Counterfeiter featured on Australian $10 note
- Published: Mar 26, 2022, 8 AM
Most of those who are caught counterfeiting go to jail, a fate much better than that in medieval times when they could be boiled in oil.
So it was notable when the website Historyofyesterday.com ran a story on March 5 under the headline “The Money Forger That Was Honored By Becoming The Face On A Banknote” by Ash Jurberg.
The bank note is Australia’s $10 note from 1966 until 1993. The counterfeiter was an Englishman named Francis Greenway. The $10 paper note also features Henry Lawson, who was a well-known Australian poet whose iconic work captured the mateship and hardship of the goldfields and outback sheep country.
Greenway was born in 1777, and in his family tradition, became an architect who designed a few important buildings in Bristol, including one still standing today.
His streak of good fortune came to an end in 1809 when the collapse of a big and important project left his business bankrupt. His solution to forge financial documents was creative, but he got caught. He pleaded guilty at trial in 1812, and to reduce his sentence, he, as did many other criminals at the time, agreed to be deported with his family to New South Wales in Australia. His term was for 14 years.
Jurberg mentions a theory that he wanted to get caught so he could be sent halfway around the world and have England pay for it.
The family arrived in early 1814 with letters of recommendation and his portfolio. He was granted parole, advertised, and contacted the governor of New South Wales, Lachlan Macquarie, who would soon name him the colony’s acting civil architect. His first project was the design and construction of the aptly named Macquarie Lighthouse. It resulted in Governor Macquarie granting Greenway his emancipation.
His work expanded from there, and included the Hyde Park Barracks, which is now a UNESCO site, and parts of Government House, the Supreme Court, and St. James Church. All are well known, still admired, and remain some of Sydney’s most iconic buildings 200 years later.
His projects were huge, expensive, and extravagant and resulted in accusations of overspending that led to the termination of his employment in 1822. The loss of this job should have also meant the loss of his government house, but when taken to court over his eviction he produced a document showing title. It was only years later that it was discovered to be another forgery.
He could not resurrect his business and died impoverished in 1837, leaving a legacy of 49 buildings in central Sydney based on his designs. A parliamentary election district is named for him, and a suburb, school, and street. But as the story concludes, “perhaps his finest honor was being represented on the 10 dollar note.” Not a bad requiem for a forger.
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