Mr. J Gormly's Reminiscences

Early Explorers. Old Pioneers.

Mr. J Gormly's Reminiscences.

The Sydney Morning Herald

25 July 1906

At the monthly meeting of the Australian Historical Society hold last evening, at the Royal Society's House, Elizabeth-street, Mr. J. Gormly, M.L.C, read a paper on "The Exploration and Settlement of the Murrumbidgee and Murray River Districts." Mr. Gormly stated that the contents of the paper chiefly related to what had come under his own observation, and to what he had heard from early explorers and old pioneers.

His memory carried him back 66 years. He was well acquainted with Hamilton Hume and three others of the party who went overland from Appin to Port Phillip in 1824 - Henry Angel, James Fitzpatrick, and Thomas Boyd. He had only a slight personal knowledge of Captain Hovell, another of the party.

No doubt, Hamilton Hume was in his youth the best bushman in Australia at that time, and a man of great determination and energy. Hume was fortunate in the expedition of 1824 to have three such men as Boyd, Angel, and Fitzpatrick, each being hardy, abstemious, and reliable.

Mr. Gormly went on to state that the last time he met Boyd was in 1883 at Albury, where the demonstration and banquet were held to commemorate the connection of the New South Wales and Victorian railway systems. On that occasion Boyd had the satisfaction of seeing a train cross the river that he and Hume had swum over 59 years before. Boyd died at Tumut in 1887.

The paper dealt briefly with Captain Sturt's expedition down the Murrumbidgee and Murray to Lake Alexandria, in the years 1829-30. Mr. Gormly paid a high tribute to Major Mitchell (whom he had known) as an explorer, and referred at some length to his explorations in 1836, when he with a strong party went down the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee, and Murray to the junction of the Darling, and his further exploration over a considerable part of the Port Phillip district, which he named Australia Felix.

In the paper reference was made to the massacre of Faithfull's men in 1838 on the Broken River, nine out of party of fourteen being killed by the blacks; and to David Reid, who only died in May last, having assisted to bury one of the bodies.

The names of most of those who first forged stations on the Murrumbidgee were given. They included Henry O'Brien, who took up a station at Jugiong; Frank Taaffe, who settled at Muttama; Ben Warby had settled down opposite the junction of the Tumut in 1829, and Peter Stuckey had formed Willie Ploma at South Gundagai, the same year, while his brother Henry settled next to him.

Further down on the same side of the river came Robert Jenkins at Bangus, then John Vardy at Gillengrove with Hillis at Yabtree. Alexander M'Leay at Borambola, William Guise at Cuningdroo, Best at Wagga Wagga, and Mrs. Bourke at Gumly Gumly. On the north bank of the river below Gundagai the Tompson family first took up a station at Mickey's Corner, near Kimo Hill. This was in 1830.

The same family afterwards took up Oura and Eunonyhareenyah. James and William McArthur, of Camden Park, took up Nangus. James Thorn stocked Wantabadgery, while his brother put cattle on Gobbagumbalin. Jenkins, of Berrima, took up Tooyal, and his sons, John and Frank, settled at Buckingbong and Gillenbah. The settlement referred to that took place below Gundagai occurred in 1830-31-32, and 33.

Mr. Gormly referred to being able to ride a horse and assist to drive stock to the Murrumbidgee in 1844, when his father settled near Gundagai, which was the only town on the river at that time, it being on the overland track from Sydney to Port Phillip and being where a punt had been established. The flood of 1852 swept the town of Gundagai away and drowned about one hundred of the inhabitants; besides Gundagai, the whole valley was devastated.

Flocks and herds perished in thousands. All the stations along the river bank suffered, some of the people being left destitute. Mr. Gormly slightly referred to his own sufferings. When his father's home was swept away he had to swim a long distance, then to take refuge in the branches of a tree, where he had to remain the whole of a long winter's night and part of the next day. The cold was so intense that strong persons who had climbed trees for safety fell off during the night and were drowned.

Mr. Gormly referred to having taken horses for sale to the goldfields at Bendigo in the spring of 1852, and of crossing the Edward River, where the town of Deniliquin is now situated; on the journey so difficult was it to procure food that he gave nine shillings for 3lb of flour. This was brought about by the floods. On that journey he crossed the Murray at Hopwood's punt, three miles below the junction of the Campaspie River.

Hopwood soon after shifted three miles up the river to where the town of Echuca was afterwards built. There Hopwood placed a pontoon bridge on the river. The horses Mr. Gormly took over he sold at high prices on the goldfields at Bendigo.