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Lascelles, Edward Harewood (1847–1917)

by J. F. Guthrie

Edward Lascelles, n.d.

Edward Lascelles, n.d.

from Pastoral Review, 16 March 1917

The sudden and unexpected death of Edward Harewood Lascelles, which took place in Geelong on 12th February, caused a painful sensation throughout the whole community, for there was no man in Victoria more widely known and deservedly respected and beloved by his fellow men.

The late E. H. Lascelles was born at Bothwell, Tasmania, on 3rd October, 1847, and was an Australian of the third generation, his grandfather (Lieut. Thomas Alan Lascelles, of the 73rd Regiment) having come to Tasmania as aide-de-camp to the Governor in 1808, and having settled there and become in course of time a police magistrate. Mr. Lascelles' maternal grandfather was also an early colonist, having taken up land at Bothwell, Tasmania, in 1820.

At the age of 14 years E. H. Lascelles entered the office, then situated in the Public Library Buildings in Moorabool Street, Geelong, of his uncle, the late Mr. C. J. Dennys, a splendid type of pioneer, who did much to further the Commercial development of the district. Upon his attaining his majority in the year 1868, Mr. Lascelles was admitted into partnership, and the firm became Messrs. Dennys, Lascelles and Co. Subsequent partners of what soon became — thanks largely to the energy and ability of the young partner — the largest wool and produce business in the Western District of Victoria, were the late David Strachan and Sidney Austin, Mr. Marcel Conran, and Mr. George Young, but one by one they died or retired from the firm, leaving Mr. Lascelles as the sole proprietor until about five years ago, when a flourishing business was founded into a limited company, under the name of Dennys, Lascelles Limited, and the expressions of sympathy, which have reached the firm from all quarters of Australia, bear testimony to the high esteem in which the builder of the firm was held by the community generally, but more particularly by the producers, who, whether wealthy squatters or struggling settlers, realised that they had in the late Edward Lascelles a man of probity and resolute courage, who was at all times their champion, the all too early loss of whom is a direct personal loss to the producers of Australia.

E. H. Lascelles was largely responsible for the building up on a sound foundation of the wool-selling trade of Australia, and Geelong in particular. In this and other matters his foresight was remarkable. The fact that he saw so far ahead was responsible for the many uphill fights, which he so resolutely won, and the results of which are benefiting, and will continue to benefit, those who follow him for generations to come.

From the very first the deceased gentleman had implicit faith in the marketing of our staple product, wool, at the principal ports for the producing districts, so that the wool could then be shipped direct to the ports nearest seat of consumption in the various world's manufacturing centres, and it is safe to say that no man in Australian history has done more for the advancement of the huge Australian wool industry than the late managing director of Dennys, Lascelles Limited, for not only was he untiring in his advocacy of the Australian wool sales, but his personal knowledge of wool and attention to the details of the trade were of inestimable value to his clients, and to the successful development of the industry generally. He was a lover of good wool, so that his hard work, and more particularly amongst the superb wools of the Western District of Victoria, which have made the Geelong market famous, was in reality a labour of love.

For the first time in the history of the Australian wool trade, the Government have appointed a committee of some sixteen experts, who act in an advisory capacity to the wool board. Picked men were assembled from the various States, and it is fitting that the honour of chairmanship was by his confreres in the trade unanimously conferred upon the man who had been an active and respected member of the wool business for over fifty years.

Great and successful as Mr. Lascelles' labours in the interests of his firm and all phases of the wool industry undoubtedly were, it is as the lion-hearted developer of that once barren tract of Victoria, known as the Mallee, that he is even more worthy of the monument to his memory, which is shortly to be erected in Geelong. In 1878 he purchased the Lake Corrong Station, in the heart of the Mallee scrub, where for years he battled against drought and other difficulties, until he made up his mind to clear away the scrub and use the land for agricultural purposes. This looked a forlorn task, and even his most intimate friends and admirers thought that his extraordinary optimism would break him. It may at times have bent him, but his faith and pluck were unbreakable, and he came up smiling again and again, and it must have been great satisfaction to this Victorian Cecil Rhodes, to see hundreds of thousands of smiling cornfields and hundreds of prosperous settlers where once the Mallee scrub, wild dogs, and rabbits presented such a scene of desolation.

It was impossible to develop that far back dry belt of country without railway communication. Work as he and others would, the Government could not be induced to assist in the development of the Mallee, so in 1892 Mr. Lascelles began to build a railway from Beulah to Hopetoun, and his drastic step woke up the Government, who took over the line before it was completed. And so this great Mallee district, the development of which he fought so determinedly for against what seemed insurmountable difficulties in the form of scrub, droughts, dingoes, rabbits, and political—and indeed public—opinion, is now becoming honeycombed with railways, water channels, and dotted with prosperous homesteads.

In late years Mr. Lascelles derived much pleasure in the development of his stud of Corriedale sheep, which he had established at Woolamanata, near Geelong, which estate he purchased a few years ago. His official connection with one of the greatest pastoral companies in Australia, viz., The New Zealand and Australian Land Company, resulted in his having an opportunity to learn the worth of this Australian breed of sheep, in the future of which he had unbounded faith.

He was too busy and too big for politics—he was happy in assisting in bigger things and in his home life. In 1887 he married his cousin, Miss Dennys, who, with his son Frank (who is serving King and Empire with distinction) and three daughters, are left to mourn the loss of a lovable father, who with his wife and family suffered a sad bereavement in the loss of the eldest daughter on the ill-fated Waratah.

His absolute fairness of mind and bearing to all sections of the community was one of his many good points in a remarkable personality. There is no better testimony to a man's worth than the love of his fellow men. Those who knew Edward Harewood Lascelles loved him best, but his gentlemanly bearing, energy, pluck, and kindliness of heart made him one of the best known and highly respected men in the history of this young country.

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J. F. Guthrie, 'Lascelles, Edward Harewood (1847–1917)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://oa.anu.edu.au/obituary/lascelles-edward-harewood-582/text583, accessed 13 November 2019.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2019

Edward Lascelles, n.d.

Edward Lascelles, n.d.

from Pastoral Review, 16 March 1917