Browse Entries

O'Dowd, Bernard Patrick (1866 - 1953)

Activist and Poet


The Australian Dictionary of Biography writes of O'Dowd:
Over the years, O'Dowd's official career had remained intriguingly distinct from his poetic and political avocations. In his fiery private capacity he had joined the Theosophical Society, Dr Charles Strong's Australian Church and, later, Frederick Sinclaire's Free Religious Fellowship. Active as a lecturer in the Victorian Socialist League from about 1900, he was a foundation member of the Victorian Socialist Party in 1905. In 1907 he founded the Essendon Socialist Group and in 1912-13 assisted in editing the Socialist. One of his colleagues in the V.S.P. was John Curtin. In 1912 he denounced the White Australia policy as 'unbrotherly, undemocratic and unscientific'. In 1913 O'Dowd was president of the Victorian Rationalist Association. On the official side, he had been appointed, 'on loan', assistant librarian in the Supreme Court, Melbourne, in 1887. From the mid-1890s he had written and edited - sometimes ghosted - several law books. In 1913 he became first assistant parliamentary draughtsman.

O'Dowd was co-publisher of the first number of the Tocsin, 2 October 1897. He wrote a regular column, in that paper, as 'Gavah the Blacksmith'.

His books of poetry include Dawnward? (1903), The silent land (1906), The bush (1912) and Alma Venus! (1921).

A lecture calling for 'the poetry of purpose' was published as Poetry militant (1909).

See C. Wallace-Crabbe, 'O'Dowd, Bernard Patrick (1866 - 1953)', Australian Dictionary of Biography Online.



  • O'Dowd, Bernard, Poetry militant, T. C. Lothian, Melbourne, 1909, 29 pp. PDF Details

Book Sections

  • Milner, Andrew, 'Radical Intellectuals: an unacknowledged legislature?', in Verity Burgmann and Jenny Lee (eds), Constructing a culture: a people's history of Australia since 1788, McPhee Gribble/ Penguin Books, Melbourne, 1988, pp. 259-84. PDF Details

Journal Articles

  • O'Dowd, Bernard, 'The value of literature to a young nation (An address delievered to the Free Religious Fellowship.)', Fellowship: a monthly magazine of undogmatic religion and social and literary criticism (Melbourne), vol. 5, no. 5, September 1918. Image PDF Details
  • Prichard, Katharine Susannah, 'Some thoughts on Australian Literature', The Realist, no. 15, 1964, p. 11. PDF Details

Newspaper Articles


  • Bernard O'Dowd, Centenary Souvenir, Australian Poetry Lovers Society, Melbourne, 1966. Image PDF Details


  • Howard, E.M., 'Bernard O'Dowd (In memoriam)', Quest, no. 46, Unitarian Fellowship of Australia, Melbourne, September-October 1955. Image PDF Details
  • O'Dowd, Bernard, 'Proletaria', The poems of Bernard O'Dowd, Lothian, Melbourne, 1941, pp. 47-57. PDF Details
  • O'Dowd, Bernard, 'Young democracy', The poems of Bernard O'Dowd, Lothian, Melbourne, 1941, pp. 59-61. PDF Details
  • O'Dowd, Bernard, 'Dawnward?', The poems of Bernard O'Dowd, Lothian, Melbourne, 1944. PDF Details

See also

  • 'Editorial', The Tocsin (Melbourne), vol. 1, no. 1, 2 October 1897. Image PDF Details
  • 'Foreword', Australian new writing, vol. 1, Current Book Distributors, Sydney, March 1943, pp. 4-6. PDF Details
  • 'Foreword', Australian new writing, vol. 2, Current Book Distributors, Sydney, March 1944. PDF Details
  • 'Tradition and today', Overland, April, Overland, Melbourne, 1957, p. 2. PDF Details
  • Palmer, Vance, 'The future of Australian literature', The Age, Saturday, 9 February 1935. PDF Details
  • Prichard, Katharine Susannah, 'Anti-Capitalist core of Australian literature', Communist Review, August, 1943, pp. 106-7. Transcript HTML Transcript PDF Details
  • Ross. Lloyd, 'Writers and social progress', The Australain observer, July 26, 1947, pp. 111-112. PDF Details
  • Waten, Judah, 'Australian literature in 1962', Realist Writer (Melbourne), no. 12, 1963, pp. 26-8. PDF Details