About the Society
The Henry Lawson Memorial & Literary Society Inc. (HLM&LS) was founded in 1923 by Steve Ford JP (1868-1946) when a gathering took place at Footscray Hill Park, Victoria.
From 1904, Steve Ford was Secretary of the Zeehan branch of the Australian Natives’ Association in Tasmania. Long standing are the links between the Henry Lawson Memorial & Literary Society Inc. and the Australian Natives’ Association, (now Australian Unity).
In 1923 and later years, Steve Ford received assistance from local councillors, members of various branches of the Australian Natives’ Association and members of the Seddon Branch of the Australian Labor Party.
Until 1960 the annual gatherings took place at the Lawson Tree, a large sugar gum in Footscray Hill Park. Ford kept a scrapbook regarding the HLM&S and this book is held in the Mitchell library in Sydney.
The objects of the HLM&LS of Footscray were:
- to perpetuate the name of Australia’s writer, Henry Lawson, by an annual commemorative gatherings in the Footscray Hill Park on the Sunday in January nearest to Australia’s Day Foundation Day.
- inculcate a definite Australian Sentiment and a greater appreciation of native literature
- to establish a Statue Fund for the purpose of placing a memorial to Henry Lawson in the Footscray Hill Park
Membership was open to all Australians, the annual subscription being two shillings. On receipt of two shillings and sixpence, a membership card and a postcard photograph of Lawson would be despatched to any address. Donors of three guineas and upward would be enrolled as Life Members. Initially, the Society met at the Footscray Town Hall @ 8pm on the third Wednesday of each month.
The Society desired to secure a membership roll of 1,000 – the Lawson Thousand – but believed there would be many times that number of good Australians to whom the honouring of a Big Australian must strongly appeal.
On Sunday 7 February 1960, the Hon H. McIvor, MHR, unveiled the long awaited memorial to Henry Lawson, erected in Footscray Park, Victoria, the site of The Gathering. The statue was to be unveiled by Mrs. Bertha Jago, Henry Lawson’s daughter, but she was unable to attend.
When Ballarat Rd in Footscray was widened in 1964, the Lawson Tree was bulldozed. A small section of it was placed alongside the memorial and two small plaques were affixed, relevant to the Lawson Tree and to the scattering of Steve Ford’s ashes in 1947. At the Society’s monthly meeting on 16 June 1984, in the Austral Salon, Swanston St., three walking sticks and a polished piece of wood, all of which he had fashioned from the Lawson Tree, where auctioned.
The Society Today
Since 1923, the HLM&LS Inc A0025176D has continued to meet monthly. Under the rules of a constituted, incorporated entity, the Society is run by an elected President and committee.
The objectives of the society continue to:
- encourage interest in the works of the Australian writer Henry Lawson (1867-1922)
- erect and maintain a memorial to Henry Lawson
- inculcate an interest in, and appreciation of, Australian literature
- foster an Australian sentiment and pride in Australian achievement
Society members can attend monthly meetings, where reciting and reading of Lawson’s works, as well as other Australian poets, is much enjoyed. New members are always welcome.
Membership of the Society includes a copy of The Lawsonian. Published quarterly, The Lawsonian covers the ordinary meeting news as well as poems read by the members, along with information about literary, artistic and historical activities, and articles of Lawson-related and general interest. Member’s own original poetry and prose are featured as is the poetry of the bush poets of past generations.