Colonial journalist Edmund Finn is much better known by his pen name, Garryowen. Under this name, Finn wrote The Chronicles of Early Melbourne – an entertaining account of Port Phillip's early years – and was, in his time, ‘as well known as Johnny Fawkner.'

Throughout his life, Garryowen kept numerous notes recording the daily happenings in the settlement, paying special attention to the little details of people's lives and the public events around him. No one was safe from his keen eye and wicked sense of humour.

Garryowen/Edmund Finn came to Melbourne as a young man, in 1841. He worked at the Port Phillip Herald for 13 years, and then became the clerk of the Legislative Council of Victoria.

In this role he met Charles Gavin Duffy, a Member of Parliament and fellow Irishman. On hearing Finn's amusing tales of life in early Melbourne, Duffy urged him to write an anecdotal history. The resulting 1000-page work was published as The Chronicles of Early Melbourne in 1888.

The Chronicles featured humorous anecdotes, such as the tale of a Melbourne doctor who couldn't attract any patients because he was too hairy:

He had a black beard and moustache and was informed that Melbournians distrusted people, especially professionals, with other than closely shaved faces. Whiskers of moderate dimensions might be tolerated, but as far as any medical practitioners who sported moustaches [...] it was simply preposterous!

Finn, E 1888, The Chronicles of Early Melbourne, centennial edition, 1976, Vols 1–3, Heritage Publications, Melbourne Vic.

– Garryowen, The Chronicles of Early Melbourne

However, Garryowen's writings also provided relatively balanced accounts of significant events and issues in the colony:

Three aboriginal women and a child were barbarously shot by a party of white demons in the Western District; and though the Government offered a large reward, and the three persons were tried the following year for the massacre, no conviction was obtained, and the blood-stained slayers, whoever they were, escaped, ‘unwhipt of justice'.

– Garryowen, The Chronicles of Early Melbourne

Finn, E 1888, The Chronicles of Early Melbourne, centennial edition, 1976, Vols 1–3, Heritage Publications, Melbourne Vic.

In colonial Melbourne, stereotypes and cultural misunderstandings meant that it was quite rare for Aborigines to receive justice from the courts.

Garryowen's observations give readers a surprisingly accurate account of the people, events and relationships that shaped the settlement of Port Phillip. They are the basis for much of our understanding of life in the colony.

Photograph of journalist and author Edmund Finn, also known as 'Garryowen'.
The house belonging to journalist and author Edmund Finn.
Sir Charles Duffy, colleague of Garryowen/Edmund Finn.
Pamphlet by Edmund Finn about St Patrick's Societies, which promoted the needs of Irish people living in Australia.