Hamilton Hume Explorer, Bushman

(By Harold W. Denning)

The Land

5 May 1950

Not only pastoralists, but explorers, exerted a profound influence upon the early course of history. After the crossing of the Blue Mountains in 1813, attention was turned toward the vast inland that lay beyond them. Gradually this was opened up by such men as Oxley and Sturt. Yet, as late as 1823, nothing was known of the great area of country lying between the Monaro and the Lachlan River.

Governor Brisbane toyed with the idea of landing a party of convicts at Wilson's Promontory and letting them make their way to Sydney as best they could, hoping that they would learn something of the nature of the country on the way.

He consulted Hamilton Hume on the matter, and Hume suggested that it would be a better plan to send a party from the vicinity of Lake George south-westwards.

Brisbane was, much impressed with this plan and, influenced by Alexander Berry, he invited Hume and William Hovell to lead the party. He thought that Hovell's knowledge of navigation would be invaluable in such an enterprise.

Both Hume, and Hovell had already had limited, though useful experience as explorers; Hume was then a little more than 26 years of age. His father, Andrew Hume, had come to the colony in 1790 as an instructor in agriculture to the convicts.

Hamilton was born at Parramatta and was educated by his, mother. He felt the call of the unexplored bush lands around him at a very early age. When he was only a lad of seventeen, he and his brother set out from his father's property at Appin, on the low watershed which divides the upper waters of the George's River from the valley of; the Cataract and the Nepean. They made their way toward the south-west and reached the Berrima district, nearly forty miles from home.

Two years later, in 1816, Hume pushed on as far as Sutton Forest. In the next five years he made two other journeys. On the first, accompanied by James Meehan, he reached the Goulburn Plains and Lake Bathurst. On the second, he got as far as the Yass Plains.

He accompanied Alexander Berry in 1821 on a journey up the Clyde River on the South Coast. Leaving the river behind them, they moved up into the highlands about Braidwood.

Paid All Expenses.

Hovell was thirteen years Hume's senior.    

Born in England, he had followed the sea   from an early age. He came to Sydney in 1813 and, after some trading in the Pacific, he "swallowed the anchor," as they say, and settled on a property near Narellan.  

He made some short expeditions in to the Illawarra and, in 1823, had opened up the: valuable and picturesque lands of the Burragorang Valley.

The two men, with a party of as- signed servants, left Hume's station not far from where Gunning now stands, on October 17, 1824. Brisbane had suggested: that they should make for Spencer's Gulf, but when they found that they would have to pay all the expenses of the expedition, they I decided to make Port Phillip their goal.

After crossing the flooded Murrumbidgee with the aid of a rude raft made from a cart covered with a tarpaulin, they pushed westward until the rough nature of the country caused them to deviate from their original direction.

On Tuesday, November 16, the explorers came upon a fine river "not less than eighty yards in breadth." This they named the Hume, but we know it today as the Murray, after the name which Sturt had given it when he discovered it at a point farther down fourteen years before (sic Sturt actually discovered, and named the Murray five years after Hume discovered and named it the Hume. Ed.).

They spent four days looking   for a suitable point to make a crossing; and finally, at a point a little above Albury, they ferried themselves across in a wicker-work coracle covered with a tarpaulin.  

On the Victorian side they discovered the Mitta Mitta, the Ovens: and the Goulburn. After crossing the low divide they reached the coast at Corio Bay at a place which the natives called Jillong, the modern Geelong.

On the return journey Hume showed his fine qualities as a bush man by leading the party in an almost straight line to the starting point.      

The expedition did not have results as spectacular as might have been expected. It is true that some pioneer settlers found their way into the valley of the Tumut River close upon the heels of the party, but fur- ther settlement in the newly discovered country was slow.  

Wrangle Over Expedition. Thirty one Years Later    

Hume opened a singular and pitiful controversy over the expedition by publishing "A Brief Statement of Facts in Connection with an Overland Expedition from Lake George to Port Phillip in 1824."

He asserted that at one point during the journey, "after some wrangling and disputing, each being positive of the correctness of his own opinion, we resolved to part company and follow each his own course. Accordingly we did separate."

He further asserted that Hovell and his servant, a man named Boyd, after being separated from the party all day, rejoined, them at the camp fire that evening.

On reaching Corio Bay, Hume continued, "Mr. Hovell's decided impression was that we had reached Western Port, while my conviction was that we had made Port Phillip."

Hovell was not slow in publishing a reply to these charges. He admitted that he had had a difference of opinion with Hume, but he stated positively that "we never separated."

He asserted further that "We both believed we had arrived at the district of Western Port. That Mr. Hume had ever intimated in any way that we were in Port Phillip, is a fiction of his own fancy."

It is difficult to arrive at the truth concerning "the wrangling, and disputing" and the separation; but Hume's memory was apparently then faulty, as a letter which he wrote to Governor Brisbane shows in regard to his assertion that they had reached Port Phillip.

Hume rendered signal service to Sturt in 1828, on the expedition which discovered the Darling; but after that he lived quietly until his death in 1873.

To-day Hume's great service to Australian exploration is commemorated in the name given to the great reservoir a few miles above Albury and in the busy highway which connects Sydney with Melbourne.