Ernie Lane Recollections 1953

In 1953, the Courier Mail ran an article about Ernie lane, revolutionary activist and journalist at that time living on Dauphin Terrace, Highgate Hill.  His biography can be found at the attached link.

Ernie Lane Biography

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The Brisbane Courier-Mail Wednesday 30th December 1953

The Utopia That Failed

The Lanes of Bristol were a family in whom the roving urge was strong. Ernie was barely 15 and his brother Frank 16 when they came out together in a sailing ship in 1884. […] Ernie was signed on for 12 months to a job at Wagner’s dairy farm at German station (now Nundah). He worked from 1.30am, Sundays included, for 7/- a week. […](about $70 today allowing for inflation)

Lane (William, Ernie’s brother) was convinced that there was no hope for true socialism under the economic system growing up in Australia. He had searchers looking for a suitable spot on earth to set up his Utopia. They reported favourably on Paraguay, where the Government was willing to grant 450,000 acres of agricultural land wooded land to attract white settlers. Ernie had married in Brisbane and had three children in 1901 when he heard the call. Taking wife and family he left for Paraguay.

Ernie Lane left (the Australian colony at ) Cosme with his wife and children in 1904, got work near Buenos Aires and returned to Australia by way of England in 1911.

Ernie’s comments on the failure of the colony were – ‘Cosme was different. The
large cause of failure there was the presence of more men than women. That is why William went to England in 1896. He recruited only a few women, and those who did migrate didn’t like the rough life.’

At 83, Ernie, the last of the Lanes of that generation, lives quietly in Brisbane and looks back on years crammed with living. He lives alertly at Dauphin Terrace HighgateHill in a cottage where the back windows look out on a gully thick with trees and full of bird songs.

New Australia Paraguay 1890s

New Australia in the 1890s, including Mary Gilmore (National Library of Australia)

William Lane founded the New Australia Movement in 1892. His idea was to found a colony based on, amongst other things: mutual production, communal saving of capital, maintenance of children by the community and equality of the sexes.  The colony was established in 1893 following the granting of land by the Paraguayan Government, keen to encourage settlement, and subscription of funds by members in Australia.

Amongst the colonists was Mary Gilmore, noted author and journalist.

Differences of opinion lead to William Lane forming a breakaway colony called Cosme in 1894. His insistence on an alcohol free environment and no relations between colonists with local women was difficult for many.

However in 1899 he left, disillusioned, for New Zealand and leadership of Cosme passed his brother, John Lane. John returned to Australia in 1901 to recruit colonists and his brother Ernie  moved to Paraguay with his family as a result. The Cosme colony was broken up in 1907, and the land divided amongst remaining colonists by the Paraguayan Government.

new Australia Kate Granville-Jones Argentina Independent
New Australia (Kate Granville-Jones, Argentina Independent)

Ernie Lane, became famous in the Queensland Labor movement, and wrote extensively under the pseudonym of  Jack Cade in the Labor daily “The Standard” which  was established in Brisbane after the general strike of 1912. In 1939, he wrote a biography entitled “Dawn to Dusk”.

Many descendants of Australian settlers still live in Paraguay, some still speaking English.

Ernie died at Annerley on 18 June 1954.

For further reading on New Australia , this article with photos  is interesting.

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