TURNER, Henry Gyles (1831-1920)

TURNER, Henry Gyles (1831-1920)
banker and historian
was born at Kensington, London, on 12 December 1831. He was educated at the Poland-street academy and at 15 years of age was apprenticed to William Pickering, the publisher. In 1850 he joined the London joint stock bank and in September 1854 sailed for Australia, arrived in Melbourne on 4 December, and joined the staff of the Bank of Australasia. In 1865 he became accountant of this bank, and in 1870 general manager of the Commercial Bank of Australia, then a comparatively small institution. Under his management it became one of the leading banks of Australia. In the bank crisis of 1893 it suffered very heavy losses and did not recover its position for many years. There can be no doubt that there was much over-trading, and Turner was blamed for the bad state of affairs. He was, however, away in Europe on leave from February 1888 to March 1889, and it was during this period that the "boom" was at its height. He had hoped to retire at a comparatively early age, but now had to set himself to recover the lost fortunes of the bank. By 1901 the worst of its troubles were past and he was able to retire in his seventieth year.
Turner had always been interested in literature and during his banking life did a good deal of writing. In November 1875 he called a meeting of his friends at his house and, with the slender capital of £100, a literary magazine The Melbourne Review was started. It lasted just 10 years and was not only the longest lived but the best purely Australian review that appeared in the nineteenth century. Turner was joint editor with Alexander Sutherland (q.v.) during its later years, and supplied much of the driving force. In 1898 a volume on The Development of Australian Literature, written in conjunction with Sutherland, was published, and after his retirement Turner wrote and published in 1904 his History of the Colony of Victoria in two volumes, a work of some value, not yet superseded. The First Decade of the Australian Commonwealth appeared in 1911, which was followed in 1913 by Our Own Little Rebellion, the Story of the Eureka Stockade. In 1917 when in his eighty-sixth year Turner gave a public lecture on "The War and Literature" and succeeded in completely holding the attention of his audience. He died at Melbourne on 30 November 1920. He married in September 1855 Helen Ramsay who died in 1914, without issue. His portrait by E. Phillips Fox (q.v.), is in the national gallery at Melbourne.
Apart from his historical writings Turner was a busy worker. He was at different times chairman of the associated banks, president of the chamber of commerce, president of the Shakespeare Society, president of the trustees of the public library, museums and national gallery of Victoria, and held numerous other offices in a large variety of institutions. He was tall, lean, and genial in manner, calm in judgment, and always reasonable. His critical work in connexion with literature was of doubtful value, and his historical work at times shows a conservative bias. But these things do not seriously detract from the value of the large amount of sound and careful work carried on through a long lifetime. The bulk of his estate was left to charitable institutions, his manuscripts and a large selection from his fine library went to the public library at Melbourne.
The Cyclopaedia of Victoria, 1903; The Victorian Historical Magazine, May 1921; The Book of the Public Library of Victoria, 1906-31; The Argus, Melbourne, 1 December 1920.

Dictionary of Australian Biography by PERCIVAL SERLE. . 1949.

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  • Henry Gyles Turner — infobox person nationality = AustralianHenry Gyles Turner (12 December 1831 – 30 November 1920) was a notable Australian banker and historian.Turner was born at Kensington, London. He was educated at the Poland street academy and at 15 years of… …   Wikipedia

  • Turner — /ˈtɜnə/ (say ternuh) noun 1. Ethel Sibyl (born Ethel Sibyl Burwell), 1870–1958, Australian novelist and children s writer, born in England; noted for Seven Little Australians (1894). 2. Sir George, 1851–1916, Australian Liberal Party politician;… …  

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