Ancketill (Anketell), Henry (1855–1930), writer, journalist and politician, was born 4 May 1855 in Ancketill's Grove, Co. Monaghan, the fourth son of Major Matthew John Anketell, deputy lieutenant and JP, and his wife, Catherine Frances Anne Ker, daughter of David Ker, MP (1816–78). Ancketill, at thirteen, entered the Royal Navy as a midshipman. After seven years he left the navy to read for holy orders, but he eventually refused ordination because of what he saw as the church's indifference to social problems. After reading the publications of Henry George, an American political scientist and journalist, he became a convert to his ideas on land reform and taxation. He outraged his family by proposing that they should hand over their estate to the four hundred tenants.
He is next heard of in America, writing for George's New York Standard from 1884. Afterwards he was organiser for the English Land Restoration League until he emigrated to Natal in 1896. In South Africa he worked as a journalist and as an agent in Durban, which he represented as a member of the legislative assembly (1901–7). He twice turned down the offer of the speakership of the Natal legislative assembly. In 1910 he unsuccessfully contested the Durban Central seat on behalf of the South African Labour Party in the Union of South Africa's first parliamentary elections. Thereafter he withdrew from politics. From 1918 to 1924 he was the South African manager of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, based in Cape Town.
In Durban he founded the Natal Progressive League to propagate George's idea of a single tax on land value. He championed the rights of white working men and, with Gandhi who was then a barrister in Natal, the cause of indentured Indians. He founded in 1896 the Durban Institute, which provided lectures for working men, and to which he donated thousands of books; it subsequently developed into the first technical college in South Africa. In the Natal parliament he introduced in 1901 the first bill in South Africa proposing votes for women. In 1902, in Durban, he founded the South African Women's Enfranchisement League, of which his wife was the first president.
In addition to his advanced political ideas, Ancketill was a poet and songwriter, a vegetarian, a non-smoker, a teetotaller, and a believer in the Kuhne system of natural healing. He founded, edited and was sole contributor to The Torch (1898–9), a monthly journal to propagate his views and poetry. His friends included George Bernard Shaw (qv), Ramsay MacDonald, Mahatma Gandhi and Bram Stoker (qv).
His wife, Oona Reeson (c.1879–1955), daughter of Joseph Reeson of Durban and formerly of London, whom he married on 7 December 1900, was the first professional artist in South Africa, but she abandoned painting when she took up with the Watchtower movement. There were two sons of the marriage. Ancketill died 22 June 1930 in Cape Town.