Hume, A brief Statement of Facts

The Sydney Morning Herald

Friday 20 April 1855


A brief Statement of Facts in Connection with an Overland Expedition from Lake George to Port Phillip, in 1824. By Hamilton Hume.

This "statement" appears before the public in the shape of a small pamphlet of thirty four pages.

Referring as it does to one of the most important events in the history of the colony - the opening up of the magnificent country between Goulburn and Port Phillip - the contents are necessarily fraught with much interest, irrespective of the weight which they receive on account of their having emanated from one of the leading parties in the expedition.

The real, in fact, the avowed, object of the pamphlet is to vindicate the claim of the writer to "a fair share " of the credit attaching to the successful prosecution of the journey; and although some of the remarks may not be altogether charitable in their spirit, yet we think, on the whole, that the course adopted is perfectly legitimate and the end sought for effectively promoted.

There is no pretension in the work to literary display of any kind; on the contrary, the style is common place, and the diction exceedingly tame in some instances even ungrammatical. In the narration and putting of the facts there is a circumstantiality and an air of truthfulness which cannot fail to attract attention, even if they do not suffice to convince.

Everybody will admit the difficulty of proving a case by a simple exparte statement (which, really, this pamphlet is), and in this instance the difficulty has been increased by the fact that thirty years have been allowed to pass before it was considered necessary to make any demonstration whatever. But then the statement in question, although appently exparte is corroborated by the testimony of three of the eight persons engaged in the expedition - the only three known to Mr. Hume to be alive and accessible at the present moment; and therefore we may, as the lawyers say, form an opinion of it, though perhaps not a conclusive one, by the "evidence before us and the probabilities of the case."

Viewed in this respect we must say - after having given the pamphlet the most careful consideration that Mr. Hume has made out a strong case for himself, that he appears to be entitled not only to the chief credit, but really to the exclusive credit of the expedition.

If there is any truth in the facts alleged there can hardly be a doubt that the enterprise would have failed long before crossing the Hume River had it not been for the indomitable courage, large bush experience, and determined perseverance of Mr. Hume.

The writer of these remarks has travelled over the whole of the country, and crossed all the rivers alluded to by this gentleman; he can therefore fully appreciate the difficulties and dangers the party must have had to encounter in the execution of their arduous undertaking, unaided as they were by the light of previous discoveries, and thrown exclusively on their own resources for support.

Whoever may be the person most entitled to the honour of succesfully carrying out the enterprise, it is very clear that the explorations thus effected have conferred an immense advantage not only on this but on all the colonies of Australia; and it is but right that the skill and energy which led to so grand a result should be generally known and duly esteemed. Palmam qui meruit ferat.

With this view, we proceed to quote from the pamphlet such portions as appear to bear more immediately on the question at issue.

After stating Sir Thomas Brisbane's desire to have the southern country explored, Mr. Hume writes,

With this object, early in the year 1824, he stated to Alexander Berry, Esq., his purpose of landing a party of prisoners near Cape Howe, or Wilson's Promontory, with instructions to work their way back to Sydney overland, and promising them suitable rewards and indulgences on their return. Mr. Berry suggested to his Excellency the propriety of placing such an expedition under the leadership of an experienced bushman, at the same time recommending me as a person qualified for the undertaking.

At his Excellency's request Mr. Berry communicated with me on the subject, but after mature consideration I declined acceding to Sir Thomas Brisbane's proposal of landing myself and party either at Cape Howe or Wilson's Promontory. The party was intended to consist only of three men, with tw

o pack bullocks to carry provisions, and the design was to return overland to Lake George.

I was then requested by Sir Thomas Brisbane to suggest a route by which I would undertake to conduct such an expedition; upon which I stated my readiness, if provided with six men and six pack horses, and furnished with the necessary provisions, to take my departure from Lake George, and push my journey on to Western Port in Bass's Straits. T

his proposal was accepted by the Governor.

