Henry Lawson  & Hartley        

Please Help...

This is a website  that is in the process of being developed with  information about  Heritage & History in the Hartley Valley,  and needs assistance and input from other researchers.

Contact us

In 1899  Henry Lawson wrote the poem the Ghost of Victoria Pass  Where did Henry Lawson stay while writing this poem?

Henry Lawson had a long  relationship with the area.  His father Lars is buried at Hartley cemetery. 

For  researchers in early childhood of  the gold rush, Henry Lawson's recollections paints a vivid picture.  He  went back to Mr Victoria in 1899 when his father passed away and completed some of his fathers cottage that he had started.

It was during that time that he wrote the Lights of Cobb and Co and the Ghost of Victoria Pass.

in May of 1899  his mother Louisa Lawson,a strong advocate of femininist,   convened a meeting in Forresters' Hall, delivered a stirring lecture on feminism.  No doubt Henry felt inspired but intimidated by his mothers radicalism.

His keenness  on "Dame" Mary Gilmore, granddaughter of Meades Farm, which was curtailed by his mother was still having an effecgt on his outlook on life.  He would have spent time at Meades Farm  On July 18th 1899 Henry Lawson's poem 'The Ghost' appeared in The Bulletin. Mary Gilmore says that Henry Lawson and Louisa Lawson quarrelled over it and from then on Louisa Lawson had no influence over him.


Henry Lawson (1867–1922) led a troubled existence, blighted by poverty, deafness, mental illness and alcoholism.

He was born in Grenfell, New South Wales, and a trip to Bourke provided much of the raw material for his greatest literary work. In 1896, Lawson published his first collection of verse and his first major collection of stories, While the Billy Boils.  The Lights of Cobb & Co was first published in the Bulletin on 11 December 1897.

After two children and a failed marriage, Lawson spent several periods in a mental hospital, and was gaoled many times for drunkenness and failure to pay alimony and child maintenance.

Recognising the value of celebrity, Lawson created ‘association’ items, usually for money. Reportedly, he would pick up a new walking stick in a Sydney store and give it to the manager, who would pay him sixpence and sell the stick as one that ‘Henry Lawson used’.

On his death, Lawson became the first Australian writer honoured with a State funeral.



Henry Lawson poems in 1899

The Sliprails and the Spur
The Shakedown on the Floor
The Days When We Went Swimming
The Song of the Darling River
Pigeon Toes
Past Carin'
The Stranger's Friend
Andy Page's Rival
How the Land Was Won
The Ballad of the Rouseabout
Jack Cornstalk [1899]
Second Class Wait Here
The Old Jimmy Woodser
From the Strand to the Never
Our Fighters
The Blessings of War
The Babies in the Bush
The Green Tide
The Rovers
The Flag of Our Destinies (MS)
The Man Ahead (MS)
'Twas a Land Set Apart (MS)

December 21 1889  The Bulletin published the Henry Lawson poem, 'The Roaring Days'.

Henry Lawson poems in 1889

The Roaring Days
Eureka (A Fragment)
The Ballad of the Drover
The Sleeping Beauty
The Mountain Splitter
The Song and the Sigh
The Cattle-Dog's Death
The Teams
Old Stone Chimney
Brighten's Sister-in-Law
The Squatter's Daughter
Mount Bukaroo
The "Seabolt's" Volunteers
The Legend of Mammon Castle
Laughing and Sneering
He's Gone to England for a Wife
O Cupid, Cupid; Get Your Bow!
The Song of the Waste-Paper Basket
Rain in the Mountains
The Ghost
To the Irish Delegates



. The Lights of Cobb & Co

The Lights of Cobb & Co was first published in the Bulletin on 11 December 1897.


Fire lighted; on the table a meal for sleepy men;
A lantern in the stable; a jingle now and then;
The mail-coach looming darkly by light on moon and star;
The growl of sleepy voices; a candle in the bar;
A stumble in the passage of folk with wits abroad;
A swear-word from a bedroom—-the shout of "All aboard!"

"Tekh tehk! Git-up!" "Hold fast, there!" and down the range we go;
Five hundred miles of scattered camps will watch for Cobb and Co.
Old coaching towns already decaying for their sins;
Uncounted "Half-way Houses," and scores of "Ten-Mile Inns;"
The riders from the stations by lonely granite peaks;
The black-boy for the shepherds on sheep and cattle creeks;
The roaring camps of Gulgong, and many a Digger’s Rest;"
The diggers on the Lachlan; the huts of Farthest West;
Some twenty thousand exiles who sailed for weal or woe—-
The bravest hearts of twenty lands will wait for Cobb and Co.
The morning star has vanished, the frost and fog are gone.

