The origins of the Australian fine wool industry are in Spain and Germany. The story of Macarthur’s importation of Spanish merino sheep is today part of our national legend; the story of the later introduction of Saxon merino sheep (in the 1830s) is not as well-known as it should be. It is of no less significance, and it is much more romantic.
It is to a remarkable degree the story of two women, sisters-in-law – Janet Templeton and her brother’s wife Eliza Forlong (or Forlonge, as it had been spelt generations earlier by the family’s French forbears and as it came to be spelt again in Australia).
Janet financed the enterprise, chartered a ship and conveyed the expedition to Tasmania; Eliza tramped Saxony and Silesia buying sheep and herded them across Germany to embark at Hamburg. Without their menfolk the could not, as in the circumstances of the time, have gone far, but the greater part of the initiative and effort was theirs.
Nancy Adams, a great-granddaughter of Janet Templeton, has drawn on hitherto private family archives to elaborate known facts into a delicately written saga of daring and adventure. ‘Saxon sheep’ is more than welcome, historically, for the light it throws on the characters and relations of people whose work is still a vital influence in our national fortunes.
First published: Melbourne : Cheshire, 1961.