But after several interviews, and much loss of valuable time to myself individually, the proposal was fallen from, on the ground that the government could not afford nor spare the requisite cattle.

Some time afterwards, I was requested by Mr. Berry to see His Excellency again on the subject.

That gentleman also intimated to me that Mr. Hovell, of Minto, had waited upon him, and solicited his influence and interest, to have him associated with me in the expedition.

It was thus Mr. Hovell became one of the party. I went to Sydney, met Mr. Hovell, and we both waited on the Government, who promised the requisite assistance. Subsequently, however, from the jealousy or captiousness of certain of the government officials, His Excellency declined his promise of assistance to promote the expedition.

Meeting with such obstruction, after wasting so much time, and incurring so much trouble with a view to serve the public interests, Mr. Hovell agreed with me to find jointly, the men, and the necessary cattle.

Accordingly, the government fell in with this arrangement, and furnished us with six pack saddles and gear, one tent of Parramatta cloth, two tarpaulins, a suit of slops each for the men, a few bush utensils, a small quantity of arms and ammunition, and two skeleton charts for the tracing of our journey.

With the exception of the articles just mentioned we were entirely thrown upon our own resources.

For my own part I had to dispose of a very fine imported iron plough (no small consideration in the days of which I speak) to help to raise money sufficient to purchase my supplies for the journey.

We also took with us two carts which were our own private property.

A promise was made by the Government of the day that a cash payment would be made for the hire of the cattle and a grant of land given, should any important discoveries be the result of the expedition.

When the expedition returned successful, beyond expectation, money payment for our cattle was refused, and I had even much difficulty in obtaining tickets of leave for the three men who accompanied me, but an order to select 1200 acres of land was given me; that order, however, I was under the necessity of selling, owing to the expenses incurred, and the loss otherwise sustained by me, for my means at the time were very slender.

Having thus shown that he was the first person to project the expedition, and that he accordingly was chiefly responsible to the authorities of the day for its proper execution, he goes on to show that the success which attended it was entirely attributable to his own skill, energy, and presence of mind. He says-

About three o'clock in the afternoon, of the 19th, we made the Murrumbidgee River, at Marjurigong, near Yass. The river was flooded, and to ford it was impossible.

The current was running at the rate of three or four miles per hour. From the day of our arrival on the bank of the Murrumbidgee until the 22nd, there was no abatement whatever in the height of the water.

As our time was precious, and further delay out of the question, it was determined to make an effort to cross on this day.

To carry out this determination I set out in search of a sheet of bark suitable for a canoe, such as the natives use; after a good deal of trouble, I got the bark and succeeded in forming the canoe, but unfortunately, and to my great disappointment; it cracked and became useless for my purpose.

Returning to the camp, I immediately set to work, took the wheels off my cart, covered the body of it with my tarpaulin, and made of it a very excellent and serviceable punt.

This expedient I had seen adopted by Mr. Surveyor Meehan, in the year 1817, when crossing Bong-Bong River while flooded.

Thomas Boyd, who was an excellent swimmer, and myself swam across the river with a line in our teeth, and thus established a communication between either bank; when with much trouble and not a little danger, the whole party, with the cattle and stores were safely landed on the other side.

I would here refer to a note at the foot of page 8 of Dr. Bland's narrative, in which it is stated-

They now, therefore, but accidentally, turned their thoughts to one of the carts."

All I have to say is, there was no accidental turning of my thought in the matter, unless, indeed, my adopting the plan which I had seen so successfully tried seven years before at the Bong-Bong River, be considered accident.

There was just as much of the accident in my thoughts when I went in search of a sheet of bark to construct a canoe, as there was when I made a punt of my cart.

The blacks were, long before, my instructors in canoe making, as Mr. Meehan was my instructor in turning a cart into a punt. From my companion in travel, I received on this occasion neither suggestion nor assistance of any kind.