In one of those grand mornings which but on mountains dawn;

A flask of friendly whisky—-each other’s hopes we share—-
And throw our top-coats open to drink the mountain air.
The roads are rare to travel, and life seems all complete;
The grind of wheels on gravel, the trop of horses’ feet,
The trot, trot, trot and canter, as down the spur we go—-
The green sweeps to horizons blue that call for Cobb and Co.
We take a bright girl actress through western dust and damps,
To bear the home-world message, and sing for sinful camps,
To stir our hearts and break them, wind hearts that hope and ache—-
(Ah! When she thinks again of these her own must nearly break!)
Five miles this side of the gold-field, a loud, triumphant shout:
Five hundred cheering diggers have snatched the horses out:
With "Auld Lang Syne" in chorus, through roaring camp they go
That cheer for her, and cheer for Home, and cheer for Cobb and Co.
Three lamps above the ridges and gorges dark and deep,
A flash on sandstone cuttings where sheer the sidlings sweep,
A flash on shrouded wagons, on water ghastly white;

Weird brush and scattered remnants of "rushes in the night;"

Across the swollen river a flash beyond the ford:

Ride hard to warn the driver! He’s drunk or mad, good Lord!
But on the bank to westward a broad and cheerful glow—-
New camps extend across the plains new routes for Cobb and Co.
Swift scramble up the sidling where teams climb inch by inch;
Pause, bird-like, on the summit—then breakneck down the pinch;
By clear, ridge-country rivers, and gaps where tracks run high,
Where waits the lonely horseman, cut clear against the sky;
Past haunted half-way houses—where convicts made the bricks—-
Scrub-yards and new bark shanties, we dash with five and six;
Through stringy-bark and blue-gum, and box and pine we go—-
A hundred miles shall see to-night the lights of Cobb and Co!


The Ghost at the Second Bridge

You'd call the man a senseless fool,—
   A blockhead or an ass,
Who’d dare to say he saw the ghost
   Of Mount Victoria Pass;
But I believe the ghost is there,
   For, if my eyes are right,
I saw it once upon a ne’er-
   To-be-forgotten night.
’Twas in the year of eighty-nine—
   The day was nearly gone,
The stars were shining, and the moon
   Is mentioned further on;
I’d tramped as far as Hartley Vale,
   Tho’ tired at the start,
But coming back I got a lift
   In Johnny Jones’s cart.

’Twas winter on the mountains then—
   The air was rather chill,
And so we stopped beside the inn
   That stands below the hill.
A fire was burning in the bar,
   And Johnny thought a glass
Would give the tired horse a spell
   And help us up the Pass.

Then Jimmy Bent came riding up—
   A tidy chap was Jim—
He shouted twice, and so of course
   We had to shout for him.
And when at last we said good-night
   He bet a vulgar quid
That we would see the “ghost in black”,
   And sure enough we did.

And as we climbed the stony pinch
   Below the Camel Bridge,
We talked about the “Girl in black”
   Who haunts the Second Bridge.
We reached the fence that guards the cliff
   And passed the corner post,
And Johnny like a senseless fool
   Kept harping on the ghost.

“She’ll cross the moonlit road in haste
   And vanish down the track;
Her long black hair hangs to her waist
   And she is dressed in black;
Her face is white, a dull dead white—
   Her eyes are opened wide—
She never looks to left or right,
   Or turns to either side.”

I didn’t b’lieve in ghosts at all,
   Tho’ I was rather young,
But still I wished with all my heart
   That Jack would hold his tongue.
The time and place, as you will say,
   (’Twas twelve o’clock almost)—
Were both historically fa-
   Vourable for a ghost.

But have you seen the Second Bridge
   Beneath the “Camel’s Back”?
It fills a gap that broke the ridge
   When convicts made the track;
And o’er the right old Hartley Vale
   In homely beauty lies,
And o’er the left the mighty walls
   Of Mount Victoria rise.

And there’s a spot above the bridge,
   Just where the track is steep,
From which poor Convict Govett rode
   To christen Govett’s Leap;
And here a teamster killed his wife—
   For those old days were rough—
And here a dozen others had
   Been murdered, right enough.

The lonely moon was over all
   And she was shining well,
At angles from the sandstone wall
   The shifting moonbeams fell.
In short, the shifting moonbeams beamed,
   The air was still as death,
Save when the listening silence seemed
   To speak beneath its breath.

