporting clubs with a central location for meetings, the promotion of 'honourable practice' in sport and the repression of 'malpractice'. The club was the patron of State boxing and wrestling championships and Horniman himself managed a team which toured New Zealand in 1911.

In 1912 Horniman was appointed manager of the twenty-six-member Australasian Olympic team to Stockholm. All but one of the athletes earned diplomas of merit; Fanny Durack and the men's free-style relay team won gold medals. In July, before the Olympics, the Australian Eight had won the Grand Challenge Cup rowed at Henley-on-Thames, England, defeating the English club, Leander. However at Stockholm Leander turned the tables on the Australians. Predictably, Horniman rebuked the irate Australian coach for his 'ungentlemanly' outburst when he complained about the course and the winning crew. Yet Horniman was enough of a nationalist to reject any suggestion that Australian Olympic athletes should be absorbed into an Empire team. He remained interested in Olympic affairs and attended the 1928 Amsterdam games as an official.

At St Thomas' Anglican Church, North Sydney, on 20 November 1894, Horniman had married Mary Cosgrove. Survived by their son, he died at his home at Manly on 5 September 1929. He was buried with Anglican rites in Manly cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • New South Wales Sports Clubs, Fiftieth Anniversary, 1896-1946 (Syd, 1946)
  • R. G. Harris, Heroes of the Surf (Syd, 1961)
  • Rugby Annual, 1925, 1930
  • North Shore Historical Society, Journal, Feb 1979, p 2
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 8 July, 24 Sept, 10, 30 Oct 1912, 6, 7 Sept 1929
  • Referee, 11 Sept 1929
  • New South Wales Sports Clubs, Annual Report, 1900-09
  • New South Wales Rowing Association, Annual Report, 1907-31.

Citation details

Cecil J. Broome and Richard Broome, 'Horniman, Vicary (1863–1929)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1983, accessed online 22 April 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 9, (Melbourne University Press), 1983

View the front pages for Volume 9

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


28 November, 1863
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


5 September, 1929 (aged 65)
Manly, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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