John Dunmore Lang – a different view

At the beginning of September 2019 I was in Sydney.  I caught a train to Wynyard Station and was walking north along York Street towards the Society of Genealogists in Kent Street.  As I didn’t have a lot of spare time before I needed to be there I wasn’t able to dawdle but spotted a couple of things on my map and on the way that I intended to have a good look at on my way back to Wynyard.

My map showed Wynyard Park and I passed a sign to the ‘John Dunmore Lang’ statue, then there was Lang Park – curiously not the location of Lang’s statue, and finally it was St Patrick’s Roman Catholic Church.

The latter was special – where my g-grandparents, George FUSSEN and Mary McNEIFF, were married in 1890.  I had been there about 30 years ago and it was definitely time for another visit.  George FUSSEN was French and he was married by the French priest Fr Augustine Ginisty.  At the time George and Mary stated their usual place of residence was Sydney and a few months later when their first child was born their residence was Woollahra in Sydney.  They may have chosen St Patrick’s because of the French priest or because of its reputation for priests were more compassionate in confession or both!  There is always a special feeling being in a place that was significant to your ancestors and this occasion was no different.

A little further down York Street on my return trip, was the Lang statue.

I was a tad surprised to see the John Dunmore Lang statue – in Geelong where I currently live, he was known for his immigration schemes.  The late Ian Wynd’s lifetime research resulted in A Thoroughly Protestant Emigration: the emigration activities of the Rev Dr J D Lang.  I wasn’t aware of his activities in Sydney that could possibly warrant such a large statue in a prominent position.

From the plaque at the base of the statue I learnt about a totally different person.  The plaque read:

John Dunmore Lang

(25 August 1799 – 8 August 1878)

The Hon. R J Carr MP. Premier of New South Wales, unveiled this plaque as a bicentennial commemoration of the life and work of the Reverend Doctor John Dunmore Land, and to honour Lang’s contribution to Australia.  For fifty-five years Minister of the Scots Church, Sydney, Lang founded the Presbyterian Church in Australia.  He promoted schemes for skilled and educated immigrants.  He helped introduce higher education and supported a general school system.  He had a vision for Australia as an independent nation with a significant role in the Pacific region.  Lang respected the intelligence and culture of the Aboriginal people and he worked to remove the discriminatory poll tax from the Chinese population.  Lang was elected to the New South Wales Parliament on seven occasions with Wynyard Park the scene of his triumphs in the popular vote elections to the Legislative Assembly.  A fervent democrat, Lang helped establish responsible government in New South Wales, laid the foundation for a future federal structure by urging separation for Victoria and Queensland, and he was one of Australia’s pioneer republicans.

A A Edmonds                                                              The Hon. R J Carr MP
Convenor                                                                    Premier of New South Wales
John Dunmore Lang Bicentary Committee
25 August 1999

The inscription on the pedestal below the statue read:

John Dunmore Lang D.D.
Patriot and Statesman
Born 1799 at
Greenock – Scotland
Died 1878
Sydney

It was almost as if I was reading about two different people but there is no question – it is the same Rev. John Dunmore Lang.

2 comments

  1. I am a huge fan of John Dunmore Lang and have many books on his life & emigration schemes to Australia. My gt gt grandparents William & Margaret Cuthbertson arrived in Sydney In January 1848 on the ship the “Minerva” as assisted emigrants & part of JD Lang’s bounty schemes. He was responsible for so many Scots artisans “who could read & write” coming to Australia and he changed the face of Australia.

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    • Hi Jan – I certainly was aware of his immigration schemes – Ian Wynd had spent time in Vic, NSW, Qld, England and Scotland researching this part of Lang’s life. I was privileged to be able to publish a copy of Ian’s book and put a fully bound and covered copy in Ian’s hands two days before he died. He was well aware of what he was holding and it was obvious how much it meant to him at the time. I was just unaware of Lang’s political life in NSW which is what the monument and plaque was ‘celebrating’ – I had goosebumps standing there reading it!

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