Neither Warren Halloran nor his father Henry Ferdinand had any direct links with the University of Sydney. But a gentle shake of the family tree reveals a fascinating connection going back to before the University was officially founded in 1850.
Warren’s great, great grandfather was Laurence Hynes Halloran, described in the Australian Dictionary of Biography as a bogus clergyman, school master and journalist.
In today’s parlance he would be said to have had a chequered career. An Irishman, orphaned at an early age he entered the navy but was soon jailed for stabbing and killing a fellow midshipman. Acquitted after a year, he became insolvent, was charged with immorality and then entered the navy posing as an Anglican chaplain, eventually being posted as chaplain to the naval and military forces at the Cape of Good Hope.
After three years he was banished from the Cape for publishing in verse the first of many libels that were to be his ruination. Back in England he continued life as a curate using forged letters. Eventually he was undone by counterfeighting a tenpenny frank, and transported to Sydney, joining that other well-known counterfeiter Francis Greenway.
On arrival the Halloran charm and good luck emerged again when he was immediately granted a ticket-of-leave by Governor Lachlan Macquarie and with help of John Macarthur and others he established a private school. “Dr Halloran’s establishment for liberal education” opened in 1820 and quickly secured the support of the leading emancipists in Sydney.
Despite several periods in prison for debt, by 1825 he had won support for the establishment of a public grammar school under the patronage of the governor, with L.H.Halloran as its headmaster and his son as under master. The Sydney Free Public Grammar School was later replaced by Sydney College in 1830 and then by Sydney Grammar School in College Street, where his portrait still hangs today.
The inauguration of the University and the enrolment of its first 24 students took place in the College St premises in 1852 where the first Principal Professor John Woolley spoke of the idea of the University as a “school of liberal and general knowledge.”