Henry Lawson

In 1915 a group of top newspaper men and journalists of Sydney assembled in the office of the State Premier WA Holman. They were there to once again try and help their friend Henry Lawson, escape from the temptations of alcohol and to find the freedom to write again.

For many years Lawson had suffered from depression and alcoholism. He was at times destitute and had been subject to stays in gaols and mental institutions.

Due to the high number of labourers working on the irrigation scheme, the MIA had been declared a prohibition area. A position was created for Lawson to write about the MIA to attract settlers to the area. Henry and his housekeeper Mrs Byers arrived in January 1916. After being accommodated for a short time in a house in Pine Avenue, they were moved to Farm 418, Daalbata Road Leeton.

Over the next 20 months Henry Lawson produced around 30 poems and 10 prose sketches. Not all related directly to Leeton and some were not published but among them some important pieces, including "Leeton Town" and "A Letter from Leeton" were produced. The latter, published as a book distributed to soldiers at the Front, was credited by a government report as having attracted settlers to the MIA after World War I.

When Lawson found the government was reviewing his contract in November 1916, he impetuously resigned.  He was persuaded to stay on, finally leaving Leeton in 1917.  

Lawson enjoyed life in Leeton, he made many friends among the locals and remade an old friendship with Jim Grahame, who he knew from Bourke in the 1890's.  He also met writer Mary Gilmore. 

Although the MIA was officially a dry area (no alcohol), Lawson was a frequent visitor to Whitton and Narrandera hotels and there was a significant sly grog trade in Leeton that made liquor readily available. 

Despite this, Lawsons Leeton stay was a positive and productive time, the last significant creative period of his life. He returned to Sydney where he died in 1922.