In the main street of Campbell Town, Tasmania is this statue, dedicated to Eliza Forlong who, on deciding in her 40s to emigrate to New South Wales to breed sheep, first walked across Saxony to find the best breeding stock, and therefore became one of the founders of the Australian wool industry.
[First few paragraphs from plaque]
ELIZA AND THE RAM
Eliza Forlong was a remarkable woman who in the 1820’s walked 1,500 miles throughout Saxony (now part of the Federal Republic of Germany) selecting from the best flock of Saxon Merino sheep. This was an outstanding achievement.
Eliza Jack was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1784, and married John Forlong, a Glasgow wine merchant. After the loss of four of their six children from “consumption” (tuberculosis) Eliza and John accepted medical advice to move to a warmer climate. They decided to emigrate to New South Wales. News that there were good wool growing areas available encouraged them to invest in sheep and wool production.
Eliza and her two sons, William and Andrew, travelled to Saxony where the best sheep were produced. In Leipzig, Saxony, they studied the sheep and wool industry. Alone, and on foot, Eliza visited many farms, She selected the finest of sheep and attached a lockable tag with mark () on each, for later collection. She paid the farmers with gold sovereigns she had sewn into her skirts for safekeeping. With her sons, Eliza returned to the farms to gather her sheep then walked them to the port of Hamburg.
In 1829, William accompanied these valuable sheep on the ship Clansman bound for New South Wall. The ship called at Hobart en route to Sydney for fresh supplies. Governor Arthur, recognising the quality of the flock offered William 2,600 acres of land to stay in Van Diemen’s Land. William accepted and settled at Kenilworth, north west of Campbell Town.
Hereunder is an article reprinted from the A.B.C. Weekly, and written by W. H. Hudspeth. It is most interesting to read of this noble woman pioneer who contributed so much to the pastoral industry, and we feel sure you will find the article doubly enjoyable, In view of the fact that Mr. Charles Forlonge, of Condobolin, is a descendant of Elizabeth Forlonge.
“The road to fame is often hard and long, a dusty thoroughfare, thronged with a host of jostling travellers, many of whom fall by the wayside, and few of whom reach their goal. They are, for the most part, a motley, uninteresting crowd, but occasionally there emerged from the ruck a figure which arrests our attention and invites closer scrutiny. In this class was Elizabeth Forlonge, who, 125 years ago, set out on her great adventure, which was to take her to the ends of the earth, and to secure for her a permanent and honoured niche in the temple of Australian fame. A Scotswoman, the daughter of a wealthy banker, John Templeton, she married John Forlonge, a well-to-do minor Scottish laird. In 1824, when our story opens, they were living near Glasgow.
Both were middle-aged, and might well have looked forward to comfortable years of peace and security. But— as so often happens — Fate stepped in and changed the whole course of their lives. They had two sons, William and Andrew — both growing into maturity. Unfortunately William the elder, developed symptoms of tubercular trouble and Mrs. Forlonge, distracted with anxiety, determined to consult her old friend Sir Thomas Brisbane, who had recently returned from his post as Governor of New South Wales. She told him of her boy’s state of health, and he strongly urged her to take him out to Australia where, he said, the dry sunny climate would be beneficial, and where free grants of land were being given to settlers coming into the country with capital. If she went, he suggested that she should take out some sheep of a good strain, as there were great opportunities in the pastoral Industry of New South Wales. He gave her an introduction to Mr. Huskisson, Secretary of State for the Colonies, who advised her to take her sons first to Germany to learn some thing of the wool trade and of business methods, while she herself could go about the country and inspect the flocks of Saxony sheep, which had acquired such a reputation for the quality of their fleece.
These Saxony sheep drevide from Spain, where for many years the King, the nobility, and the Church had had a monopoly of the flocks so great that it had been declared a crime punishable by death to attempt to export any sheep from the country However, It happened that in the middle of the eighteenth century the Elector of Saxony was a cousin of the King of Spain, and the latter gave him a present of three hundred sheep, specially selected from the royal flock. It was from this stock that was built up the merino strain which was destined to have such a far-reaching effect upon the quality of Australian wool in years to come.
