Hume, Expedition from Lake George to Port Phillip in 1824

The Argus, Melbourne

9 May 1855

A pamphlet has been published by Mr. Hume of Yass, to show that the credit of conducting this expedition is due to him rather to Mr. Hovell, whom he regards us having unjustly assumed it.

The following statements are made by Mr. Hume:-

Shortly after assuming the government, his Excellency, Sir Thomas Brisbane, became anxious as had been his good old predecessor, to ascertain if any large or navigable rivers disembogued on our eastern coast, as he entertained very confident opinions of their existence.

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 then 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 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 Promentory. The party was intended to consist only of three men, with five pack bullocks to carry previsions, 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.

This 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 or 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 Governor, 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, and tent of Parramatta cloth, two tarpaulins, a suit of slops each for the men few bush utensils, a small quantity of arm and ammunition, and two skeleton charts for the tracing of our journey.

With the exception of the articles just mentioned, we were thrown entirely 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 properly.

The arrangements for the journey, such as they were, being now completed, Mr. Hovell agreed to meet me at my cottage at Appin.

The party in all consisted of eight persons. Mr. Hovell had three men - Thomas Boyd, William Ballard, and Thomas Smith. I had the same number - Claude Bossawa, Henry Angel, and James Fitzpatrick.

We made our first start on the 3rd of October. 1824. The instructions given us were - to take our departure from Lake George, and push on, at all hazards, to Western Port; and in the event of meeting with any river not fordable, we were further instructed, if practicable, to trace its course to the sea, or as far as our means would permit.

We took our final departure from my station on the 17th. During the day we travelled about twelve miles S., 60 W. Having crossed the dividing range between Gunning and Yass, we reached Yass Plains on the evening of the 18th, encamping for the night near my present residence.

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.

Thomas Boyd states his recollection of our crossing the Murrumbidgee as follows:-

"When we came to the Murrumbidgee we found it very high. Captain Hovell was discouraged at this, and wished to turn back. I heard him say to Mr. Hume, 'We shall never get on with our expedition: we cannot cross those rivers.' Mr. Hume replied, ' If you think you can't, you may go back, for I mean to go on.' Mr. Hovell then asked, ' How do you mean to get across this river?' Mr. Hume answered, 'That's best known to myself; I'll soon get over. Boyd, you get a tomahawk.'"

"I then went with Mr. Hume, and we cut a canoe, but it would not answer, the bark cracked. When we returned to the camp, Mr. Hovell was doing nothing. Mr. Hume then took his cart to pieces, made a punt of it with the tarpaulin, with which we crossed the men and the supplies. Our method was this: Mr. Hume and I bad stout fishing lines made fast to us', and we swam and dragged the punt to and fro. Mr. Hovell could swim, but gave us little or noĽ assistance in getting across."

A few days afterwards, we crossed the Tumut River.

As we advanced, I found we were geting into too high a country, for the Snowy Mountains (the Australian Alps) were observed crossing our course.

I proposed that we should take a direction more westerly, 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 traveler had any confidence in himself would he, after a lapse of a few hours, have deserted his determination to go south, returned upon my foot-steps, and adopted for the future my westerly course?

On the 17th December, at four o'clock in the afternoon, we made Port Phillip, ten or twelve miles to the eastward of Geelong.

We camped that night near the beach, without water.

On the 17th December we reached the spot where the flourishing town of Geelong now stands, encamping on the left bank of' Kennedy's Creek.

While we were encamped on the coast, Fitzpatrick went, to shoot ducks; the blacks pursued him, and his shouts brought Thomas Boyd and myself to his assistance.

Mr. Hovell did not stir from the camp.

I went afterwards to the blacks, had a palaver with them, and brought them in our camp.

While with us, they pointed in the direction S. by W., intimating by signs that white men in ships were there and engaged in sawing timber, representing this by see-saw movements.

They described the sailors and vessels under sail, and made use of some English expressions.

This left no doubt on our minds of the presence of white men then or recently in the direction pointed to, and I was very desirous to proceed, but I could not prevail on Mr. Hovell to accompany me.

On the 18th December we started homewards. A little before eight o'clock, on Sunday morning, the 19th, then a days journey from Geelong, the report of a cannon was distinctly heard in the direction of the place pointed out by the natives the day before. It was the extreme bight of the Bay of Geelong, which now bore from us, as nearly as I can recollect, about S 30' W., and distantly in a direct line down the harbor fifteen or sixteen miles.

So convinced were we that the report was that of a cannon, that one and all agreed to turn back for Geelong.

In a short time, however, doubts and difficulties were started, I was outvoted, and we held on our lonely course across the downs, to the north-east, having as supplies, 150 lbs. flour, 6lbs. tea, and no sugar or salt.

We encamped that night on the right bank of the Weribee rivulet (or Arndell): the high range in the distance to the N. W. of the downs formed a beautiful object round to Willanmanster, the "Station Peak" of Flinders.

I believe that the highest part of this noble range, towards the head of the Weribee, then named by us Mount Wentworth, has since been called Mount Macedon, which range is no other than the westerly continuation of Mount Disappointment.

The distance homewards I was to shorten greatly, avoiding the circuitous truck of our outward course. We reached my station near Gunning exactly in one month from our departure from Geelong.

The number of miles outwards, from Lake George, was by log 670; on return we cut off upwards of 150 miles.

I never was at a loss to judge correctly of the different points at which I would come upon my former trails, and I used to cheer the men by telling them when and where we should strike it.

In this statement, my only object is to show that the expedition of 1824 was led and conducted by me, that the plan originated with me, and that to my exertions its success was chiefly owing.

I would not detract from any credit due to my companion, for shared in common our hardships and privations.

But I do protest against the wholesale credit accorded to him on this occasion; for, I affirm, that had I not persevered, in spite of his remonstrances, had I not persisted in crossing the swollen rivers, and then good naturedly convoyed my obstinate friend across, when softened out of his obstinacy by fear or regret, he never would have set his foot on the spot where he lately wished to erect an obelisk, and from whence he was first delighted with the scenery of Geelong and its beautiful bay.

Although I have lately been made to appear but as a subordinate to Captain Hovel in the expedition referred to, I notwithstanding respectfully submit, that, it I who took him to Hobson's Bay - and brought him back.