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LAURENCE J. HARNETT, SERGEANT-AT-ARMS, PARLIAMENT HOUSE, SYDNEY

The stampless cover has a ms. ‘Stamps not available’ and it was sent from ‘1011, 1st Australian Horse, On Active Service, South Africa’. As shown by the purple handstamp, it went via LONDON EC/ AB/ PAID/ 18 MR 01, which partially obscures a double circle BRITISH FIELD OFFICE/ SOUTH AFRICA/ FE 7/ 01. It was addressed to Miss. E. Harnett. C/o L. J. Harnett Esquire, Parliament House, Macquarie Street, Sydney, N.S.W.

An enlargement of the partially obscured postmark in the top L.H. corner is shown, and the reverse side of the cover was not seen (Figure 2).

 

An obituary for Mr. L.J. Harnett was found in The Sydney Morning Herald dated 30 September 1911 on page 17, and it was headlined ‘Death of Mr. Harnett. Popular Sergeant At Arms’: Mr. Laurence Joseph Harnett, for many years was one of the most familiar figures at Parliament House, died yesterday at his residence, Cronulla. His health had long been unsatisfactory, and it was because of this that a little over two years ago he resigned from the office of Sergeant-at-Arms in the Legislative Assembly. Mr. Harnett was born at Rosebrook, near Cooma, on October 31,1842 and had thus reached the age of 68 years. Mrs. Harnett died many years ago, but there survive two sons and a daughter. One of the sons is a solicitor in the Justice Department, and the other is Clerk of Papers for the Legislative Assembly, and has from time to time discharged the official duties that his father was so long identified with.

The deceased gentleman joined the Parliamentary staff in 1860, and in May, 1873 was appointed Sergeant-at-Arms, an office in which he served for the long period of 36 years. When announcing the resignation to the House in July, 1909, Mr. M’Court, who was the Speaker, said: "I feel sure I shall be expressing the opinions of the hon. members that on all occasions Mr. Harnett performed the duties of his office, which frequently required firmness, tact and judgement, with courtesy, and so as to command the respect and esteem of all concerned. I desire also to place on record my appreciation of his services and to express my deep regret at his retirement, especially in view of the causes which have rendered that step necessary. Mr Harnett served under various speakers from the time of Sir Terence Aubrey Murray, and I believe that all expressed high approval of the manner in which he performed his duties. I believe this approval is shared by the outside public.

Additional information was found on him at a Harnett family genealogy website: Laurence Joseph Harnett maried Ellen Catherine Mary Hensleigh, daughter of John S. Hensleigh and Bridget Carmody, in 1868 in Bombala and she died in 1875 in Cronulla, N.S.W. at the age of 29. There were four children of this union, the first, Geraldine who was born and died in Cronulla in the same year, 1869; Harold Laurence Hensleigh Harnett who was born in Cronulla in 1872 and died in 1948 at Paddington, NSW, at the age of 76. He was the son who stood in for his father in some of his duties and he became the Sergeant-at-Arms from 1919-1936; the other son who was a solicitor, John Square Ollerton Harnett was born in 1873 in Cooma NSW and died in Cronulla in 1873, at age 72; Mary Ellen Kathleen Harnett was born in Cronulla in 1875 and she died there in 1950, aged 75. She would have been aged 26 at the time of the letter sent by the Boer War soldier to Miss E. Harnett, and she may have used her second name of Ellen.

 

A picture of Laurence Joseph in his garb as Sergeant-at-Arms at the Legislative Assembly of the Parliament of New South Wales is seen in Figure 3.

A cartoon from The Illustrated Sydney News dated Saturday October 22, 1892 is entitled ‘Called from the Bar’ and Laurence Joseph Hartnett is seen in different garb (Figure 4).

 

This paper could never have been written without the resources, both text and pictures, provided by Mr. Robert Lawrie, Manager, New South Wales Parliamentary Archives.

 
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