Grenfell Personalities

Most people know Henry Lawson was born in Grenfell however over the years Grenfell has produced many people who have excelled with their literary and sporting achievements.

Jan Lehane

Jan Lahane

Jan Lehane (O’Neill) the tennis legend - was born in 1941 at Piney Range, near Grenfell. She began her illustrious tennis career in local junior tennis from where she eventually made it on to the world stage. Jan was so esteemed by the local community that when the opportunity to venture overseas for the first time, the Grenfell community donated to an appeal organised by her legendary coach Vic Edwards. Jan won her first state title in 1953 winning the under 19 school girl title at 12 years of age. She went on to win 30 state junior titles. She won successive state titles in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia in 1958.

Jan was Australia’s number one women’s tennis player in 1960. Jan was twice Australian Junior Champion and was the runner up in the Australian Open for 4 years from 1960-63 losing to Margaret Court each time. She appeared at Wimbledon in 1960 and was the first woman to use the double-handed backhand. Jan was runner up in the Australian Open women’s doubles reaching the final in 1961 and 1963. Jan won the Australian Open mixed doubles twice in 1960 and 1961 and was a member of the inaugural Federation Cup team in 1963. O’Neill was ranked in the world top ten in 1960, 1963, and 1964, reaching a career high of World No. 7 in 1963.


Henry Lawson

Henry Lawson
Image courtesy of La Trobe Australian Manuscripts Collection.

Henry Lawson was born in 1867 on the goldfields at Grenfell. At the age of nine, he developed an ear infection, by the time he was fourteen, he was totally deaf. He had a very difficult childhood as the family were very poor. After leaving school early, Lawson helped his father on building projects. The Bulletin published Lawson's first poem and in 1888, it published his first short story, "His Father's Mate". Between 1888 and 1892, Lawson published many of his most famous poems like "Andy's Gone with Cattle", "The Roaring Days" and 'The Drover's Wife". In 1892, Lawson walked from Bourke to Hungerford and back and it was during this time that he came to be very conscious of the hardships of bush life. Also in 1892, Lawson met up with Banjo Patterson, another famous Australian writer, to debate their views of life in the bush.

During his life, Lawson lived and wrote in widely different environments and had known life as a bush worker, house painter, telegraph linesman, journalist and rouseabout. Much of what he saw and experienced went into his short stories but his deepest feelings are revealed in his verse. Even in his earliest life, he was haunted by the impermanence of life and his poetry in his day was often criticised as being too melancholy. Lawson did not shrink from reminding people that they must face and endure their lives, although Lawson himself never lost hope. In 1916, his friends found him a position at Leeton, providing data for the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area. Between 1920 and 1922, the government provided a pension for Lawson. On September 2, 1922, at age 55, Lawson finally died peacefully in his sleep while still writing and was given a state funeral on 4 September, the first writer to be given one. Henry Lawson remains one of Australia's most famous writers and his portrait was on our ten dollar note.


Stan McCabe

Stan McCabe

Stan McCabe was born in Grenfell in 1910. At the age of 19, McCabe was called up for the 1930 tour of England. McCabe played 39 Test matches for Australia from 1930 to 1938. A short, stocky right-hander, McCabe was described by Don Bradman  as one of the great batsmen of the game. He was never dropped from the Australian Test team and was known for his footwork, fast bowling and hook shot against the Bodyline strategy. He also regularly bowled medium-pace and often opened the bowling at a time when Australia lacked fast bowlers. He was one of the Wisden Cricketers of the Year in 1935.  Following the retirement of captain Bill Woodfull, McCabe became Australia’s vice-captain and held the post for the rest of his career.

McCabe scored an unbeaten 189 in the Second Test of the 1935–36 tour of South Africa, including a century in one session, taking Australia to the brink of a world record-breaking victory on a difficult final-day pitch in poor light before the match was called off. It was one of two Test centuries McCabe made on the tour. The following season, he scored a century to help Australia win the deciding final Test against the touring Englishmen. In the First Test of the 1938 tour of England, McCabe played what was regarded as his greatest innings, scoring 232 in four hours, including his last 72 in 28 minutes. Bradman regarded the innings as the greatest batting he ever saw.


Reggie McNamara

Reggie McNamara

Reggie McNamara was born Grenfell in, 1887 the son of a sheep farmer. He and his 13 brothers and sisters learned to ride on the same bicycle. Reggie  was an Australian cyclist known as a roughhouse velodrome rider. With a string of dramatic crashes and broken bones, he was known as the ‘Iron Man’. He specialised in six-day races but competed in all races from 200m sprints to 100 km endurance races. He rode in 3,000 races on three continents over 30 years and won more than 700 before he retired aged 50 in 1937.

He began racing for money as a teenager in fairs around Sydney, shooting kangaroos and selling their skins to raise the entry fee. He travelled across Australia and New Zealand to wherever he could find races. He won the Sydney six-day race at the start of 1913 and caught the eye of Alf Goullet, an Australian international who had been asked to find two good Australians to race in the  USA. Goullet signed just McNamara, saying McNamara was worth any two other riders.

McNamara set five world records from one to 25 miles at Newark velodrome in 1915, 1916 and 1917. He won seven six-day races at Madison Square Garden in New York between 1918 and 1932, another five at the Chicago Coliseum and other six-day races in France, Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and England. He won the 1932 Madison Square Garden six-day at the age of 45. His winnings up to 1933 reached the modern equivalent of $2000000.


Eric Rolls

Eric Rolls
Image courtesy of The Australian.

Author Eric Rolls was born in Grenfell in 1923. Rolls found a way of telling stories that made listeners feel they were sitting on his knee. He carried a rare combination of authority and intimacy. With short sentences, vivid verbs, sensual imagery and a necessary swagger, this poet-turned-prose writer wove a kind of magic. Eric won selection to Fort Street High, before serving in New Guinea in World War II. For 45 years from 1946 he farmed his own land in the north-west of NSW on the edges of the "Pilliga Scrub", a forest he made famous in his book A Million Wild Acres. Of more than 20 books, this was his masterpiece.

His first non-fiction book, They All Ran Wild (1969), was a history of "pests" in Australia, especially rabbits. His books included poetry (Sheaf Tosser, The Green Mosaic, Selected Poems), children's books, memoirs, A Celebration of Food and Wine, and other remarkably original histories, From Forest to Sea, Visions of Australia, and Australia: A Biography. His honours include a Member of the Order of Australia, fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities, and an array of literary awards, the Captain Cook Bicentenary Award for Non-Fiction, the C. J. Dennis Prize, The Age Book of the Year, the John Franklin Award for children's books, the Greening Australia Journalism Award, the Landcare Media Award, the Braille Book of the Year and the Talking Book of the Year.