A Short But Remarkable Brewing Life: Eric William Tulloch (1883–1926)
The Tulloch family is well known in connection with the brewing trade in Victoria. One of its members, Eric William Tulloch, who followed his father and grandfather into brewing, started his career in an impressive manner, but it was interrupted by war service, and later terminated by his tragic and premature death. Tulloch’s short life is nevertheless remarkable from several perspectives, not the least of which is brewing.
Eric William Tulloch was a grandson of William Tulloch, a native of Perthshire, Scotland, who had come to New South Wales as a teenager in 1844. He moved in 1845 from Sydney to Geelong, where he worked as a cattle dealer, then moved to Ballarat in the early 1850s after the discovery of gold. He spent some time digging, then went into business as a storekeeper. In time, Tulloch became a wine and spirit merchant, wholesale grocer, provision merchant, and general dealer. He had married Emma Gude in 1851, and the couple eventually had at least fourteen children. Their eldest son, William George, later Eric’s father, was born at Ballarat in 1855.
In 1856, William Tulloch became a member of the first council elected to represent the Borough of West Ballarat. From 1858 his firm concentrated on the wine and spirit trade, then about 1870 diversified into brewing. Their Royal Standard Brewery at Ballarat was the scene of a most unusual accident early in 1873, not long after it had been erected. During the processing of a 60-hogshead brew (about 150 hectolitres), the timber beams of the floor supporting the boiling vat gave way, allowing the weighty vessel to fall through to the level below and onto the fermenting tun. No-one was injured, but the firm lost considerably though damage to the plant and building, waste of beer, and interruption to business.
Probably after some training at his father’s brewery at Ballarat, William George Tulloch became second brewer at McCracken’s City Brewery in Melbourne. He resigned from that position about 1890 to return to Ballarat to join his father in partnership, their business being redesignated Tulloch and Son. William George became what the Australian Brewers’ Journal called the ‘active agent’ in the conduct of the Royal Standard Brewery, so his premature death in 1894 was a serious blow to the business. In 1895, William Tulloch merged his brewery with that of James Coghlan (the Phoenix Brewery), and together they purchased Henry Leggo’s Barley Sheaf Brewery. These three Ballarat breweries were then operated together as Coghlan and Tulloch’s Ballarat Brewing Company Limited.
William George Tulloch had married Agnes Ann Wheeldon, and their first son, Eric William, was born on 16 April 1883. He attended Melbourne Grammar School in the late 1890s, and there became a keen rower. He subsequently joined the Albert Park Rowing Club, and represented Victoria in interstate competition. About 1900, Eric joined the Foster Brewing Company in Melbourne as an apprentice, studying all aspects of the brewing business under the eminent scientist and lager brewer Auguste de Bavay.
After completing his four-year apprenticeship, Tulloch obtained a brewing position with R. Marks and Co at Maldon, near Castlemaine, where he worked for two years. He left Victoria in 1906 and went to Western Australia, where he took up an appointment as head brewer at the Swallow Brewery at East Perth. He remained there for less than two years, moving to Bunbury early in 1908 to become the brewer for Beigel’s Brewery Limited. In April 1908, soon after starting work at Bunbury, he married Lilian Temby in Perth. Tulloch remained at Beigel’s Brewery until the end of 1913, when he returned to the eastern states.
In Western Australia, Tulloch had at first continued to pursue his interest in rowing as a member of the Swan River Rowing Club, but he became increasingly involved in the citizen military force after his move to Bunbury. In 1908 he was promoted to the rank of lieutenant in ‘B’ Company of the WA Infantry Regiment.
In 1914, after his departure from Beigel’s Brewery, Tulloch obtained an appointment as brewer to J. Boag and Son of the Esk Brewery, Launceston. He soon relinquished that lucrative position to join the Australian Imperial Force, departing for Western Australia in February 1915. During his brief time at Launceston, and especially after Great Britain’s declaration of war against Germany in August 1914, Captain Tulloch was active in preparing a potential fighting force in Launceston. Members of rifle clubs in the city were instructed by himself and others in drill and shooting to prepare them to be of service to their country. Employees of the two main Launceston brewing firms, Scott and Griffiths and J. Boag and Son, were encouraged to join rifle clubs, and were drilled by Tulloch in the Esk Brewery yard.
Tulloch embarked with 11th Battalion reinforcements at Fremantle on 22 February 1915. He took part in the landing at Gallipoli on 25 April, during which he was severely wounded by a bullet to the left thigh, then spent the next fourteen months in hospital under medical and surgical treatment. He considered it very bad luck that after nine years of military training he saw only ten hours of fighting, then spent more than a year in hospital.
While still recovering from his injury, Tulloch returned to Australia, arriving at Fremantle early in 1916. He was fit for duty again in June 1916, and in November embarked for Europe with further 11th battalion reinforcements. He saw action in France, and for displaying ‘gallantry and devotion to duty’ in two separate operations in August and September 1918 was awarded the Military Cross and Bar. Tulloch returned to Australia in 1919, disembarking in Melbourne in late June.
Eric Tulloch continued his military activities after the war; in 1921 he was promoted to lieutenant-colonel and to command 22nd Battalion, Commonwealth Military Forces. He resumed his involvement in rowing, becoming the coach of the Melbourne Grammar School first eight, which won the Head of the River in 1923. He also returned to brewing, with an appointment to the Victoria Brewery at East Melbourne.
The Victoria Brewery was part of Carlton and United Breweries Pty Ltd, a company formed to amalgamate six Melbourne brewing firms in 1906, the year in which Tulloch left Victoria to work in Western Australia. The new company initially intended that the Victoria brewery be used to make ale, but it was turned over to the production of lager, including Foster’s Lager, when the decision was taken to close the Foster Brewery a few years later. Tulloch’s early training under de Bavay at the Foster Brewery would therefore have suited him well for his new position.
Tulloch’s life ended tragically in 1926, when he was just 43 years of age. Early on Saturday morning 8 May, he disturbed an intruder at the apartment in which he lived at East Melbourne, and was fatally shot in the chest. The identity of his murderer was never established.