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Henry Broughton (Harry) Pirani (1857–1941)

by Chris Cunneen

This article was published:

This entry is from People Australia

Coombemartin Station (Qld) 'perjurers', 1894 [Pirani is far right, top row]

Coombemartin Station (Qld) 'perjurers', 1894 [Pirani is far right, top row]

Queensland Police Museum, PM0270

Henry Broughton (Harry) Pirani (1857-1941), book-keeper, gaoled trade union supporter, cordial manufacturer and gardener

Birth: 28 June 1857 in Birmingham, Warwickshire, England, and registered as Benetto Henry, son of James Charles Cohen Pirani (1817-c.1880), manager of a woollen and clothing business, and Abigail, née Davis (1821-1897), who had been born in Leeds, England. Unmarrried. Death: 16 July 1941 at Dunwich Benevolent Asylum. Religion: “freethinker”, nominally Anglican, though family was Jewish. 

  • Arrived in Melbourne with his parents and siblings aboard the Victoria on 20 February 1858. His father was a merchant and financier, and the family lived at Prahran and then Emerald Hill (St Kilda).
  • Harry was educated at Melbourne Grammar School 1865-67, Scotch College 1871-72 and briefly at Wesley College.
  • He arrived in Longreach, Queensland, about 1883 and worked in various “positions of trust”. During the shearers’ strike of 1894 he was a book-keeper employed by Messrs Mulhally, Rees and Co. It is not clear why he was present at a gathering of striking shearers at Coombemartin Station on 20 July that year when Charles Prior shot Thomas Ashford. Probably it was because of his friendship with Thomas Roche.
  • Called as witness for the defence at the trial of Roche and others on 25 September for shooting of Prior, Pirani corroborated testimony that a police officer, Sub-Inspector Carr, had shot Ashford.
  • On 4 October Pirani was arrested at Longreach and charged with perjury for that testimony, He was sentenced by judge Granville Miller on 26 November 1894 at the District Court, Rockhampton, to imprisonment with hard labour for four years.
  • Prison records described him as a book-keeper, aged 38, who could read and write, born in England, 5 feet 4 inches (163cm) in height, stout, with black hair, brown eyes and a dark complexion. He had a scar near the points of his second and fourth fingers on his right hand, a mole on the back of his neck, and a mole on his right thigh. On admission he weighed 11 stone 12 lbs. In prison he worked in the washhouse.
  • Following petitions for clemency Pirani was discharged from St Helena prison on 28 May 1897, receiving a subvention of £8 3s. from the trade union’s prisoners defence fund. He weighed 10 stone 10 lbs on his release.
  • Back at Longreach, Pirani went into business with Emil Hugo Rossberg as a cordial manufacturer. From about 1913 he lived at Ingham, where in December 1921 he was appointed justice of the peace. About 1929 he moved to Muttaburra.
  • He worked as a gardener in later years. On 14 August 1931 he was admitted to Dunwich Benevolent Asylum.
  • His cousin, Frederick Pirani (1858-1926) was a New Zealand journalist and politician.

Stuart Svensen, The Shearers' War: the story of the 1891 shearers' strike (Brisbane, 1989)

Additional Resources

Citation details

Chris Cunneen, 'Pirani, Henry Broughton (Harry) (1857–1941)', People Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 14 June 2024.

© Copyright Labour Australia, 2012

Coombemartin Station (Qld) 'perjurers', 1894 [Pirani is far right, top row]

Coombemartin Station (Qld) 'perjurers', 1894 [Pirani is far right, top row]

Queensland Police Museum, PM0270

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Pirani, Benetto Henry

28 June, 1857
Birmingham, Warwickshire, England


16 July, 1941 (aged 84)
Dunwich, Queensland, Australia

Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.

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