The tangled bushes were not stirred
   Because there was no wind,
But now and then I thought I heard
   A startling noise behind.
Then Johnny Jones began to quake;
   His face was like the dead.
“Don’t look behind, for heaven’s sake!
   The ghost is there!” he said.

He stared ahead—his eyes were fixed;
   He whipped the horse like mad.
“You fool!” I cried, “you’re only mixed;
   A drop too much you’ve had.
I’ll never see a ghost, I swear,
   But I will find the cause.”
I turned to see if it was there,
   And sure enough it was!

Its look appeared to plead for aid
   (As far as I could see),
Its hands were on the tailboard laid,
   Its eyes were fixed on me.
The face, it cannot be denied
   Was white, a dull dead white,
The great black eyes were opened wide
   And glistened in the light.

I stared at Jack; he stared ahead
   And madly plied the lash.
To show I wasn’t scared, I said—
   “Why, Jack, we’ve made a mash.”
I tried to laugh; ’twas vain to try.
   The try was very lame;
And, tho’ I wouldn’t show it, I
   Was frightened, all the same.

“She’s mashed,” said Jack, “I do not doubt,
   But ’tis a lonely place;
And then you see it might turn out
   A breach of promise case.”
He flogged the horse until it jibbed
   And stood as one resigned,
And then he struck the road and ran
   And left the cart behind.

Now, Jack and I since infancy
   Had shared our joys and cares,
And so I was resolved that we
   Should share each other’s scares.
We raced each other all the way
   And never slept that night,
And when we told the tale next day
   They said that we were—intoxicated.


Henry Lawson was born in 1867 and died in September 2nd 1922.  One of Australian's best-known writer of short stories and verse, he was noted for his realistic portrayals of bush life and the revolutionary politics of his earlier writing.

Henry Lawson was born poor in a bark hut on the goldfields at Grenfell, New South Wales. Likewise, he died in abject poverty, under a tree in his garden, and Prime Minister William Morris Hughes ordered one of the grandest State funerals ever seen in Australia, and the first for a writer, which was attended by many thousands in St Andrew's Cathedral and out on the streets of Sydney 

Years later, his face was on Australia's $10 note, only to be removed and replaced with that of his conservative friend and The Bulletin magazine poetic sparring partner, Banjo Paterson.

  • On the reverse of today's $10 note is one-time Communist Mary Gilmore, who Lawson once asked to marry him, but was refused.  She changed her mind soon after she had sailed to Paraguay to live on the William Lane-led radical communal experiment, New Australia, but by then it was too late as Lawson had married the daughter of two of Australia's most famous fiery radicals, William and Bertha McNamara.

  • Henry Lawson's mother was the pioneer feminist and 'Mother of Women's Suffrage', Louisa Lawson (1848 - 1920), publisher/editor of the progressive women's journal, Dawn (a "paper in which women may express their own opinions on political and social questions"), which Henry Lawson printed in its earliest editions. His brother-in-law was another fiery labor man, Jack Lang, who became Premier of New South Wales in 1925.

    Australian politicians and educators, particularly conservative ones, tend to promote the myth of Henry Lawson as a homespun rural author, and consequently, although there is some truth in it, a bucolic view of Lawson is very widespread – he has been washed in antiseptic and billy tea.


    For example, one website says "Henry Lawson lived in the country on a selection in Sapling Gully approximately 6 kms. from Mudgee in New South Wales."

    In fact, from the age of 17 to his death at 55, Lawson spent almost his entire life in Sydney, a bustling world city twice as populous as San Francisco in his heyday 1890s, where he mixed with the bohemian and (often extremely) radical intellectuals and activists of the era, as did his mother for the last 37 years of her life.


    A large part of Henry's writing, especially his poetry, was political, swinging between what we would call today "left" and "right". Progressives and reactionaries, unsure of what to do with him, have preferred to ignore him or make him a kind of literary jackaroo.


    Louisa Lawson's life, too, probably because she was both poor and in many ways excessively progressive for her times, has been virtually swept from public consciousness despite her incredible achievements.


    I hope the Almanac's Lawsons Chronology might in some small way help to correct the historical revision of the whole 'Lawson myth', by showing these two Aussies in context.


    Australia puts famous or significant Australian identities on its bank notes.

    The original paper Australian Ten Dollar note had Francis Howard Greenaway (convict architect) on the front and Henry Lawson (Short story writer & poet) on the back.

