Henry Lawson is one of Australia’s best known short story writers and bush poets. Celebrated on Australia’s paper $10 note, he has now been symbolised on a magnificent silver commemorative coin marking 150 years since his birth.
Henry was born during the colonial era at Grenfell, the site of a gold discovery 370 kilometres west of Sydney. His father, Peter Larsen, was a Norwegian miner who had joined the New South Wales gold rush in the 1850s. In 1866 he married Louisa Albury, the feminist daughter of a station hand, anglicising the family name on the registration of Henry’s birth in 1867.
Life in the Lawson household was challenging. After several years of chasing gold, the family settled at Pipeclay (now known as Eurunderee), but the arid land made it hard to earn a living and Peter was often away looking for work. Henry was a reclusive and introverted boy with few friends, who also suffered from bullying. As well as the realisation of his parent’s incompatibility, he had to contend with a sudden illness that resulted in partial deafness as a teenager.
Louisa separated from her husband in 1883 and moved to Sydney. A hardworking and industrious woman she influenced Henry’s life greatly. When she bought the ailing ‘Republican’, they edited and wrote most of the newspaper’s copy together. A powerful advocate for women’s rights, Louisa established ‘Dawn’ in 1888, a journal devoted to women’s suffrage which stayed in print until 1905.
Meanwhile, Henry’s literary work caught the attention of other publications in the colony. In 1887, the Bulletin published his first poem, A Song of the Republic. A year later, the prominent magazine published his first short story, His Father’s Mate. Henry would go on to be featured many times in The Bulletin, as well as The Australian Town and Country Journal, Boomerang, and Worker, among others.
In 1892, the Bulletin paid for him to return to the Australian interior where he experienced the harsh realities of drought, and he also worked as a roustabout (labourer) in the woolshed at Toorale Station. His works reflected his life in the bush, and the characters who struggled to make a living off the inhospitable land. Some of his most memorable works include The Drover’s Wife, Andy’s Gone With Cattle, and The Loaded Dog.
The Perth Mint is delighted to unveil this highly original release commemorating the 150th anniversary of Henry Lawson’s birth. Made from 5oz of 99.99% pure silver in proof quality, the design features a montage of motifs representing life in the bush as reflected in his writing – including a cattleman, swagman, cattle dog, sheep, windmill, bush hut, water butt, tent and billycans near a stream, as well as a bush fire.
The artistry is incorporated within Henry Lawson’s distinctive profile as portrayed on Australia’s first $10 note, which was designed by Gordon Andrews when the nation shifted to decimal currency in February 1966.
No more than an extremely limited mintage of 250 Henry Lawson tribute coins will be issued by the Mint in presentation packaging.