John Dunmore Lang

John Dunmore Lang (1799-1878), Presbyterian minister and political crusader, was the most creative and the most disruptive force in Australian politics from 1823 when he arrived from Scotland. His political achievements are listed in the Australian Dictionary of Biography:

the cessation of transportation, the separation of Victoria and of Queensland, the introduction of responsible and democratic government, radical land reform, National education and the abolition of state aid to religion. [His] was one of the most powerful voices extolling liberal and secular values.

His influences in Pyrmont were equally profound – and ambivalent.

His promotion of immigration – especially by Scots and Protestants – was driven by revulsion from the dissolute lives of convicts and emancipists, and by his hostility to Catholicism. He brought many Scots tradesmen and their families, including stonemasons who settled near the Pyrmont quarries. To preserve their Presbyterian virtues, he bought land in Mount Street in 1842 and organised the building of a weatherboard church. (He also recruited ministers to shepherd his many flocks.) When he fell into debt, the building was leased to some of his many enemies, who operated a school there. Lang’s crusade for public education helped create the system of National Schools, which assisted the Mount Street School among others.

Lang was pivotal to the schisms and feuds that split Presbyterian congregations throughout New South Wales. A consequence was the move of his followers from Mount Street, first to Harris Street, and eventually to Quarry Street.