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Sir Henry Edward Manning (1877–1963)

by John M. Ward

This article was published:

This is a shared entry with William Patrick Manning

Sir William Patrick Manning (1845-1915), financier and politician, and Sir Henry Edward Manning (1877-1963), barrister and politician, were father and son. William was born on 18 November 1845 at Chippendale, Sydney, eldest son of Irish parents John Manning, baker, and his wife Mary, née Hourigan, who had reached Sydney in the Moffatt in 1841 and later married. Educated at St Mary's Cathedral School, about 1862 he entered the counting-house of P. N. Russell & Co., engineers, and laid the foundations of his financial and administrative skills, becoming chief accountant. When the firm closed in the mid-1870s, he set up as a public accountant and broker. On 8 August 1868 he had married Honora (Nora) Torpy (d.1940) at St Mary's Cathedral.

In 1887-1902 Manning represented Bourke Ward on the Sydney Municipal Council and was mayor in 1891-94. An excellent chairman, he was responsible for remodelling the Belmore market and the formation of Moore Street, and initiated the scheme for building the Queen Victoria Market. He chaired the royal commission on alleged Chinese gambling and immorality and charges of bribery against members of the police force in 1891-92, and served on the royal commission into the military service of New South Wales in 1892. In 1893-94 he also represented South Sydney in the Legislative Assembly and as a Protectionist supported Sir George Dibbs. In the financial crisis of 1893 his calm good management of the City and in the city were alike remarkable. On 2 May in the House he spoke frankly of the deficiencies of colonial banking as a whole. Dibbs in 1895 acknowledged his assistance in drafting the Bank Issue Act of 1893. During his unsuccessful electoral campaign of 1898 Manning strongly advocated Federation and reform of the Legislative Council, attacked (Sir) George Reid and pledged support for (Sir) Edmund Barton; in 1901, however, he was defeated for the Senate.

Knighted in 1894, Manning was a director of the Citizens' Life Assurance Co. in 1896-1908 and remained on the board, after (Sir) John Garvan had engineered its merger to form the Mutual Life & Citizens' Assurance Co. Ltd, until 1915. He was also local chairman of the Sun Insurance Office of London in 1894-1915. In 1910 he carried through the reconstruction of the Australian Joint Stock Bank (later the Australian Bank of Commerce) and was chairman in 1911-15. He managed the Australian financial interests of Lord Rosebery, the Duke of Manchester, Lord Carnarvon and Lord Sherbrooke, and attended to the details when Russell in 1896 and 1904 made gifts totalling £100,000 to the University of Sydney to found a school of engineering.

'A commanding figure' standing 'fully six feet' (183 cm), Manning dressed immaculately and was hardly ever 'seen without a silk hat and a frock coat'. He was a notable Roman Catholic layman, a fellow of St John's College within the university in 1893-1915 and a papal chamberlain from 1903. Archbishop Kelly publicly acknowledged in 1915 his contributions to the building of St Mary's Cathedral. He was president of the Sydney Philharmonic Society in 1891-1914.

Manning died of heart disease at his Woollahra home on 20 April 1915 and was buried in South Head cemetery. He was survived by his wife, five sons, including Frederic, and three daughters, who inherited his estate, valued for probate at £28,027.

His second son Henry was born on 18 December 1877 at Darlinghurst. He was educated at St Ignatius' College, Riverview, and the University of Sydney (B.A., 1900; LL.B., 1902). At the university he was a prominent debater and won blues for cricket and rowing. Admitted to the Bar on 28 July 1902, he practised on the Western Circuit and in 1904 became associate to Justice R. E. O'Connor of the High Court of Australia. In 1904-05 he reported High Court cases in Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. Witnessed by Barton, on 19 January 1905 he married Nora Antonia (d.1962), youngest daughter of Sir James Martin and god-daughter of Anthony Trollope, at St Mary's Cathedral. When he resumed practice, most of his work was in common law and in Admiralty. In 1927 he represented the owners in the proceedings that followed the running down of the ferry Greycliffe in Sydney Harbour with the loss of forty-two lives. He took silk in 1929.

Defeated as a Liberal for the Legislative Assembly seats of Phillip in 1910, King in 1913 and, standing for the United Australia Party, King in 1932, Manning was nominated to the Legislative Council and joined (Sir) Bertram Stevens's reconstructed ministry as attorney-general on 17 June 1932. From the early 1920s Manning had been interested in reform of the council which he believed should be a House of review, neither constituted nor operating on party lines. With drafting assistance from (Sir) Thomas Bavin, his friend (Sir) John Peden and others, he drew up a scheme for an Upper House of sixty members, elected by the two Houses as a single electorate, with provision for settling deadlocks. His system, adopted by parliament and approved at a referendum in 1933, ensured that there could not be a Labor majority in the council for fifteen years and that no government could alter the situation without amending the constitution.

Elected to the new council for twelve years in 1934 and 1946, Manning remained attorney-general, vice-president of the Executive Council and government representative in the Legislative Council, in the Stevens-Bruxner and Mair-Bruxner ministries until 1941. In 1935 he attended an interstate conference called by the Commonwealth government on ways of amending section 92 of the Constitution. Next year he went to London, briefed to represent New South Wales and Queensland in the dried fruits appeal case (F. A. James v. The Commonwealth) before the Privy Council. He was appointed K.B.E. in 1939.

After Labor regained power in 1941, Manning was unofficially regarded as leader of the non-Labor members but refused the title and perquisites of leader of the Opposition in the council, when offered to him. He was 'a prolific writer of memoranda', and in 1950 opposed a suggestion that the Liberals should form a disciplined party in the Upper House. In 1957-58 he had to defend his concept of the council from strong attacks within the Liberal Party and from Labor plans to abolish it. He retired from the council in April 1958.

Manning was chairman of the M.L.C. in 1945-61, a local director of the Union Trustee Co. of Australia Ltd and the Commercial Union Assurance Co. Ltd, and a member of the Australia Club. In 1934-48 he was a fellow of the Senate of the University of Sydney: in 1941 he resigned in protest at the filling of chairs in law while many possible candidates were serving overseas, but was promptly re-elected. Survived by his two daughters, Manning died at Randwick on 3 May 1963 and was buried in the Catholic section of Northern Suburbs cemetery.

Select Bibliography

  • Cyclopedia of N.S.W. (Syd, 1907)
  • Arrow (Sydney), 20 Jan 1896
  • Catholic Press, 17 Dec 1903
  • Freeman's Journal (Sydney), 22 Apr 1915
  • Town and Country Journal, 28 Apr 1915
  • Sydney Monring Herald, 20 May, 7, 10 Aug, 18 Oct 1935, 1 Apr 1936, 2 Jan 1939, 10 May 1958, 4 May 1963.

Citation details

John M. Ward, 'Manning, Sir Henry Edward (1877–1963)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1986, accessed online 21 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

Henry Manning, n.d.

Henry Manning, n.d.

State Library of New South Wales, 110139100

Life Summary [details]


18 December, 1877
Darlinghurst, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


3 May, 1963 (aged 85)
Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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