Henry Lawson visits his old school, 1914

Henry Lawson’s admission to Eurunderee school is recorded in this 1875 extract from the school Admission register. Henry’s younger brother, Charles, is listed under his entry. Henry Lawson was one of five children born to Louisa and Neils Larson (later changed to Peter Lawson). It is significant to note that the Admission register records Lawson’s admission to the school as occurring on 25 January 1875, aged 7. A number of published accounts of Lawson’s life give a date of 2 October 1876, without citing any primary sources.

In April 1914, Henry Lawson paid a return visit to Eurunderee public school, almost 40 years after he had attended as a young pupil.

T D Mutch, in ‘Lawson, the Man and his Country’ gives an account of his visit to Eurunderee with Lawson in April 1914, where they stayed at the home of the then schoolmaster James Elliott. Mutch records that
“Elliott…got out with loving care the old enrolment book. With what eagerness did Lawson run his fingers down the list of names to find his own among them…”
In addition to checking his entry in the Admission register, Lawson wrote some comments in the Visitors’ book, along with a poem which laments the absence of his name among students recorded in the Punishment book (see Item 27 for extracts from the Eurunderee Punishment book). This is perhaps not surprising, however; as the earliest entry is for 24 October 1879, by which date Lawson may no longer have been a pupil.
As this example shows, Lawson was always able to turn out a serviceable poem at short notice, but the quality of his literary output had peaked around the turn of the century, and by 1914 his work and health (and life generally) were in decline. John Barnes, in his article Son of a Foreign Father – A View of Henry Lawson (LaTrobe Journal No. 70, Spring 2002) noted that
‘The last 20 years of his life are a heart-rending record of near-destitution, drunkenness, imprisonment for failure to pay maintenance, mental instability requiring hospitalisation, interspersed with diminishing periods of relative calm and balance.’
Lawson died in 1922, aged 55.


Source: NRS 3931 School records – Eurunderee Public School Visitors book – entry for visit of Henry Lawson 20 April 1914, including poem composed during visit [4/7550] and School records, Eurunderee Public School Admission Register showing entry for Henry Lawson [4/7551]

TRANSCRIPT

ADMISSION REGISTER
Register No 140
Date of Admission 1875 Jan 25
Pupil’s Name Lawson Henry
Pupil’s Age 7
Religious Denomination W [Wesleyan]
Rate of School Fee /6 [sixpence]
Parent or Guardian
Name Lawson, Peter
Residence Wilbertree
Occupation Inn keeper
Date of Admission to each class
First 25/1/75
—-
VISITORS’ BOOK

April 1914     Henry Lawson   North Shore Sydney
On visiting my old school
After many years, I should like to be able
To express how pleased I feel at the cheerful and
happy appearance of the children, under the new
system, and the marvellous change in all things
connected with the school; as contrasted with
the dull, dreary, senseless grind of the system under which
we were supposed to have been
taught and which was irksome to teachers and pupils alike.
_____ And I cannot express my
delight at the well kept appearance of the
Old School which my Father built, and at
which I worked and studied as a boy and
in the trees that have grown up round it
since then. ____ A look through the Class Room
convinced me that I have much to learn _ and
unlearn yet; and I would like to be enrolled
here a pupil again, as say Henry Lawson Aged 4
Infant Class
On looking through the
Old Punishment Book
at Eurunderee School
April 20th 1914 –
A Dirge
I took the Book of Punishment
And ran it columns down;
I started with an open brow
And ended with a frown;
I dropped on long forgotten names
They took me unaware
I noted old familiar names
But my name wasn’t there!
I thought of what I ought have been
And, Oh! My heart was pained
To find, of all the scholars there,
That I was never caned!
I thought of wasted childhood hours,
And a tear rolled down my cheek
I must have been a Model Boy
Which means a Little Sneak!
“Oh! Give me back my youth again!”
Doc. Faustus used to say:
I only wish the Powers would give
My boyhood for a day
A Model Boy! Beloved of Girls!
Despised by boys and men!
But it comforts me to think that I’ve
Made up for it since then
Henry Lawson
Eurunderee 20/4/14

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