Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Charles Emanuel Lyne (1850–1910)

by W. G. McMinn

This article was published:

Charles Emanuel Lyne (1850-1910), newspaperman and public servant, was born on 12 October 1850 at Cheapside, London, son of Emanuel Lyne, warehouseman, and his wife Mary Ann, née Jordan. The family came to Australia, via California, when he was 7. He attended schools in Brisbane and Sydney before joining the Evening News. Transferring to the Sydney Morning Herald, he had become by the mid-1880s chief of its parliamentary reporting staff. In November 1884 he accompanied Commodore (Sir) James Erskine in H.M.S. Nelson as the Herald's 'special commissioner' at the proclamation of the protectorate over Papua. His reports were republished in 1885 as New Guinea: An Account of the Establishment of the British Protectorate.

When the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Public Works was established in 1888 Lyne was appointed secretary at a salary of £700. The committee was set up by Sir Henry Parkes to report upon proposals for public works, apart from defence works, estimated to cost more than £20,000, probably as a means of escaping responsibility for a form of ministerial patronage which was losing its usefulness. At least two men who served on it, John Haynes and J. C. Watson, believed that Lyne's efficiency contributed greatly to its success in forcing governments to think out their proposals, thereby saving the colony much money. Certainly he rapidly became known as a most efficient public officer. He acted as official secretary to (Sir) Francis Suttor at the Colonial Conference, Ottawa, 1894, and on his return to Sydney next year was appointed secretary to the new Public Service Board. The pressure of reclassifying the whole public service led to ill health, and after twelve months he was transferred at his own request back to the Public Works Committee, with his salary reduced to £600.

In 1899, when a proposal for a salary increase of £95 came before the Legislative Assembly, John Norton alleged that Lyne, while still a newspaperman, had 'had pickings from the public service in the way of special shorthand-writing jobs on commissions … from which he made thousands and thousands of pounds', enabling him to lend large sums to Parkes in return for which he had received his secretaryship. The allegations had no more truth in them than most of Norton's statements. Lyne had been, however, a close friend of Parkes, as is shown not only by his hagiographic, if occasionally touching, Life of Sir Henry Parkes, G.C.M.G. (1896), but also by his willingness to represent Parkes's interests when the old man was disputing with his son Varney.

The Public Works Committee declined in importance as its membership came to reflect the balance of forces in the Legislative Assembly and it tended to become a rubber stamp for government proposals; Lyne's work was consequently much less onerous. He died of cancer at his home at Ashfield on 11 February 1910 and was buried in the Church of England cemetery, Enfield. His wife Louisa Jane, née Witherspoon, whom he had married in the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Newcastle, on 11 August 1881, and their three sons and four daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • Votes and Proceedings (New South Wales), 1899 (1), p 477
  • Parliamentary Debates (New South Wales), 1899 (102), 3238
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 7 July 1888, 19 Feb 1910
  • Daily Telegraph (Sydney), 12 Feb 1910
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 12 Feb 1910
  • Henry Parkes correspondence (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

W. G. McMinn, 'Lyne, Charles Emanuel (1850–1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 20 July 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 10, (Melbourne University Press), 1986

View the front pages for Volume 10

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

Life Summary [details]


12 October, 1850
London, Middlesex, England


11 February, 1910 (aged 59)
Ashfield, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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