Rev John Dunmore Lang


Born on 25 August, 1799 at Greenock and died in Sydney on 8 August 1878. John Dunmore Lang had a finger in most pies in colonial New South Wales. He arrived in 1823, a young Presbyterian minister in search of a pulpit. Fifty years later his funeral befitted a founding father not only of the Presbyterian Church in Australia but of the nation itself.

He established the Scots Church and his own secondary school, the Australian College. He was a populist politician whose republican and democrat leanings strengthened during a quarter-century in the Legislative Council. He ran three newspapers. He circled the globe eight times; one of his many missions was to recruit clerics, along with respectable tradesmen and small farmers from the British Isles--anywhere but Papist Ireland. He wrote a book or two during most voyages.

And that is not the half of it. Volatile and vindictive, Lang loved a fight, answered only to God and was never still. Towards the end of a life peppered with church rifts, he was locked out of the very church he had built. The financial dealings of this fierce preacher of moral rectitude were labyrinthine and shady. They twice landed him in gaol--as did a willingness to libel opponents. Yet he was a hero to ordinary workers and a perceptive critic of the treatment of Aboriginal people.

Lang is a problematic giant from our colonial past. Don Baker, his cool, authoritative, gently ironic biographer, considers him 'almost as large a figure as he claimed to be'.

Source: Melbourne University Press

On the way back from the second of his nine voyages to Britain (1830–31), he married his 18-year-old cousin Wilhelmina Mackie at Cape Town. They were married for 47 years. The Langs had ten children; only three of whom survived him.

Lang died in August 1878 following a stroke. His funeral, it was reported, on 10 August, was the 'largest ever seen in Australia'- a funeral procession over a mile in length, led by 500 Chinese, with perhaps 70,000 people lining the streets. His wife died in 1888, and the last of his children in 1934. There were no grandchildren.

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