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CURRIE, John Lang (1818-1898)

CURRIE, John Lang (1818-1898)

John Lang Currie.

John Lang Currie.

John Lang Currie of Cressy was among the founders of Geelong College, as a member of the Corresponding Committee which undertook to promote the College to prospective students in 1861.

Alexander Henderson in 'Hendersons Australian Families' detailed his life:
'John Lang Currie, of Larra, was born at Howford, Ettrick, Selkirkshire, Scotland, 17th Novem­ber, 1818, educated at Selkirkshire Grammar School, and before leaving Scotland, gained valuable experience in sheep breeding. His decision to settle in Victoria was no doubt influenced by hearing accounts of his cousins, Thomas and William Lang, who had come out to Port Phillip in 1839, and were grazing sheep on a run on the Saltwater River, near Melbourne.

On arrival in Port Phillip in 1841, John Lang Currie joined his cousins and was in partnership with them at Saltwater River and later at Bunninyong ... , until shortly before he acquired the right of run of 'Larra Station'.

In 1844 he entered into partnership with Thomas Ander­son in the purchase of what was later known as 'Larra run', 32,000 acres, near Lismore, from James Kinross. It had been portion of runs taken up by John and Thomas Brown in 1840, known as Mount Elephant No. 1 and Mount Elephant No. 2. These included what is now known as Larra, Gala, Titanga, Ettrick and Poligolet. The station was not named until after purchase, when, as it became com­pulsory to give each run a name, they first of all chose 'Geelengla', but shortly afterwards changed this to 'Larra', the native word meaning a spring. The following is the story of the purchase of 'Larra' : - One day in 1844, John Lang Currie arrived at the station (then owned by James Kin­ross) with a view to purchasing the property. 'He had ridden from the Lang's property at Bunninyong, and found that Kinross had given the offer to a buyer, Duncan Hoyle, who was coming from Geelong to inspect. This offer held good until noon the next day, but Mr. Hoyle, through some mishap, did not arrive at the appointed hour, so Kinross extended the time to 4 p.m.; there was no appearance of Hoyle at the end of the extension, and Mr. Currie's offer was accordingly accepted. Just as the deal was completed, Mr. Hoyle arrived on the scene.

The stock and plant on the run consisted of 1500 sheep and lambs, four working bullocks, a dray, one hundred hurdles, and a shepherd's watch box. The improvements were three huts, one of which served as a homestead, one for station hands' accommodation, while the third was used as a wool shed. After purchase, it was found that owing to lack of water, five hundred ot the sheep had to be sent to Lang Brothers' run at Bunninyong for agistment.

Many people at the time doubted the wisdom of the purchase of 'Larra', as there was no water on the surface of the station, although it could be had by shallow sinking. Lake Tooliarruc was a dry bed, and on Lake Colac trees were growing far below the high water mark of today, but within a year after the purchase, the springs burst to the surface, and the water difficulty was at an end. It appears that the purchase was made in the midst of a protracted drought, as the first shearing only yielded 11 bales of wool, which had to be washed at a water hole at the junction of Munday's Gully and the main creek, the only water near enough for the purpose.

The partnership in Larra terminated about 1848, Thomas Anderson dropped out, and John Lang Currie became the sole owner of the run.

He surmounted many difficulties, not the least being the loss of the station hands when gold was discovered; even the station waggon, which was returning from Geelong with supplies after taking the wool to market, was abandoned near Shelford, and the bullocks let loose. They were eventually found and the waggon taken to 'Larra', the con­tents being untouched. He was left with only the manager to look after the sheep; this meant a night and day job, as packs of dingoes were scouring the country. It was at this time that he heard of the projected arrival at Port Phillip of the immigrant ship 'Marco Polo', and he pro­ceeded to Melbourne, went straight to the ship, and engaged six Scottish emigrants, who did not desert him for the diggings. Had this assistance not been obtained, the run would probably have been abandoned.

Nor being satisfied with the class of sheep taken over with the run, he set to work to improve the breed, pur­chasing a number of pure bred rams of the Macarthur blood from Mr. Campbell, of Mount Hope; this was the foundation of the 'Larra' merinoes. At the Skipton Sheep Show, the most important show in Victoria in the early days, the 'Larra' Stud rams were regarded as being on a par with those of 'Ercildoune', than which no higher praise could be at that time bestowed. In later years, 'Larra' rams were purchased by leading stud masters throughout Australia, and many were shipped to New Zealand, South Africa and the United States. In the seventies, the wool clip from this property reached such a standard that it is doubtful whether any other fine wool flock in Victoria could match it.

John Lang Currie ultimately acquired the freehold of 'Larra station', and in 1850 took over 'Western Mount Ele­phant run', 14,300 acres, near Darlington, and three years later subdivided the property, retaining the portion known as 'Mount Elephant No. 1'. In 1886, 'Titanga Estate' was purchased and later on, 'Gala Estate', all properties adjoining 'Larra'. He also had pastoral interests in New South Wales and Queensland, including 'Telemon Station', at Hughenden, in the latter State.

He gave particular attention to aboriculture, and upon what was almost a treeless country, he established approxi­mately 2,000 acres of eucalyptus plantations, which are now a feature of the Western Plains.

John Lang Currie was one of the most outstanding pastoral pioneers of Victoria, and his energy and sound judgment can be best gauged by the fact that under his supervision the sheep shorn at 'Larra' increased from 6161 in 1846, to 34,277 in 1879, on the same area of land. At the time of his death, he was the proprietor of 80,000 acres, some of the best sheep country in Victoria, and wis running 100,000 sheep. He was also one of the pioneers of the frozen meat trade, and a member of the Board of the first Company formed for the purpose of exporting meat to England.

He took a keen interest in local affairs; was the first chairman of the Hampden and Heytesbury Roads Board, formed in 1857, and a member of the Hampden Shire Council, when it replaced the Roads Board; a Justice of the Peace; a prominent member and Elder of the Presbyterian Church, representing both Lismore and St. Kilda Parishes in the General Assemblies; a Fellow of the Royal Geo­graphical Society, and a Director of various companies, including the Australasian Mortgage and Agency Company.

To quote from an obituary notice ar the time of his death, 'He was one of the foremost and most notable of that band of pioneers who have contributed to make this Colony what it is ... . His high, conscientious respect for the rights of others, his liberality, his keen sense of honour, and above all, his deep religious sentiment, were even more prominent traits than a force of character, energy, and sound judgment, which made him the successful man he became.'

He married, at St. Kilda, Melbourne, 14th May, 1852, Louise, daughter of James Stewart Johnston, one time mem­ber of the Victorian Parliament. She died at 'Repton', Toorak, Melbourne, 14th November, 1900.

John Lang Currie died at his town residence, 'Eildon', St. Kilda, Melbourne, 11th March, 1898, having had issue seven sons and four daughters.'

His sons, William John Currie (1855-1887), John Lang Currie (1856-1935), and Cedric James Currie were all educated at Geelong College.

Sources: Hendersons Australian Families pp168-169.

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