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Garryowen Unmasked  Edmund Finn


In 2018-2019 Liz was awarded a creative fellowship by the State Library Victoria to research the life and writings of Edmund Finn.

Born in 1819 in Tipperary, Finn arrived in Melbourne as a bounty immigrant in 1841. Four years later, he was offered a position as reporter by George Cavenagh, editor and proprietor of the Port Phillip Herald. Finn was the main court reporter for the Herald but he wrote about more than the legal jurisdiction of the colony.


He recorded the everyday lives and significant events of this rapidly developing society. In his own, often-quoted words, he was ‘a spectator of almost everything that went on, whether the burning of a house or the founding of a church, a mayor-making or a prize fight, a charity sermon or an execution, a public dinner or a corroboree. I was a participator in, or an observer of, nine-tenths of them’.[i]

Photo courtesy of Victorian Parliamentary Library

In June 1858 Finn was appointed Second Clerk of the Legislative Council and stayed at Parliament House for nearly thirty years, forced to leave his position there in May 1886 due to impending blindness. In retirement, he used his voluminous newspaper reports as a basis for his Chronicles of Early Melbourne 1835-1852: historical, anecdotal and personal, (published 1888), written, like many of his articles, under his pseudonym ‘Garryowen’.


Finn has been recognised by the Melbourne Press Club’s Australian Media Hall of Fame, his notation reading ‘The Argus said in 1944 that more details are known about the beginnings of Melbourne than of most large cities, ancient or modern, [because of one man:] Edmund Finn’.[ii]  Liz's book explores the life, writings and enduring legacy of Edmund Finn.

[i] ‘Garryowen’ (Edmund Finn), Chronicles of Early Melbourne, 1888, Preface, p.vii.

[ii] Phillip Abson, ‘Garryowen’, Chronicler of Early Melbourne’, The Argus, 30 Dec 1944, p.7.

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