Reprint: Woman of Courage: The Mother of Henry Lawson by Rivington White

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The mother of Henry Lawson had embarked upon her career as a social reformer as early as 1883, when she arrived in Sydney with her four children, Henry, Charles, Peter, and Gertrude. She made her first appearance in the public eye when she appealed for funds for the purpose of erecting a memorial pedestal to surmount the last resting-place of the poet, Henry Kendall.

When Mrs Lawson and her four children left their selection at Eurunderee, near Mudgee (New South Wales) to live in Sydney, her husband, Peter Larsen, remained in the country. He at that period, was a small contractor, and worked at various centres. He died at Mount Victoria (New South Wales) at the age of 55 years, on December 31, 1888, and was buried in the historic Mount York Cemetery, down the old Cox Pass-road.

Louisa was the second daughter in a family of ten girls and two boys. She was born at Guntawang Station, near Gulgong (New South Wales) on February 17, 1848. Her father, Henry Albury, hailed from Kent, in England, and her mother, Harriet Winn, was a Devonshire-born girl. The founder of the Alburys in Australia was John Albury, who, with his wife, Ann Albury (nee Ann Ralph) and a family of English-born children, arrived in New South Wales by the Woodbridge in 1838. Ann Albury is Henry Lawson's alleged gypsy ancestress. That she never possessed a drop of gypsy blood is stated by present-day members of the Lawson family. The Alburys settled on a farm at Luddenham (New South Wales), and later removed to the vicinity of Winbourne, the George Cox property at Mulgoa (New South Wales). Here it was that the son, Henry Albury, became acquainted with Harriet Winn, a needlewoman who was employed at Winbourne. Those who have read the two diverting and interesting lengthy chapters of Henry Lawson's "Grandfather's Courtship" will obtain a humorous picture of the foibles of Henry's great aunts and uncles, and will capture some of the spirit of the Nepean pioneers.


Henry Albury and Harriet Winn were married by the Rev. T. C. Makinson, at St. Thomas's Church, Mulgoa, on February 4, 1845. The pioneer Alburys, after some of their numerous family, including Henry, had married and acquired farms of their own, went to live, firstly with one of their daughters, Mrs. Mercy Sheather, at Bolwarra, near West Maitland, New South Wales and finally settled at Cundletown, on the Manning River, New South Wales. Mrs Ann Albury died at Oxley Island, New South Wales, on October 28, 1860, aged 66 years; her husband John passed away at the same farm on June 18, 1868, aged 75 years. Both are buried in the Methodist portion of the Dawson cemtery at Cundletown. Henry Albury and Harriet Winn soon after their marriage accompanied pastoralist George Henry Cox over the Blue Mountains, Albury being employed by Mr Cox as a teamster. The second daughter of the marriage, who was called Louisa, as a girl showed traits of an independent nature coupled with an intense love of the bush. Those interested will get an insight into this period of the life of Henry Lawson's mother by reading her poems "Sunset," 'The Squatter's Wife," and "A Dream."  

In later years, Mrs. Louisa Lawson was keenly interested in all matters pertaining to the psychic and its unravelling, and sought inspiration from what she called the Higher Source. I am inclined to classify her as a Christian Spiritualist from the purely theological point of view.

Louisa Albury was married to Peter Larsen, a Norwegian sailor, at the Methodist parsonage, Mudgee, when but 18 years of age, on July 7, 1866, the officiating minister being the Rev. J. G. Turner. Peter Larsen took his girl-wife with him to the Weddin Goldfield at Grenfell, New South Wales, almost immediately after the union. It was there that their famous son Henry Lawson (Anglicised from Larsen) was born on June 17, 1867.

Although I knew her well in the 'nineties and in the early part of the century, I also came into closer contact with her during the twilight of her career. I, and some literary friends, used to visit her at the "little stone cottage" at Tempe, a suburb of Sydney, where she spent the last years of her life, residing there alone with her son, Charles. The "little stone cottage" was purchased by Mrs. Lawson in 1896, and her printing press removed thither. It was there that at least two of Mrs. Lawson's books of verse were published, and it was there, also, that Henry Lawson's first book of verse was printed in 1896.


In order to give wider publicity to her aims, she founded "The Dawn" in May, 1888, and this sparkling little journal was issued regularly until 1903. Mrs. Lawson was no armchair propagandist. She knew from personal investigations the conditions under which women worked in the factories, and had also made a close study of housing and hygienic problems.

Apart from her ability as a platform speaker she could wield an able pen. Besides "The Lonely Crossing," she published a small booklet, "Dert and Do," the title being a play on the names of her daughter Gertrude and Joe Falconer, who was the original of Henry Lawson's "Joe Wilson and His Mates." But those interested in the life story of Mrs. Louisa Lawson will find her best work in the volumes of "The Dawn"--and how she loved those volumes as her friends can testify--the only known set in existence being in the Mitchell Library, Sydney. This was Mrs. Lawson's own personal set.

She died on August 12, 1920, at the age of 72 years, and is buried with her father and mother in the family grave in the old portion of the Church of England section at Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney. Her death only occurred some two years previously to that of her illustrious son.

First published in The Sydney Morning Herald, 12 March 1932

[Thanks to the National Library of Australia's newspaper digitisation project for this piece.]

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This page contains a single entry by Perry Middlemiss published on February 25, 2011 8:08 AM.

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