Eliza Forlonge

Eliza Forlonge (1785-1859), importer of Saxon sheep and pastoralist, was born in Scotland, the daughter of Alexander Jack, a teacher. On 26 November 1804 she married John Forlong, a Glasgow merchant of Huguenot descent. (The name was variously spelt Forlong and Forlonge). After the first four of their six children died from tuberculosis, they decided to emigrate. They appreciated the opportunities opening for sheep- rearing in the Australian colonies, and they decided to take their sons to Germany to learn the arts of wool-classing and husbandry of the Saxon sheep.

By Eliza's own account, it was her idea, to which she persuaded her husband. Armed with introductions to leading woolgrowers and woolbrokers, and with the promised support of the Colonial Secretary for their planned emigration, Eliza in 1827 took her sons William (1811-1890) and Andrew (1816-1898) to Germany. Andrew continued his education there; William, after learning the language, was placed in a leading wool-sorting warehouse.

Eliza spent much of the next four years searching out the best merino flocks. In 1829 with her sons she travelled throughout Saxony selecting sheep and herded the flock down the Elbe to Hamburg, entirely on foot. At times she was alone with the shepherds: 'My heart used to sink, as I heard the chains of the drawbridge rattle on coming to a fortified town, lest . . . our papers . . . should by any chance be lost.' Eliza saw the sheep to Liverpool and finally by ship to Greenock, where they were sold to the Australian Agricultural Company.

She similarly obtained a flock for William to take to Van Diemen's Land and returned for another for Andrew and her widowed sister-in-law, Janet Templeton. The Templetons and the Forlongs arrived at Launceston on the chartered brig Czar in January 1831. John and William obtained adjoining grants near Campbell Town where, between the Esk and Macquarie Rivers, they built 'Kenilworth'. William was soon exploring the possibilities of crossing to Port Phillip.

Eliza managed 'Kenilworth', usually single-handed, while her husband engaged in various business ventures in Hobart Town. The Forlongs also had interests in a flour mill at Campbell Town and in 'Meadowbank', a 2800 ha sheep run nearby. In 1834 John and Eliza returned to Britain to press Andrew's claim for a land grant, and while in Glasgow John died. On her return Eliza managed her sons' affairs while they moved stock and capital to Victoria. In 1840, described as 'an extensive proprietor in Van Diemen's Land but intending to move her flocks to Port Phillip', Eliza was in Glasgow arranging passages for bounty emigrants. She was again in Glasgow in 1844.

From 1845 she made her home in Victoria with William and his wife, first at 'Woodstock', Merri Creek, then on 'Euroa' station and from 1851 at 'Seven Creeks', Euroa. She ran the station and settled disputes while William speculated in properties and flocks and journeyed to England with his wife to see to their children's education. William Howitt found her 'full of the vigour and enjoyment of life, . . . very fond of the country, and manages all with the utmost ease'. Andrew had been declared insolvent in 1844 and later went to America. Eliza died at Seven Creeks on 5 August 1859. Her contribution to the Australian fine wool industry is marked by a sundial to her memory at Kenilworth, and by a monument at Euroa.

Audrey Hudspeth and Margaret Higgins