[Editor: An article about Grant Hervey.]
Dead: The man who ruined De Garis
Grant Harvey’s strange life ends
Story of erratic poet who just missed being a genius
A man who was nearly a great Australian poet died in Melbourne the other day.
His original name was George Cochrane, but he legally re-named himself Grant Madison Hervey, and by that name he was widely known.
He wrote some stirring verse, was a powerful speaker, and had a remarkable knowledge of world history.
But he had an unfortunate kink in his make-up, and it brought him to ruin.
Grant Hervey was born in Coleraine (Vic.) about 54 years ago.
In his early twenties he took to writing verse, and produced some attractive stuff, noted for its vigorous style. He had a fine Australian sentiment and much of his verse was on patriotic themes.
About 20 years ago he published a book of poems called “Australians Yet,” and one or two of the poems in it should be worth a place in any real Australian Anthology.
For a couple of years in the early part of this century Hervey was in Western Australia and wrote for week-end papers but he soon tired of this State and went to Sydney again.
In politics, Grant Hervey was an ardent Ausrralian Republican in the days when there was a definite school of Republicanism in Australia and socially and morally he was a rebel in nearly every detail. Finally he struck trouble and got into difficulties with the law eventually being sentenced to two years for forgery.
Hervey appealed and conducted his own defence in brilliant fashion but nevertheless he was forced to do his term of gaol.
It was after he came from gaol that he reapepared as a lecturer and publicity expert “from America” and he arrived in Mildura when the late C. J. DeGaris was at the height of his fame. Then occurred the clash which caused Hervey to plot the libel that was the first step in the ruin of DeGaris.
It happened thus:
Hervey a fine speaker got in touch with leading Mildura citizens and announced a series of lectures attacking the DeGaris plans for Mildura development.
When Hervey had finished his first big lecture C. J. DeGaris rose in the audience.
“Would Mr. Hervey answer a question?” he asked.
“Certainly,” replied Hervey.
“Would you mind telling us,” purred DeGaris, “where you have spent the last five years?”
Hervey, who had been talking on a semi-religious note all the evening, nearly went mad with fury, and immediately the tale of his gaol experiences went round the audience. Hervey was a fallen idol!
DeGaris had won, but he had made an enemy that was destined to forge the first link in the chain of circumstances that brought about the DeGaris financial debacle.
A little later DeGaris launched his great Western Australian development scheme at Kendenup.
He placed on the market some £150,000 worth of Kendenup debentures. Sales had just passed the £100,000 mark, when Melbourne was astounded one Monday morning to find the whole city placarded with announcements reading:
“THE GREAT SMASH”
C. J. DeGaris Bankrupt — Enormous Losses
“Although figures are not yet available, nett deficiency will be at least a quarter of a million.”
These placards were Grant Hervey’s revenge for what DeGaris did to expose him in Mildura.
Although contradictions were speedily forthcoming, the statements raised a doubt in the public mind, they held up money at a tune when it was vitally needed, and practically stopped the sale of the £50,000 worth of debentures required to place Kendenup on a sound footing.
The scheme never recovered from this cowardly blow, and in 12 months Kendenup was in liquidation and DeGaris’ own financial ruin followed.
Hervey’s attack caused intense indignation among DeGaris’ friends, but Hervey still persisted in remaining in Mildura, where he ran an obscure little paper.
One day a group of men took Hervey from his house in a car to the local aerodrome, and there tarred and feathered him.
A number of people were fined subsequently in connection with the incident.
Hervey came under police notice again for minor offences, and two or three years ago re-appeared as an important American journalist writing on Australian affairs.
But he was soon recognised and lapsed into obscurity again.
Some months ago he fell a victim to diabetes, and death claimed him at the Alfred Hospital, Melbourne.
He was a fine-looking man in his prime, and had great powers without the gift to use them rightly.
Perhaps when he is forgotten some of his works will be remembered.
The Mirror (Perth, WA), Saturday 9 December 1933, page 8
The article included a photo of Grant Hervey, with the accompanying text: “The man who might have been Australia’s greatest poet: Grant Hervey”.
[Editor: Added an opening quotation mark before “Although figures “; added a full stop after “feathered him”.]