Who was Walsh?

Henry Deane Walsh, photographed c1901.

Henry Deane Walsh (1853–1921) was a Dublin-educated civil engineer who arrived in Sydney in 1877 and designed major public works in Newcastle and Sydney, including the Walsh Bay wharves precinct. He also reclaimed and named Walsh Island in the Hunter River at Newcastle.

In 1901, after a decade supervising the engineering of all New South Wales public works projects north of the Central Coast, Walsh was appointed engineer-in-chief of the then-new Sydney Harbour Trust. It was formed to build modern, ‘rat-proof’ sea walls, wharves, warehouses and other cargo-handling facilities around the south shore of Sydney Harbour from Woolloomooloo to Darling Harbour and Pyrmont.

He became commissioner of the SHT in 1913, (following his friend and fellow Irishman, Robert Rowan Purdon Hickson, after whom Hickson Road is named). Walsh retired in 1919; before completion of some Walsh Bay wharves and nine years before construction began on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

He was known for his competence in hydraulic engineering, adept management of complex infrastructure projects, tact and affability. His popularity with colleagues is evidenced by the lavish praise scripted on an intricately illustrated manuscript presented to him in 1900, to commemorate his promotion from Newcastle to Sydney.

A manuscript presented to Henry Deane Walsh by colleagues at the Hunter District Water Supply and Sewerage Board, 1901.

After marrying Lucy Gwendoline Steele in Sydney in 1879, the couple raised one son (who died young in 1916) and five daughters. Their family lived in a series of substantial Victorian residences, mainly on Sydney’s north shore.

Henry Walsh and his family in Sydney, 1910s.

In Ireland he had played football against England; in Australia his sports were golf and tennis. He was a member of Britain’s Royal Society and Institution of Civil Engineers, a Freemason and Anglican, and a councillor of the St Johns Ambulance and Boy Scouts associations.

Architectural note

Walsh has been credited for personally designing all the early 20th century buildings at Walsh Bay because he signed all the trust’s key perspective illustrations and was engineer-in-chief of these developments. However, he had no education in architecture and it seems likely that the buildings and illustrations really were drawn by one or more NSW government architects working in the Public Works office that was then led by Edinburgh-educated George McRae.

More details

Susan Rowe, 2016, Henry Deane Walsh: The Australian years 1879 to 1928: his family, his homes, his work, Epping: Self-published.

C.J. Lloyd and P. N. Troy, 1990, Walsh, Henry Deane (1853–1921)‘, Australian Dictionary of Biography, Vol. 12, Melbourne: Melbourne University Press.