    The 1988 trial of the polymer note was a commemorative for Australia's Bicentenary and had a scene of the HMS Supply landing in Sydney Cove on the front and Aboriginal art on the back.

    The current polymer Australian Ten Dollar note has Andrew Barton (Banjo) Patterson (balladist & journalist) on the front and Dame Mary Gilmore (poet & human rights campaigner) on the back.


    Mary Gilmore Mary Gilmore (born Mary Jean Cameron; later, Dame Mary Gilmore; d.3/12/1962 Australian poet, utopian socialist, later a Communist Party member, close friend of leading Australian socialist William Lane and fellow poet Henry Lawson. Gilmore was the first woman member of the Australian Workers Union (AWU) and member of its executive. She is the woman on the Australian $10 note. 

    Lawson once asked her to marry him but she gave him a "no", noting in her diary "a curious immaturity" in him – like a "sappy twig".While Mary Cameron (as she was before marrying William Gilmore

    Before her death at 97 she had a succession of housekeepers, many of them leaving in exasperation.

    On Thursday, December 6, 1962, Sydney witnessed the first State funeral granted an Australian writer since that of Lawson forty years earlier. Like her former would-be beau, Henry Lawson, her image appeared on the Australian $10 note, or, rather images, for the banknote features an early photograph as well as the controversial portrait painted in her later years by Sir William Dobell

    When she met William Lane in 1892, Mary was a schoolteacher in Sydney, a tall, young eccentric-looking woman with her auburn hair chopped extremely short. She was deeply impressed by Lane who was recruiting for his dream of a socialist commune in Paraguay, where there would be no bosses — except himself, as it turned out. Mary loved people with a good brain and William Lane was a remarkable writer and a charismatic figure. He was happily married; there is no suggestion there was any sexual involvement between them. She joined Lane's New Australia Movement and after school would head into their city office and help edit their journal. It was here she met a tall, handsome, swashbuckling Queensland shearer called David Russell Stevenson. Like a lot of bushmen at that time, Stevenson was self-educated and used to carry Shakespeare in his saddlebag. Mary became absolutely infatuated with him. At the same time Henry Lawson was absolutely infatuated with her and begged her to marry him and come with him to Western Australia. But once she'd met Stevenson, poor Henry, who was two years younger than Mary and a puny specimen compared to Stevenson, was forgotten, except as a wonderful friend who she could talk to about writing. When the colonists sailed off in 1893, Mary couldn't go because single women weren't wanted until the colony was established. The one single woman taken, a Queensland nurse called Clara Jones, was needed because the NSW government said they couldn't go without a nursing sister on board. Clara and Stevenson fell in love on the voyage. Lane, who put a stop to their flirtation, told her Stevenson was engaged to Mary. Thinking Stevenson had lied to her Clara married the first man to come along. Before Mary arrived, the first colony had broken up because of Lane's dictatorial behaviour and Lane had formed a second colony over 100 km away. Because the schoolteacher had remained with the original mob, Lane wrote to Mary and begged her to come out. She had just turned thirty, the age at which she believed she would become an old maid, a future she devoutly feared. So she packed up, putting in eight yards of white muslin suitable for a wedding dress, and at the end of 1895 off she went. First of all a little sailing ship to New Zealand, then a tramp steamer and the perilous voyage around Cape Horn up the east coast of the continent to Montevideo. From there she had to negotiate her way without any Spanish onto a paddle steamer and travel 1600 km up the great rivers to the capital of Paraguay. From there she took a steam train and got off at a siding. She had expected Stevenson to meet her but it was Lane's brother who met her for the thirty-mile ride to the rough little colony, just thatch huts and a jungle clearing. They had a welcome dance for Mary that night and Stevenson didn't dance with her once. Humiliated and embarrassed Mary wrote to her old swain Henry Lawson saying, 'Why don't you come over after all?' But Henry had just married and didn't respond. Mary went to the colony not just for love, but for its ideals on gender equality. What she didn't realise was the colony had scrapped the clause about gender equality. As a single woman, she was in a pretty embarrassing situation. Before long she was reading to a man called William Gilmore who was in the colony hospital. He was nearly illiterate, but he was a good, kind, handsome man and before long an engagement was announced. I speculate that Mary may have prodded Gilmore towards a proposal because he was so shy, and although not in love with him at that time, I think she did fall in love within the marriage. I think their physical relationship turned out to be a wonderful excitement for Mary. There is a rash of quite sensual poems that she writes at that time."
    From 'Bluestocking in Patagonia' by Dr Anne Whitehead: PDF & HTML