Sydney Architecture Images- Gone but not forgotten

The Lawsons' House Plaque 50 of the Green Plaques




Phillip St.


Rendered brick Stone


Phillip Street was the residence of Henry Lawson when he first moved to Sydney in 1883. He joined his mother and sister at number 138, and was still living here when his first poem, A Song of the Republic, was published by The Bulletin on 1 October 1887.

Phillip St. Henry Lawson lived with his mother in Phillip Street, Sydney and worked in Hudson Bros. railway carriage works at Clyde. In the evening he
went to night school to improve himself.
Famous for his short stories and ballads, Henry's life was not a story of personal success or fulfilment and alcoholism became a problem.
His mother Louisa Lawson was a newspaper publisher, a feminist and writer. At her newspaper 'The Dawn' she employed female printers.
The union, which would not admit women members, tried to get her to dismiss them.
She was a supporter of women's suffrage and campaigned to secure the appointment of women to public office.

When his much-interrupted schooling (three years all told) ended in 1880, Lawson worked with his father on local contract building jobs and then further afield in the Blue Mountains. In 1883, however, he joined his mother in Sydney at her request. Louisa had abandoned the selection and was living at Phillip Street with Henry's sister Gertrude and his brother Peter. He became apprenticed to Hudson Bros Ltd as a coachpainter and undertook night-class study towards matriculation. Yet, as the story ('Arvie Aspinall's Alarm Clock') which he based on that time of his life suggests, he was no happier in Sydney than he had been on the selection. His daily routine exhausted him, his workmates persecuted him and he failed the examinations. Over the next few years he tried or applied for various jobs with little success. Oppressed anew by his deafness, he went to Melbourne in 1887 in order to be treated at the Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. The visit, happy in other ways, produced no cure for his affliction and thereafter Lawson seems to have resigned himself to living in the muffled and frustrating world of the deaf.

Meanwhile he had begun to write. Contact with his mother's radical friends imbued in him a fiery and ardent republicanism out of which grew his first published poem, 'A Song of the Republic' (Bulletin, 1 October 1887). He followed this with 'The Wreck of the Derry Castle' and 'Golden Gully', the latter growing partly out of memories of the diggings of his boyhood. At the same time he had his introduction to journalism, writing pieces for the Republican, a truculent little paper run by Louisa and William Keep (its precarious and eccentric existence is celebrated in the poem 'The Cambaroora Star'). By 1890 Lawson had achieved some reputation as a writer of verse, poems such as 'Faces in the Street', 'Andy's Gone With Cattle' and 'The Watch on the Kerb' being some of the more notable of that period.