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Currie, John Lang (1856–1935)

by Mary Turner Shaw

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

This is a shared entry with Henry Alan Currie

Sir (Henry) Alan Currie (1868-1942) and John Lang Currie (1856-1935), pastoralists, were sons of John Lang Currie of Larra, near Derrinallum, Victoria, and his wife Louise, née Johnston. Alan, the eighth child and sixth son, was born on 6 June 1868 at Osborne House, Geelong. Educated at Melbourne Church of England Grammar School, he graduated in civil engineering in 1891 from the University of Melbourne. In 1894 he was civil engineer for a contractor to the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works' sewerage scheme at Werribee, and from April 1896 was assistant engineer in the Public Works Department of Western Australia, where he took some part in the water-supply project for the Kalgoorlie goldfields.

On his father's death in 1898 he returned to Victoria and, having inherited part of the Gala and Titanga estates, reverted to the family calling. Two years later he and his brother Edwin bought the 17,000-acre (6880 ha) southern part of A. S. Chirnside's Mount Elephant run, with a homestead on Logan's Lake. There he began breeding merino sheep, Shorthorn cattle and racehorses. In 1906-14 he served as a councillor of the Shire of Hampden, and was shire president in 1909 and 1911.

In his university days Currie had been a gunner in the volunteer Rupertswood battery of horse artillery founded by Sir William Clarke. After the outbreak of World War I he enlisted in 1915 in England, serving in Belgium and France as a lieutenant in the Royal Field Artillery. He was mentioned in dispatches and in January 1918 was awarded the Military Cross for making 'a most daring and gallant personal reconnaissance in order to secure forward positions for the guns'. In January 1920 he was demobilized with the rank of major.

Parts of Mount Elephant had been sold from time to time, and when in 1920 the last portion went to soldier settlement, Currie bought the 8000-acre (3238 ha) Ercildoune, near Ballarat, first settled by the Learmonth brothers: he carried on there the fine-wool merino stud the brothers had established under the guidance of the Thomas Shaws, senior and junior, based on the original Camden Park strain, as his father's Larra merinos had also been. On the sale of the Shaws' Wooriwyrite station in 1923 Currie bought the small pure-bred Camden Park flock that had been preserved there, and maintained the breeding of what had become for the pastoral community a living museum piece.

After the war Currie had concerned himself with the interests of the man on the land, and introduced a group settlement scheme for ex-servicemen. In June 1928 he was elected a member of the Legislative Council of Victoria for the Nelson Province, and was an honorary minister in the 1928-29 Nationalist ministry of Sir William McPherson. He did not contest the seat after the redistribution in 1940. In the House he spoke rarely, but always on subjects with which he was thoroughly conversant. He was remembered for his 'fearless and lucid way of putting forward his views'.

Alan Currie was probably best known for his lifelong association with the Australian turf. He became a member of the Victoria Racing Club in 1899, and soon began importing English mares for his stud. His first win was at Caulfield in 1906, and one of his best horses, Mala, won the Newmarket handicap in 1909. He was also successful in steeplechases and hurdle races. In 1910-13 he was chairman of the Victoria Amateur Turf Club, resigning in 1914 to become a committee-member of the V.R.C., of which he was vice-chairman in 1920 and chairman in 1935. On 11 June 1902 at St John's Church of England, Toorak, he had married Muriel, granddaughter of Henry Miller; they had no children. They entertained widely in the handsome old Ercildoune homestead where guests included the Duke of Gloucester during his Australian tour in 1934. That year Currie became a director of the Equity Trustees, Executors & Agency Co. and in 1937 was knighted. He died on 10 October 1942 at Ercildoune and was buried privately in Learmonth cemetery. His estate was valued for probate at £123,768.

John Lang Currie junior was born on 21 May 1856 at Geelong. He was educated at Geelong College and trained as a pastoralist on Larra which, with his sister's husband Patrick Sellar Lang, he later leased from his father. After the rabbit plague of the late 1880s, which ate out the native grasses, Larra's pastures became too rich for the fine-wool merino; these were replaced by a Lincoln cross to produce a larger sheep of stronger wool.

In 1898 John Currie inherited the homestead portion of Larra. Under his ownership the property became known for its Corriedale stud and Currie himself as a judge at sheep shows. He was a councillor of the Pastoralists' Association of Victoria in 1908-23 and a vice-president in 1918-19. He also maintained the station's long-established Shorthorn dairy herd and developed its stable of thoroughbreds, which he raced with some success at district meetings and in Melbourne. Shooting and coursing were two other sports he enjoyed, and for many years the Commonwealth Cup, the major annual coursing meeting, was held on Larra.

On 5 September 1894 at All Saints, St Kilda, Currie had married Lorna Mary Box and they had one daughter. In 1898-1922 he was a councillor of the Shire of Hampden and was shire president in 1903 and 1916. He was also a director of the Derrinallum Butter Factory and a supporter of the Presbyterian Church. He died at Larra on 27 July 1935, and was buried in Lismore cemetery. His wife and daughter survived him. He left an estate valued for probate at £94,161.

Select Bibliography

  • A. Henderson (ed), Australian Families, vol 1 (Melb, 1941)
  • M. T. Shaw, ‘Larra’, in Australian Council of National Trusts, Historic Homesteads of Australia, vol 2 (Syd, 1976)
  • Pastoral Review, 16 Jan 1930, 16 Aug 1935, 16 Nov 1942
  • Camperdown Chronicle, 30 July 1935, 13 Oct 1942
  • Australasian (Melbourne), 17 Oct 1942.

Citation details

Mary Turner Shaw, 'Currie, John Lang (1856–1935)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/currie-john-lang-6337/text9951, published first in hardcopy 1981, accessed online 17 December 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 8, (MUP), 1981

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