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Henry Charles Smith-Barry (c. 1842–1928)

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Qld shearers strike leaders, 1893 [Smith-Barry is far left, top row]

Qld shearers strike leaders, 1893 [Smith-Barry is far left, top row]

State Library of Qld, 64845

Henry Charles (or Charles Henry) Smith-Barry (c.1842-1928) shearers' cook, shearer and gaoled trade union leader 

Birth. c.1842 in England. UnmarriedDeath: 13 January 1928, aged 86, in Brisbane hospital, Queensland. Religion: Anglican. 

  • His fellow prisoner Julian Stuart claimed that Smith-Barry was from a wealthy family, and had a sound schooling in his youth. Stuart also observed that, though ‘never an orator’, he ‘wielded a graceful pen’ before the days of the Labor Press.
  • According to his prison record, he arrived in Queensland in 1861.
  • Convened strike meeting at Isisford in January 1891 and wrote to Hugh Blackwell advocating armed struggle. Was a member Barcaldine Strike Committee 1891, substituting for George Taylor, who had been arrested.
  • Arrested at Clermont March 1891 on conspiracy charge, described in the press as a 'decent looking man' of quiet disposition. Tried with other committee members on charge of conspiracy and sentenced by Judge Harding to three years imprisonment with hard labour. Stuart, the youngest of them, wrote that Smith-Barry was the oldest.
  • Prison records on his admission to St Helena island gaol describe him as a native of England, able to read and write, stout, 5 feet 6½ inches (169 cm) tall, with a dark complexion, black hair and brown eyes.
  • On release in November 1893 he sailed to New Australia settlement, Paraguay, with Blackwell and others. Member of settlement's management committee in 1894 following departure of group supporting colony's founder William Lane; he also departed May 1894 in frustration over failure of attempts to reform settlement's rules. 
  • Returned to Queensland where he worked as a shearer in Opalton and Charleville. In 1913 he was granted life membership of the Longreach Branch of the Amalgamated Workers Union of Queensland. In 1921 he was in Lidcombe Hospital, Sydney.
  • In 1922, broke, in ill-health and advancing years, he appealed from Dunwich Benevolent Asylum to the Australian Workers Union for assistance, following which a support fund was established through the Brisbane Worker. In later years a testimonial for cure of a sore throat from “H. C. Smithbarry, Warren, NSW”, appeared in various press advertisements, for which it is to be hoped that he received some recompense.
  • Cause of death cardiac failure and hydrochloric acid poisoning.

J. Gibbney & A. G. Smith, A Biographical Register 1788-1939, vol 2 (Canberra, 1987); Gavin Souter, A Peculiar People: the Australians in Paraguay, (Sydney, 1968); Stuart Svensen,The Shearers' War: the story of the 1891 shearers' strike (Brisbane, 1989). 

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Citation details

'Smith-Barry, Henry Charles (c. 1842–1928)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 29 May 2024.

© Copyright People Australia, 2012

Qld shearers strike leaders, 1893 [Smith-Barry is far left, top row]

Qld shearers strike leaders, 1893 [Smith-Barry is far left, top row]

State Library of Qld, 64845

Life Summary [details]


c. 1842


13 January, 1928 (aged ~ 86)
Kelvin Grove, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

Cause of Death


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