Where it all began ….
Mrs Eliza Forlonge was a pioneering person in the establishment of Tasmania’s well known fine Merino sheep. Mrs Forlonge, the wife of a Glasgow merchant, moved herself and her sons, William and Andrew from Scotland to live in Saxony, Germany in 1820 for the benefit of their health. Australia held great interest for Mrs Forlonge and her family due to the warmer climate and she had read of the success of the Merino sheep established by John MacArthur in Australia and therefore, took interest in the fine Merinos in Germany. Mrs Forlonge took it upon herself and her sons to learn German and about the production of wool and the management of sheep. After significant time of becoming educated within the business of producing wool, the family then set forth with the intention of personally selecting 100 of the finest Merino sheep. Mrs Forlonge selected these animals with meticulous care and each sheep selected was given a collar with the Forlonge marking engraved on it for their identification. The distance travelled by the courageous and determined Eliza to select these influential animals was significant and at times, challenging. The farms visited were widely dispersed therefore meaning that the sheep had to remain on the farms whilst they journeyed forward to complete their selection.
Once the family had selected 100 of what they considered to be the best quality Saxon Merino sheep, the Forlonge’s retraced their steps and collected their animals, shepherding them to Hamburg. The journey, as you can imagine was one of difficulty. The family faced issues such as lack of accommodation, on occasion being forced to sleep out in the open and having to paying great amounts for safety and feed for the sheep. Despite the hardship, the family and their flock made it to Hamburg and sailed to England. From England, son William and their valuable sheep sailed on the ship the “Clansman” in 1829.
William was given 2,560 acres in Campbell Town in which he named the property Kenilworth. Mrs Forlonge returned to Germany and purchased an additional 130 sheep and then joined her son, with the rest of her family in Van Diemen’s Land. In 1835 part of the flock was sold and their property was leased to David Taylor at the neighbouring property, Winton. In 1838, the Forlonge family relocated to Victoria and the property was purchased by David Taylor.
The sheep that migrated with Eliza Forlonge and her family to Tasmania were sold to many Merino sheep breeders and therefore are the gene source for much of the fine wool industry within Tasmania and Australia. Eliza’s contribution is recognised in many memorials dedicated in the local area of Campbell Town. One memorial resides on the Kenilworth property. A bronze sculpture celebrating the establishment of the Merino sheep in Tasmania and Australia was erected in the main street of Campbell Town of Eliza Forlonge and the Merino sheep.
At the Tasmanian Wool Centre here in Ross, we are fortunate enough to have on display a Winton Estate Merino fleece and along with Eliza’s story, a portrait that is said to be of Eliza herself. We recognise this exceptional woman’s contribution is significant to the Midlands region of Tasmania and as part of Wool Week for 2019, we invite you to come and be immersed in the stories that shaped our state.
Information interpreted from “Winton Merino Stud 1835-1985 by Vera C. Taylor”