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Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Glenny, Henry (1835–1910)

by Austin McCallum

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Henry Glenny (1835-1910), businessman and author often known as 'The Australian Silverpen', was born on 5 August 1835 at Newry, County Down, Ireland, the first son of Joseph Glenny, linen merchant, and his wife Elizabeth, née Grandy, both staunch Irish Protestants. After schooling at Newry he worked for a time with his father until permitted to migrate to Australia. At 18 Glenny arrived in Victoria in the Phoenix, eager to try his luck on the Victorian diggings. At White Flat and Eureka he had little success and accepted the offer of the Geelong merchants, J. & T. Bray, to manage a general store in a tent at the Gravel Pits. Although store-keepers as well as diggers had grievances, he came out on the side of officialdom, volunteering for the mounted police patrol on the day after the rising at Eureka. In 1855 he was appointed postmaster and clerk of courts at Beechworth. After a year he resigned and went to Castlemaine to manage a store. He then taught at Blanchard's school for young ladies and gentlemen. There he met 14-year-old Emma Jane Blanchard whom he married on 14 February 1859 at Castlemaine.

In 1857 Glenny had set up a 'Portrait Saloon' in Castlemaine's market square and soon had photographic studios at Ballarat and Kyneton. The chain of studios became the 'Dublin and Melbourne Portrait Rooms of H. Glenny, Artist'. About 1865 he returned to Ballarat where he built a fine house in Victoria Street. He quickly became well known as a successful businessman, investor, speculator, promoter, broker, financier and author. Ballarat's boom years suited his style and character. In August 1875 he became travelling agent in Victoria for the National Mutual Life Association of Australasia and for many years sold insurance in a spectacular manner; in the first year alone he wrote nearly a thousand policies. His work was mainly in northern Victoria and the Riverina but later extended to South Australia and Tasmania. Glenny travelled abroad at least ten times, visiting many countries. He returned to Newry as the local boy who made a fortune in Australia and while visiting England in 1893-94 placed Australian properties worth £1,000,000 on the market. He also sold mining companies and floated the Queen's Birthday Gold Mining Co., Dunolly, on the London Market for £150,000.

Although a prolific author and sometime editor of the Ovens and Murray Advertiser, Glenny had no special writing ability. Under the pen-names 'The Australian Silverpen', 'Old Chum', 'Peter Possum', 'A Voice from the East', 'Quince' and 'Rambler' he wrote sketches, essays and comment for many newspapers and religious journals. Many of these items were republished as Jottings and Sketches at Home and Abroad (Belfast, 1888 and 1889); it also included flattering newspaper reports of his own activities. He always signed his name as H. Glenny, J.P., F.G.S., F.R.G.S.

An ardent Wesleyan and temperance advocate, Glenny was the Ballarat representative of the (Royal) Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Prisoners' Aid Society. In 1880 as a justice of the peace he had signed the gaol book to certify that Ned Kelly was hanged by the neck till dead. Admired for his respectability and unblemished character he died in Melbourne on 24 July 1910, survived by his widow and by three sons and two daughters of their thirteen children.

Select Bibliography

  • W. B. Kimberly (ed), Ballarat and Vicinity (Ballarat, 1894)
  • National Mutual Life Association of Australasia, A Century of Life (Melb, 1969)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

Austin McCallum, 'Glenny, Henry (1835–1910)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 21 October 2020.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

View the front pages for Volume 4

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