Hume and Hovell

The Sydney Morning Herald

2 July 1924


When I ventured gently to correct "A Retired School Teacher" I did so with as few words as possible. Now, your contributor of Saturday last (Miss Mary E. J. Yeo) takes the place. What the school children of Yass know about the expedition and out of what text books they learnt I am quite in the dark.

As to the genuineness of Hovell's field books, so far Miss Yeo is the only person who has expressed any doubts. These journals were never in the possession of the Royal Australian Historical Society, but were at my instance presented to the Mitchell Library by Mrs. C. F. Roberts and her son, grand-daughter, and great-grandson of Mr. Hilton Hovell. I was one of those who had the subediting of the transcription of them and com- paring the originals.

The donors made no such stipulation as stated by Miss Yeo, but left the handling of them to my discretion. As to the spelling and grammar I think it more than likely that merchant skippers of over a hundred years ago were not called upon to pass an examination in grammar and spelling. An examination of the letters of Governor Macquarie and others of that period would, I fear, shock Miss Yeo.

Re the formation of the party. I quoted Hume as to its constitution, and that they were going without support from the Governor. However, they had to fall back on him for some small measure of equipment which they were short of.

In her anxiety to pick holes Miss Yeo makes a lot of a printer's error about Dr. Bland writing something in 1885 when it should have been fifty-five. Had she used her microscope a little higher up she would have seen rovers where palpably the word was rivers. Perhaps she is not aware that in these days of linotypes to replace a letter or figure means replacing the whole line.

I knew the late James Gormley over 50 years ago, and have a quantity of his manuscript by me now. I also knew his friend David Reid. As to Professor Scott and the report of Hovell's speech at Geelong, the copy found by him in a Hobart paper was a lengthy one copied from the Geelong "Advertiser" report, whereas the "Argus" gave only a paragraph.

In conclusion, as Miss Yeo probably assumes, I wish to elevate Hovell over Hume, let me quote from a paper read by me before the Historical Society 10 years ago. "There were three different lines to get down into the Lithgow Valley and they are not finished yet.

The proper line was pointed out by Hume in 1827. A road could have been made to Wallerawang by an easy grade if Hume's suggestion had been adopted. He also showed a shorter track for a road by way of Methven House before Mitchell made his road."

I may add that I have read everything I could lay my hands on referring to the expedition of Hume and Hovell simply with a view to discovering the truth.

I am, etc., Alex, Wilson. June 30.