This statement, as well as all others of a similar character, is confirmed in almost every particular by the testimony of the three men who were in the party, namely, Thomas Boyd, Henry Angel, and James Fitzpatrick.

One of these men asserts positively that Mr. Hovell "wanted to turn back" the moment he saw the Murrumbidgee; but Mr. Hume cannot pretend to say, on the authority of his own recollection, whether such was the case or not.

"After crossing the river and advancing a day's journey or more, we found ourselves hemmed in by the mountains, and camped for two nights on the Narrengullen Meadows.

In order to find an outlet, Mr. Hovell took one direction, and I took another. I was fortunate enough to hit upon an outlet, and through it we were able to extricate ourselves, though with no small difficulty and toil.

On this occasion Mr. Hovell lost himself for part of two days, and when I found him he was actually, but unsuspectingly, travelling back in the direction of Yass or Bowning.

The circumstance is thus alluded to in Dr. Bland's narrative, page 12.

"They would now have returned to the tent, but lost their road in an attempt to find an emu which they had killed on their way out," I was not in company with Mr. Hovell at all, though the "Narrative" implies as much.

He lost himself and his road, I did not.

In order to show Mr. Hovell's want of ' foresight' and incapacity for such an undertaking, Mr. Hume observes,

On Tuesday the 26th, we were engaged in sending the carts and supplies across the Coodradigby river, and finding ourselves in a difficult country, we were compelled to leave the carts, harness, and part of our supplies.

I took my tarpaulin with me, Mr. Hovell left his.

We had then to use the pack saddles, and owing to the cattle not being accustomed to them, they gave us great trouble, as well as occasioning great delay.

It may be asked, why such a seemingly trivial matter as the leaving of Mr. Hovell's tarpaulin, and the taking of mine forward should be so pointedly mentioned.

The reason is very obvious, when its use at the crossing of the Murrumbidgee is remembered.

I calculated (" accidentally " or not) that we would encounter other rivers as formidable as the Murrumbidgee, and that the tarpaulin being at hand, would serve us a good turn again.

My readers will judge, whether my fellow traveler displayed the smallest foresight, when he left his tarpaulin after he had both witnessed and experienced the usefulness of such an article so shortly before.

Had I not taken mine, as will be seen, the expedition must have returned. One cause of our success, simple as it may appear, was my sticking to my tarpaulin, and lugging it along through all our weary journey.

Anyone who is acquainted with the road between Sydney and Port Phillip will at once remember that the route adopted for the greater portion of the distance after passing Goulburn, is nearly westerly, and the reason is obvious on reference to the map.

It will be seen upon enquiry that the dividing range runs parallel to the coast throughout the whole length, and that consequently any road running directly south or south westerly would have to pass over an uninterrupted series of huge mountains.

By proceeding westerly, however, a comparatively even country is traversed, and what is lost by reason of extra distance is gained by the facility afforded for travelling. Upon this point, Mr. Hume has the following remarks -

A few days afterwards we crossed the Tumut River, as we advanced I found we were getting into too high a country, for the Snowy Mountains (the Australian Alps) were observed crossing our coarse.

I proposed that we should take a direction more western, in order to avoid the formidable barrier which threatened to intercept our way; but Mr. Hovell dissented from my proposal.

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, Mr. Hovell held his course south. I steered mine west.

However, when my party turned into camp, and lighted the fire for the night, great, indeed, was my surprise to hear one of my men call out "here comes Mr. Hovell," and sure enough, there he was, with his man Boyd running down our tracks. If my fellow traveller had any confidence in himself, would he, after a lapse of a few hours, have deserted his determination to go south, returned upon my footsteps, and adopted for the future my westerly course.

The author continues-

After the rupture, we again joined force in the manner described, and travelled together to the Hume River, which we reached early on the 16th of November.

I named it the "Hume" in compliment to my father.

We crossed it above its junction with the Mitta Mitta.

