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Henry Christopher (Harry) Scully (1882–1921)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

Henry Christopher (Harry) Scully (1882-1921) chemist, member of the Industrial Workers of the World, police informer

Birth: 22 February 1882 at Stanthorpe, Queensland, youngest of nine children of Patrick Scully, miner, later storekeeper, and Alice, née Sexton. Both parents had been born in Tipperary, Ireland. Marriage: (1) 26 November 1912 in St Benedict’s Church, Sydney, New South Wales, to Queensland-born Marie Gloria Cooper, a saleswoman. They had one daughter and one son. (2) informant on his death certificate, “brother-in-law”, claimed that Scully had married Pearle, formerly Morris, late Olsen, at Geelong, Victoria, in 1919, but no record has been sighted. Death: 28 August 1921 at the War Memorial Hospital, Waverley. Religion: Anglican. 

  • Described by Ian Turner as “a short, slight man . . . intelligent and quick witted”. In 1916 he was carrying on business with a partner as a pharmaceutical chemist in Oxford Street, Paddington, NSW. He later claimed to have been an active member of the Shop Assistants’ Union, of which he was sometime vice-president and for some years a member of the executive.
  • Gave evidence against the members of the Industrial Workers of the World in their trials in November-December 1916. He claimed that he was a member of the IWW in 1914 for about three months during which time he lectured IWW members on the method of making “fire dope” with which to burn buildings. He testified that King, Hamilton, Fagin, Beatty, Teen and Glynn came to his shop and on one occasion Fagin said he “would have to use sabotage and violence” and that the IWW said they were burning down buildings.
  • In June 1918 police required him to leave Australia for San Francisco, United States of America, but he was brought back to give evidence at the inquiry conducted by Justice Street in August and September. Though Street upheld the convictions, he stated he had “little doubt that [Scully] was far more deeply implicated than he admits in any criminal conspiracy”.
  • After the victory of Labor leader John Storey in the election of March 1920, Scully again gave evidence at a Royal Commission conducted by Justice R. K. Ewing in June and July 1920, where he recanted much of his original testimony and admitted that the police had concocted his sworn statements. One witness testified that Scully had acted in expectation of receiving a reward. [He was rewarded, receiving £200]. Ewing’s report criticised Scully, and recommended release of the prisoners.
  • According to press reports, on 27 August 1921 “Scully was taken in an ambulance from his home at Coogee to a hospital in Waverley, suffering acutely from meningitis”. His death certificate gives his cause of death as cerebro spinal meningitis.
  • B. King, the last of the men he was partly responsible for gaoling, was released three days later.

Ian Turner, Sydney’s Burning (Sydney, 1967); Frank Cain, The wobblies at war: a history of the IWW and the Great War in Australia (Melbourne, 1993); Verity Burgmann, Revolutionary Industrial Unionism: The Industrial Workers of the World in Australia (Melbourne 1995).

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Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Scully, Henry Christopher (Harry) (1882–1921)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 15 April 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Life Summary [details]


22 February, 1882
Stanthorpe, Queensland, Australia


28 August, 1921 (aged 39)
Waverley, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Cause of Death


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