Henry Lawson – Australian poet with Norwegian ancestry

The author Henry Archibald Lawson is one of Australia’s most renowned poets. Some even refer to him as Australia’s own national poet. He was born in Grenfell, a small town in New South Wales in Australia on June 17, 1867.

The father

The father, Niels Herzberg Larsen, was born in Norway on September 12, 1832. The birthplace is referred to as Flademoen, but Geneastuff has not been able to trace where this place would be as Flademoen (translated as The flat heath) can be so many places in Norway. Maybe some of our readers can help us to find the correct place?

Niels was a miner and a seaman. He went to sea as a 21 year old and arrived in Australia in 1855. Most likely, he followed the gold rush into the country when the boat he was working on arrived in Melbourne.

Niels would never return to the old country. He met Louisa Albury at the gold digging field Pipeclay, later named Eurunderee, in New South Wales. The couple married on July 7, 1866 when Louisa was only 18 years old.

Five children were born within 10 years, with Henry as the firstborn and eldest son. Two brothers and two sisters quickly followed: Charles William, Peter, Gertrude and Anette, but Anette died just 10 months old.

The father changed his name to Peter Lawson when Henry was born. He is buried in a small private burial ground at Hartley Vale in New South Wales, Australia.

The mother

Louisa was only 28 years old when her youngest daughter died and she was worn out from childbirth and the hard life in the outback. Her husband was often away from home for long periods of time. He earned his money either as a gold digger or had temporary work wherever he could get it. Early on, Henry was entrusted with the responsibility for the care of his brothers and sister. This should later prove to become a major influence on his first literary works.

In 1883, Louisa and the children moved to Sydney where she later became editor of the journal The Dawn. She also became well known as a women’s rights advocate. Her literary skills were an inspiration for Henry.

Henry Lawson

Henry had a difficult childhood. He was a shy kid and after an ear infection when he was 9 years old he became partially deaf. His teacher, the author John Tierney, encouraged him to read a lot because the boy had trouble hearing in the classroom. This became his most important education.

Henry Lawson had a roving lifestyle as an adult. His short stories and poems are based on his own experiences of the hard life in the “bush” and the special Australian companionship (“mateship”) that evolved as a result. They could both be humorous and serious.

In 1988 the Norwegian author Ingvar Hauge translated a selection of Lawsons poems. The book gives a broad introduction to Henry Lawson’s own life and environment, with emphasis on his Norwegian roots». When the book was released, Solum the publishing company, expressed this striking statement:

“No other poet like Henry Lawson has shown us how the pioneering settlers, gold diggers, drifters and strayers were formed by a hard, often relentless reality to a separate sort of people with their own distinctive traits.”

Henry married Bertha Bredt Jr. in 1896 and the couple had two children, Joseph and Bertha. The marriage did not survive long and divorce was granted in 1902.


Henry Lawson died on September 2nd 1922 and received the honor of a state burial.

He was pictured on the first Australian 10 dollar bill when this was launched in 1966

He had also been pictured on several Australian stamps

His birth town Grenfell annually holds a Henry Lawson festival in June.

Several of Henry Lawson’s short stories and poems are translated and published in Norway. Read more about Henry Lawson in The Australian Dictionary of Biography.