In 1884, Henry Lawson left Sydney by steamship for Newcastle, a sea port and coal-mining centre sixty nautical miles to the north. An apprentice coach painter employed by the Hudson Brothers, railway rolling stock manufacturers of Sydney, Lawson was to spend some months working at the firm's Wickham branch at the western end of the port of Newcastle. This experience brought the young writer into an environment unique in Australia, for Newcastle was an odd mix of coal-miners, railway men, wharf labourers, soap makers, brewery hands and coach-builders. That Lawson lived and worked in this environment at a formative stage of his life might have much altered him, but the effect on his published work was to be uneven. Clearly influenced by his close contact with the sea, his work shows few signs of the other lessons to be learned in Newcastle in the early 1880s.



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