A Coventry kid who helped make
Australia into a country has replaced the Queen on a banknote down
Sir Henry Parkes was Prime
Minister of New South Wales five times, and was known as the “Father
of the Federation”.
He is now the centre of an
antipodean storm as he has been selected to replace the Queen on the
But his roots stretch to the
other side of the world, and to a little cottage in what is now part
Born in Moat House Lane,
Canley in 1815, and christened in Stoneleigh, he was the youngest
child of one of Lord Leigh’s tenant farmer.
He lived in the area until
misfortune hit his family. His father was jailed for debt and they
were driven from their land.
The young Henry then was set
to work in a road-mending gang in Gloucestershire, and then went to
work in a rope factory.
After some time he moved to
Birmingham where he was apprenticed to an ivory turner.
Stuck in poverty as a young
married man, with his first two children dying in infancy, he got a
free place on an emigrant ship, Strathfieldsaye, and went to Australia
Two days out of Sydney, he and
his wife Clarinda gave birth to a daughter, also called Clarinda, at
the height of a storm.
Parkes arrived with just three
shillings to his name, and after a few business set-backs, made a
success of desk and toy business in Sydney.
He then started the Empire
newspaper, and used it as on outlet for his strong, and sometimes
radical, political views.
After being elected to the
legislative council in 1854, he successfully campaigned against the
transportation of convicts to Australia, and laid the foundation for
public education in Sydney.
A school near his home
cottage, in Prior Deram Walk, is names after him today, as is a nearby
He became Prime Minister of
New South Wales in 1872. He held the office four times, and was a
leading figure behind moves to unite the six Australian colonies.
Life than began to turn full
circle, and his enemies pelted with flour and eggs when he was brought
out of retirement to address a hostile crowd.
He died shortly after that
episode, virtually a pauper. His nostalgia for the fields of
Warwickshire had remained – his house was called Kenilworth.
However, his name has lived
on. A town in New South Wales, Parkes, is named after him, and is
twinned with Coventry.
During the recent poll on
whether Australia should become a republic, his name was invoked by
the Monarchist camp, and there are two Sir Henry Parkes Foundations.
Peter Walters, of Coventry and
Warwickshire Promotions said Parkes’ new profile could attract more
visitors to the city to see his birthplace.
“He’s not well-known
here but he is in Australia and a lot of people visit Coventry from
there because they have family connections.
“It would be great to see
more Australians over here and this could attract them.