Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Forlonge, William (1811–1890)

by Nancy Adams

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

William Forlonge (1811-1890), pastoralist and politician, was born in Scotland, the son of John Forlong (1783-1834), a Glasgow merchant, and his wife Eliza. The family descended from the Huguenot Comtes de Forlonge who fled their vast estates in Languedoc after the edict of Nantes was revoked. His grandfather was Rev. James Forlong of Rutherglen, Scotland, and his aunt Janet (1785-1857) married Andrew Templeton, the manager of the Paisley Union Bank in Glasgow. His father John Forlong, as a result of correspondence with the Colonial Office and of losing several children from tuberculosis, decided that his two surviving sons, William (1811-1890) and Andrew (1816-1895), should prepare to become woolgrowers in New South Wales. With financial assistance from his brother-in-law, he sent his wife and sons in 1826 to Leipzig, where William worked for three years in a woolsorting house. In 1828 John joined his family and lived for months with shepherds in order to study husbandry at first hand. Meanwhile his wife visited the leading studs on foot and selected ninety-eight Saxon sheep which she and her sons drove from Leipzig to Hamburg and, after shipment, from Hull to Liverpool, whence William sailed with the flock in the Clansman for Sydney. Twenty-two sheep died on the voyage, and in November 1829 when he arrived at Hobart Town, he decided to stay. Claiming goods worth £150 and his sheep, he applied for a free land grant, only to discover that as a minor he was not eligible. To Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur, however, this legal objection was less important than pure-bred sheep, and William was granted 1500 acres (607 ha) near Campbell Town and a reserve of another 1000 acres (405 ha) if he imported more capital. In spite of later claims by the family, Arthur was to deny strenuously to the Colonial Office that he had 'pressed Mr William Forlong to remain in Van Diemen's Land'.

Andrew Templeton died on 21 August 1829 and his widow Janet decided to emigrate to Australia. She sent John Forlong and his wife to Leipzig to buy her some Saxon sheep. She chartered the Czar and, with her nine young children, John and Eliza Forlong, their son Andrew, several servants and the sheep, left Greenock in August 1830. Next January they arrived at Launceston where Eliza and Andrew disembarked with forty of the sheep. The rest of the party and flock reached Sydney in February. Later in 1831 Janet Templeton received a land grant, Kelburn, on the Mulwaree Plains near Goulburn, where she built a house and depastured her sheep.

After seeing his sister settled, John Forlong returned to Van Diemen's Land where he was granted 2500 acres (1012 ha) adjoining William's land and built a house, Kenilworth. Dissatisfied with the site and size of his grant, he importuned the local land board and the Colonial Office for more land. One special grievance was that Andrew, although only 14 on arrival at Launceston, had been refused a grant. When petitions failed, John Forlong decided to go to England with his wife and Andrew to press his claim in person. Soon after reaching London, he died in November 1834. From Kenilworth his sons took up his plea and petitioned Downing Street for further grants; Lord Glenelg referred the long memorial to Hobart where the Executive Council rejected their application.

After some years at Kelburn, Mrs Templeton built Roseneath cottage at Parramatta. In 1838 she and her sons, John and James, overlanded from Goulburn to Euroa where she took up Seven Creeks. Between this station, Parramatta and Goulburn, she divided her time until 1843 when she sold Seven Creeks and went to the Riverina. She sold Roseneath, lost Kelburn in 1845, and finally settled in Melbourne where she died on 15 January 1857. She was buried in St Kilda cemetery. Of her daughters the eldest, Agnes, founded the Grange School for boys in South Yarra, Christina married William Fancourt Mitchell, and Marion married her cousin William Forlonge at Parramatta in 1837. In 1878 her youngest son William founded the Trustees Executors & Agency Co. Ltd in Australia and became its managing director.

William and Andrew Forlonge crossed to Port Phillip in 1838. With headquarters at Werribee, Andrew helped his brother who speculated heavily in sheep and stations. Like their aunt and many others they were hit by drought and depression in the 1840s. They severed their Tasmanian connexion in 1842 by selling Kenilworth to the Taylors and taking sheep in payment. Both brothers were soon insolvent. Andrew went to America where he prospered and never returned to Australia. William recovered from his losses and became a very wealthy pastoralist with many stations in Victoria. In 1851 William bought Seven Creeks at Euroa where he built a large house and lived, except when visiting England whither his wife had taken the children for schooling.

In 1854-56 William Forlonge represented Villiers and Heytesbury in the Victorian Legislative Council. He became spokesman for the extremist squatters who demanded their alleged rights under the 1847 Order in Council. He deplored the gold rush and the radicals who wanted to break the squatters' monopoly of land. In 1854-55 as a member of the commission on the tenure of waste lands of the crown, he nearly disrupted proceedings by his insistent demands and refused to sign the report because he thought it a biased document designed by known enemies of the pastoral interests. In 1858 he was elected for Murray to the Victorian Legislative Assembly but resigned after a year. He moved to New South Wales and acquired pastoral leases in the Riverina and around Wellington. In 1864 he represented Orange in the New South Wales Legislative Assembly. Through speculation in gold shares he went bankrupt a second time in 1867 and many of his stations were held by the Bank of Australia. Within eight years he recovered all his holdings. He died at Dubbo on 15 September 1890.

Select Bibliography

  • R. V. Billis and A. S. Kenyon, Pastoral Pioneers of Port Phillip (Melb, 1932)
  • M. L. Kiddle, Men of Yesterday (Melb, 1961), 370
  • G. Serle, The Golden Age (Melb, 1963)
  • correspondence file under Forlonge (Archives Office of Tasmania).

Citation details

Nancy Adams, 'Forlonge, William (1811–1890)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/forlonge-william-2054/text2549, published in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 18 September 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2014

Life Summary [details]

Alternative Names
  • Forlong, William
Birth

1811
Scotland

Death

15 September 1890
Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia

Cultural Heritage
Occupation