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Langlands, George (1803–1861)

by L. J. Blake

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

George Langlands (1803-1861), merchant and magistrate, was born at Dundee, Scotland, son of John Langlands, baker, and his wife Christian, née Thoms; he was a descendant of William Langlands (b.1590) of Kilgraston. Educated at Dundee, he became a linen merchant at St Andrews and as a public-spirited citizen was elected mayor. In 1835 while chief magistrate he chaired the meeting of the Liberal and Reforming Electors of St Andrews that sought Lord John Russell as the district's parliamentary candidate. He had married Betsy, daughter of Robert Ritchie; they had two sons and three daughters.

Encouraged by his brothers, Henry and Robert who had established a foundry in Melbourne, George sailed with his family in the Lady Kennaway and arrived at Port Phillip in December 1848. At the foundry he met the overlander, James Monckton Darlot, who had taken up the Brighton run in the Wimmera district, and who suggested that Langlands establish a store and post office on that station. For four weeks with three bullock drays laden with stores and household effects the family made a difficult journey north from Melbourne via Campbell's Creek and thence westerly till they camped on 30 June 1849 by the Wimmera River, where the teamsters' tracks from many stations met at the crossing. The tiny settlement of Horsham received official recognition in October when Langlands opened his log store and post office. The site later became the corner of Hamilton and Darlot Streets; near by was the family home also built of logs. This little outpost served squatters spreading west as far as the new colony's border, north beyond Lake Hindmarsh to the mallee country and south to the Glenelg River.

To ensure delivery of supplies for the stations Langlands set up a bullock dray service to Geelong and Melbourne and maintained it even when drivers charged £80 a ton as the gold discoveries increased costs. His early trading was mainly by barter: with the Aboriginals, sugar and clothing in exchange for wild game; with the settlers, station stores for wool, hides and tallow. While no local bank existed, rural produce was bought by tokens redeemable at Geelong. Although the lure of gold depleted the district's workforce Langlands benefited by trade with South Australians and other migrants overlanding to the diggings. His store, built in brick in 1854, became a focal centre for trading and for news and mail that took two weeks to arrive from Melbourne. In 1857 the district's first pack-horse mailman, Constantine Dougherty, future owner of the Wimmera Star, rode from the store to serve distant stations. Langlands also consigned regular shipments of rural products direct to England but suffered heavy loss when an entire cargo was lost at sea. He died aged 58 in Melbourne after a stroke on 9 February 1861.

However reticent, Langlands was a devout Presbyterian. He was described by Dougherty as 'the mentor of the town … a man of sterling character, and those who gained his confidence could always rely on his friendship and assistance'. Descendants are still highly respected in the city he founded.

Select Bibliography

  • H. Coulson, Horsham Centenary Souvenir Booklet (Horsham, 1950)
  • Langlands & Sons Pty Ltd, A Century of Trading in Horsham, 1849-1949 (Horsham, 1951)
  • L. J. Blake and K. H. Lovett, Wimmera Shire Centenary (Horsham, 1962)
  • family papers (privately held).

Citation details

L. J. Blake, 'Langlands, George (1803–1861)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.online.anu.edu.au/biography/langlands-george-3988/text6305, published first in hardcopy 1974, accessed online 23 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 5, (MUP), 1974

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