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George Essex Evans (1863 – 1909)

George Essex Evans was born on 18 June 1863 at Regents Park, London, the son of a barrister and parliamentarian, John Evans, and his wife Mary (ne Owen). Evanss father died in 1864, after which the family moved to Wales, where he attended Haverfordwest Grammar School. About 1873 the family moved to Jersey, one of the Channel Islands, where Evans entered St Jamess College. A worsening hearing impairment ruled out the army career Evans had hoped for, and together with a brother and two sisters he migrated to Queensland in 1881.

With his brother John, Evans purchased a farm in the Darling Downs region, but after being injured in a riding accident he turned to less physical labour, working as a teacher and a reporter for the Queenslander newspaper. In 1883 Evans was part of a surveying expedition to the Gulf of Carpentaria, and in 1888 he joined the Queensland public service as a clerk. While employed as a public servant, Evans continued to pursue his literary interests, contributing poems and essays to the Australian and British press. His first poetry collection, The Repentance of Magdalene Despar and Other Poems, was published in London in 1891, and from 18921893 he edited the literary annual The Antipodean with the journalist John Tighe Ryan, reviving it again in 1897 with A. B. Paterson as main editor. Evanss second poetry collection, Loraine and Other Verses, was published in Melbourne in 1898. After the turn of the twentieth century, Evans contributed regular columns to the newspapers the Darling Downs Gazette and the Toowoomba Chronicle. His final poetry collection, The Secret Key and Other Verses, was published in Sydney in 1906. Evans died in Toowoomba in 1909.

George Essex Evans achieved national fame for his patriotic poems, such as Ode for Commonwealth Day, which won a prize for the best poem celebrating Australian Federation. His poetic achievements were celebrated by the people of Toowoomba, who erected a monument in his honour, and an annual memorial lecture is still held in his honour.

Poetry Collections
  • The Repentance of Magdalene Despar and other poems London Sampson Low, Marston, Searle, & Rivington 1891
  • Loraine and other versesMelbourne George Robertson and Co. 1898
  • The Secret Key and other verses Sydney Angus and Robertson 1906
  • The Collected Verse of G. Essex Evans Sydney Angus and Robertson 1928
Suggested Further Reading
  • Ross Fitzgerald George Essex Evans, 1863-1909, Poet of ToowoombaImago 1.2 Sept 1989 p. 53
  • Bill Johnston George Essex Evans, Patriotic Poet of Australia: His Life and Family Maleny, Qld the Author 2006
  • Christopher Lee Monumental Authority and Regional Identity: The Municipal Canonisation of George Essex EvansProceedings: Association for the Study of Australian Literature, Sixteenth Annual Conference 3-8 July 1994 Canberra ADFA 1995 pp. 93-99