On the 20th, and after travelling four or five miles, we came upon the latter river. On my getting ready to cross the Mitta Mitta, to my surprise, Mr. Hovell objected, and volunteered an address to the men, in which he pointed out, as well as he could, the hazards existing in the rear, suggesting the probability of others ahead, and appealed to their sense of personal safety, in conclusion asking whether it would not be the most prudent step to turn back, recross the Hume, and trace down its nearest bank, according to part of our instructions.

Mr. Hovell appealed to Claude Bossawa, a man of mine, and asked his opinion, of course he agreed with Mr. Hovell.

On this I got angry, and told Mr. Hovell that I would prefer being rid of him altogether rather than have one in his position setting such a bad example. I gave him to understand very plainly that for me, or all I cared, he might just remain on the side of the river he was on, but I was determined to pursue the journey as originally intended.

I also threatened to put Claude in the river, if he did not cross it with me, at the same time seizing him by the throat as if to make good my threat, in fact, I frightened the fellow into crossing along with me.

I then rigged out my tarpaulin boat and crossed with my men and cattle, Mr. Hovell with his men remained on the near side of the river, with the asserted purpose of recrossing the Hume, and following down its northern bank.

After I had crossed the Mitta-Mitta, taken my wattle-boat to pieces, and made a start onwards, Mr. Hovell called after me, pressing me to stop and assist him over, and that he would accompany me, I did so.

To his horror, on the very same afternoon, we made the Little River, bank high, but were saved the trouble of using the boat, as a fallen tree assisted our crossing.

We then passed over the present Ovens gold fields.

While camped on this creek, I had been out all the morning looking for a crossing-place (the creek being very boggy and difficult to cross), and upon my return to the camp I found a general spirit of discontent among the men, and a strong disinclination to proceed further.

While I was reasoning with them, Mr. Hovell stood aloof and mute. At last I came to a compromise with the party, that, if we had no decided prospect of making the coast, within the next two or three days, I should give up the journey and return with them.

The same day, 13th December, we crossed the dividing range (now known as the " Big Hill"), and being some distance in advance of the party, I observed an opening and fall of land far to the south, thinking the struggle at last won, my heart rose, and I cheered long and loud, most of the men left their cattle, and rushed towards me, Mr. Hovell among the number, who at the time was amusing himself with the perambulator (or as it was termed by the men, "Claude's wheelbarrow"), and running it against a boulder, the country being rough, the wheel was broken, it was, however, patched up, and did its work for a day or two longer, but at last fell to pieces on the Downs, the place we called Mount Odometer, it is about half way between the first, plain and the Rocky River.

We encamped that night within one mile of the Downs, and three days afterwards we made the coast.

"We cannot better conclude this review than by quoting from the biographical remarks contained in the preface, written, we presume, by the editor of the work, the Rev William Ross.

In the year 1787, when the British Government was about to colonise New South Wales, the late Andrew Hamilton Hume, having received an appointment in the Commissariat Department, left England for Australia on board the Guardian frigate, Captain Rio, and, upon the wreck of that vessel, came on to the colony from the Cape of Good Hope in the transport Lady Julian Mr. Hume was the eldest son of the Reverend James Hume, a member of the old Border family of that name in Scotland, who settled in Ireland, as Presbyterian Minister of Moira, in the year 1746, and married a sister of Major Hamilton, of the County Down.

Andrew Hamilton Hume married Elizabeth Moore, second daughter of the Reverend John Kennedy, vicar of Teston and Nettlestead, Kent.

The present Hamilton Hume, then son, was born as Parramatta in the year 1797. I

n these early days of the colony, the means of education were scanty, and our traveler received his only education from his mother.

Notwithstanding these great disadvantages, his mind, naturally active and curious, was not to be hindered from its bent after discovery and travel in the Bush of Australia.

The first excursions of the incipient traveler were short, but the success attending these youthful rambles inspired that self-confidence, which afterwards proved so useful to his native land, and so creditable to his own perseverance, in threading his way through previously unknown parts.