Mrs. Forlonge saw the wisdom of Mr. Huskissons’ advice, and she and her husband took their two boys to Germany. Soon after, when Mr Forlonge returned to Scotland, he left his wife and sons at Leipzig. There, they spent the next four years, the boys learning the trade, and their mother going about the country, generally alone and on foot, inspecting, bargaining, and buying the best sheep she could find. It is said that, in order to make sure that she got what she had paid for she would put round the neck of each sheep purchased a collar, sealed with her own seal. It was a wonderful achievement for a woman who had had no experience of sheep farming, knew very little German, and had never managed anything more exacting than her own home. At the end of the four years, after surmounting, all kinds of problems and difficulties, she had managed to collect a little flock of one hundred sheep of the finest quality.
The next question was how to get them over to England she could get no shepherds to help her, the Germans would not cooperate, and in the end she and her sons had to drive their sheep across country to Hamburg. It was a long and. tiring journey–they often had to sleep in the open air, their passports and receipts were constantly demanded for inspection, and on one occasion they were actually imprisoned for a time in the local gaol. At last they reached Hamburg and embarked for Hull, where the precious sheep were landed on English soil. But they still had 100 miles to go to reach Liverpool, the point of departure for Australia, and soon after arrival Mrs. Forlonge, and the boys started to drive them to that port.
As it happened the sheep never were shipped, for they were snapped up by Sir W. E. Parry, who was deeply interested in the wool trade, and when he heard of their arrival inspected them and persuaded Mrs. Forlonge to sell them to him, at a considerable profit. Encouraged by this success, the indomitable little woman decided to go back to Germany and collect another flock. This time she met with a better reception, and succeeded in purchasing and shipping to England another hundred sheep. Having landed them safely, it was decided that William, the elder son, should take them out to Sydney, and soon afterwards he set sail.
In those days vessels bound for Sydney often called en route at Hobart Town, and this is what happened to William and his sheep. As soon as his ship Clansman reached Hobart Town his arrival was reported to Lieutenant-Governor Arthur, and he received an invitation to dine at Government House.” When Arthur heard his story and had inspected the sheep, he at once realised how important it was to keep them, if possible, in Tasmania. He therefore offered William a hand some grant of land in the best pastoral district, near Campbell Town, between Cleveland and the Macquarie River. The young man was attracted by this offer, decided to give up the idea of New South Wales, and. soon after settled down with his sheep, on his new grant, which he called Kenilworth. As every sheep breeder knows, Kenilworth and Winton, which passed into the hands of the Taylor family, have always been noted for the outstanding quality of their merino wool; which is derived from the Forlonge strain.
William wrote to his mother such glowing accounts of his new life in Tasmania that she decided to buy more Saxony sheep and to take them out herself with her second son, Andrew. She went over again to Germany, and with financial aid from her mother, Mrs. Templeton, bought another hundred and fifty sheep of the best type she could find. In 1831 she and Andrew, accompanied by Mrs. Templeton and Mr. Forlonge, sail in the brig Czar, and in due course arrived at Hobart Town and joined William.
In the late thirties of last century the rich pastoral lands of Victoria were being opened up and were attracting many settlers from Tasmania, who flocked across the strait to try their fortunes there. Among them went the two Forlonge sons with their sheep, and later they were followed by their mother and grand mother who settled at Seven Creeks, near Euroa. As the years went by William and his mother prospered, their flocks steadily increased and improved in quality, they took up more and more land, and eventually owned a large area.
Mrs. Forlonge spent the rest of her life at Seven Creeks, where in the fullness of time she died and was buried. In 1935 the Country Women’s Association of Victoria erected over her grave a monument of granite to commemorate the fact that she and her mother were among the first to import fine-wooled sheep into Victoria. A few years later the same association erected in the garden at Kenilworth a sundial to her memory. Elizabeth Forlonge is only one of those noble pioneer women of Australia of whom we know so little and to whom we owe so much. But she has a special claim to remembrance for her contribution to our great pastoral industry–a contribution which has earned for her the title of Mother of the Golden Fleece.
Lachlander and Condobolin and Western Districts Recorder , 3 April 1951