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William Alexander Long (1839–1915)

by Bede Nairn

This article was published:

William Alexander Long (1839-1915), by unknown photographer

William Alexander Long (1839-1915), by unknown photographer

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24233184

William Alexander Long (1839-1915), politician and race-horse owner, was born on 28 July 1839 in Sydney, son of William Long (1797-1876) and his second wife. His father and uncle, both sentenced to transportation for seven years, had arrived in Sydney, William on 7 September 1815 in the Baring described as a whitesmith, and Alexander (1802-1881) on 1 December 1819 in the Earl St Vincent, later becoming a publican. By 1828 William was licensee of the Saracen's Head at Millers Point and in 1831 took over the Commercial Tavern in George Street North, one of the most lucrative hostelries in Sydney. By 1835 he was a prosperous wine and spirits merchant and later bought Tusculum, a mansion at Potts Point. At Parramatta on 2 March 1827 he had married a widow, Mary Walker; after she died he married Isabella Walford (d.1894) at Sydney on 2 September 1829. They had three daughters: Isabella (1832-1909) who married James Martin; Eleanor Jane (1842-1881) who married W. B. Dalley; and Selina (1844-1926) who married a nephew of A. Cheeke. William also invested in city property and left an estate of over £100,000.

Privately educated, Long studied law in England and was called to the Bar of the Inner Temple on 11 June 1862 and admitted to the New South Wales Bar on 22 December. He did not practise but on 30 June 1875 won the Central Cumberland seat in the Legislative Assembly. Although an undistinguished politician, he was colonial treasurer from August to December 1877 in John Robertson's ministry of which Dalley was also a member. In October he won Parramatta but lost it at the 1880 general election. In 1885, when he was a director of the Australian Joint Stock Bank, the Alexander Stuart-Dalley ministry had him appointed to the Legislative Council.

In parliament Long had revealed his interest in race-horses by arguing that the breeding of thoroughbreds had improved the quality of hackney, carriage, saddle and buggy horses. Opposed to totalizator betting, he observed that if the Sydney Morning Herald wanted to suppress gambling it should stop sending reporters to race meetings. Wealth acquired on his father's death had enabled him to increase his racing activities. In 1880-81 his Grand Flaneur won nine successive races, including the Australian Jockey Club Derby, the Victoria Derby and the Melbourne Cup, before he retired unbeaten. Among his many other horses Geraldine won the 1880 Australian Jockey Club Sires Produce Stakes, Dainty the 1880 Oaks, and Hopscotch the 1895 Epsom. By the mid-1890s, although a severe depression eroded his fortune, he was one of the best-known racing men in Australia. With Tom Brown as his trainer he had large stables and a private training track at Chipping Norton, and he planned the laying out of the near-by Warwick Farm race-course. Chairman of the Australian Jockey Club in 1898-1900, he encouraged increases in prize money. Long also bred horses, both at Chipping Norton and at the Hobartville stud, near Richmond, which he took over from Andrew Town at his death in 1890.

In 1901 Long went to England for several years and resigned from the Legislative Council in 1909. Leaving an estate of £250, he died unmarried in Lewisham Hospital on 30 November 1915. He was buried in the family vault at St Jude's Anglican Church, Randwick. Long was one of the many who lent their patronage and spent their money to enable the Australian thoroughbred industry to attain its high national prominence and international repute.

Select Bibliography

  • D. M. Barrie, The Australian Bloodhorse (Syd, 1956)
  • Illustrated Sydney News, 18 Aug 1877
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 1 Dec 1915
  • newspaper cuttings, vols 92 and 177 (State Library of New South Wales).

Citation details

Bede Nairn, 'Long, William Alexander (1839–1915)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 22 May 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (Melbourne University Press), 1974

View the front pages for Volume 5

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2006-2024

William Alexander Long (1839-1915), by unknown photographer

William Alexander Long (1839-1915), by unknown photographer

National Library of Australia, nla.pic-an24233184

Life Summary [details]


28 July, 1839
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia


30 November, 1915 (aged 76)
Lewisham, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

Religious Influence

Includes the religion in which subjects were raised, have chosen themselves, attendance at religious schools and/or religious funeral rites; Atheism and Agnosticism have been included.