In the month of August, 1814, Mr. Hume, accompanied by his late brother, J. K. Hume, and a black boy, a native of Appin, started off an exploring journey, and discovered the country around what is now known as Berrima, or Bong Bong.

The native name given to that pretty little rivulet and the adjoining meadows was Toom-boong.

He visited the same country a second time in 1815.

About this time Mr. Fletcher, Superintendent of Mr. Oxley, was sent to him, to ascertain how he could reach the new country with his master's stock.

Mr. Hume directed him at once to the S.W. corner of Bargo Forest, the spot where Jones' Inn now stands, from thence to follow his marked tree line through the forest to the Mittagong range, accordingly, Mr. Fletcher proceeded and formed a station where Mr. Cordeaux now lives, near Berrima. Either in July or August of the year 1816 Mr. Hume also led the late Dr. Charles Throsby, of Glenfield, to the Toom bong country, but though the original discoverer was thus disinterestedly conducting and directing others to favourable and valuable stations, it appeals, the parties benefitted managed to take the whole credit to themselves, and to reap the reward in sweeping grants of land.

In March, 1817, Governor Macquarie requested Mr. Hume to accompany Mr. Surveyor Meehan and Mr. Throsby to the new country as it was then termed.

After reaching a place called by the natives Cann on the Shoalhaven river, not far from Bungonia, a difference arose between Mr. Meehan and Dr. Throsby, when the latter guided by a black boy of the Shoalhaven river tribe, made his way to Jervis Bay.

Mr. Hume accompanied Mr. Meehan, and they discovered Lake Bathurst, Goulburn Plains, &c. It was on his return from this journey that Mr. Hume received an order for 800 acres of land in Appin, the deeds of which were not given until after the arrival of the present Surveyor-General Sir Thomas Mitchell. He also accompanied Messrs. Oxley and Meehan in 1818 or 1819 to Jervis Bay, Mr. Oxley returned by sea to Sydney, while Mr. Meehan and Mr. Hume returned by Toom Boong.

It was not long after this when he was earnestly requested by Dr. Throsby to go with him, and point out the country discovered in conjunction with Mr. Surveyor Meehan, in 1817. With which request he complied.

In 1822 the government cutter Schnapper, commanded by Lieut R. Johnston, R N, with a party, of which Mr. Hume was one, sailed down part of the east coast in search of rivers.

The river Clyde was discovered shortly before this by Mr. Johnston. From the upper part of the Clyde, Alexander Berry, Esq, and Mr. Hume penetrated inland nearly as far as the present site of Braidwood.

On returning to the vessel, they proceeded further south, but a storm coming on, the cutter was so damaged, losing the rudder and false keel, that they were obliged to bear up, and take shelter in Jervis Bay.

From these various journeys it is evident that Mr. Hume's character as a skilful bush traveller was not only known, but fully recognised and relied upon by those who availed them- selves of his services.

It was thus that he gained the experience which enabled him to undertake and accomplish the great expedition overland to Hobson's Bay in 1824, an expedition which will associate his name with the history of New South Wales, as one of the earliest of its inland discoverers. In the year 1828, he was associated with Captain Sturt in his expedition to trace the Macquarie River, and it is gratifying to quote the testimony of a gentleman so well-known, as to the ability and skill of his associate.

In Captain Sturt's letter to the Colonial Secretary (Appendix No. V.,L., page 217,) he writes-" I beg you will inform his Excellency the Governor, that I have on all occasions received the most ready and valuable assistance from Mr. Hume. His intimate acquaintance with the manners and customs of the natives enabled him to enter into intercourse with them, and chiefly contributed to the peaceable manner in which we have journeyed.

I cannot but say, he has done an essential service to future travellers and to the colony at large, by his conduct on all occasions since he has been with me, nor should I be doing him justice, if I did not avail myself of the first opportunity of laying my sentiments before the Governor through you".