James Fallon was born in 1823 in Athlone, Ireland, rich farm land near the Shannon River. James was the son of James Fallon, farmer, and his wife Margaret, née Norton. He was educated at the Athlone Grammar School. On 31 August 1841 he arrived in Sydney as a bounty immigrant in the John Renwick. He farmed for some years near Sydney, then opened a store in Braidwood. In 1854 he moved to Albury and opened a general store in Kiewa Street. He was soon one of the town’s most important citizens and in 1857 subscribed £100 to a reward for the local discovery of gold.
Active in community affairs, Fallon became president of the Albury and Murray River Agricultural and Horticultural Society. In 1869-72 he represented the Hume in the Legislative Assembly. In 1872-73 Fallon visited overseas vineyards and in December 1873 addressed the London Society of Arts on Australian vines and wines.
When Albury was created a municipality in 1859, James Fallon headed the first poll with 65 votes and became Albury’s first mayor. He also became Albury’s representative in the NSW Colonial Parliament, was a strong advocate for public education and was instrumental in the founding of the Albury Model School (now part of Albury Primary School).
After the Melbourne railway reached Echuca in 1865, there was a busy steamer trade linking Albury, Howlong, Wahgunyah and Corowa to the rail head. The original Cumberoona was a vessel built at Echuca in 1866 for James Fallon.
He drove the first pile for the Union Bridge linking NSW and Victoria over the Murray River. Perhaps his biggest claim to fame was as the “wine king” of Albury. The Murray Valley Vineyard was established in about 1858 by a company of which Fallon was a director. About 1861 Fallon acquired the vineyard and soon became a successful vigneron and wine merchant as well as storekeeper. His well-known cellars in Kiewa Street were the scene of many local celebrations. By 1872 he had set up a distillery, a central depot in Sydney and cellars in Melbourne and exported wine to England, America, India, Ceylon and New Zealand. His wines continued to win prizes, notably in 1873 at Vienna and in 1882 at Bordeaux. He was also the person who proved that champagne could be manufactured in Australia.
James Fallon was a person with a strong sense of community, a vision for public education benefiting all the community, and a service to the area in public and private life. He will always be remembered as part of our school’s identity and in the history of Albury.
James Fallon died on May 26, 1886 and he is buried in Albury’s Pioneer Cemetery, just over the road from the school, and facing towards Fallon Street. He left his estate to his brother Patrick who carried on the vineyard and wine was made there by the Fallon family until the 1930s.
Click here to read the biography of James Fallon in the Australian Dictionary of Biography.