Mrs. Andrew H. Hume. Mother of Explorers

The Sydney Morning Herald

7 March 1921

Few women have been able to claim the honour of being the mother of an explorer; fewer still that of being the mother of two Australian-born explorers. Yet Mrs. Andrew H. Hume could have claimed, had she wished to do so, that she was the mother of two explorers, the mother-in-law of a third, and the aunt by marriage of a fourth.

The celebrations in connection with the Yass Centenary are focusing attention to the four young men who, whilst searching for grass in 1821, discovered Yass and district. They were Hamilton and John Kennedy Hume, George Barber, and Wm. H. Broughton. Mrs. Hume was the mother of the first two. Her only daughter, Isabella, married George Barber, and one of the nieces whom she accompanied to Australia became the wife of Commissary Broughton, the father of the fourth.

At that time few, if any, women held any sort of public position out here. Mrs. Hume seems to have been one of the first women in Australia to hold a position under Government - that of matron of the Orphan Institution. We can hardly imagine the conditions under which she had to work. There were few indeed of the amenities of civilised life in the first decade of the settlement, and probably none at all were to be found in the precincts on a convict orphanage.

Life for the men was rough and strenuous for the women, hardships and makeshifts from year end to year end, and the orphan children! Perhaps Mrs. Hume, daughter of an English vicarage as she was, was able to bring a little joy into the drab life of those unfortunate children.

Mrs. Andrew H. Hume was not Australian born. She came to New South Wales in the Sovereign store ship from England, which arrived on November 5, 1795. Collins, on page 433 of his history, records her arrival thus:- One settler also arrived, a Mr. Kennedy and his family (a sister and three nieces).

Elizabeth Moore Kennedy was the second daughter of Rev. John Kennedy, vicar of Teston, and Nettlestead, Kent, and it is said was named after Hannah More, the well-known authoress and philanthropist. Not being able to agree with her stepmother, she decided to leave home, and eventually accompanied her widowed brother, James, and his three motherless girls to New South Wales.

About three years after Miss Kennedy's arrival in Sydney she married Andrew Hamilton Hume, who held the post of superintendent of Convicts, and then Government storekeeper at Parramatta. He was a quick-tempered, somewhat reckless Irishman of Scotch descent, who seemed to have a capacity for pulling his superiors about his ears. After various escapades in the old country, the influence of Sir Francis Rawdon (afterwards Marquis of Hastings and Governor-General of India) secured him a post in the Commissariat Department of New South Wales.

Together he and his wife tried to lessen some of the brutal punishment indicted on convicts of both sexes. Mrs. Hume's is about the only woman's name appearing in "Records." There is an entry for 1802 thus: In account with Orphan Fund, Mrs. Hume, Miss Kennedy, Cosgrove, and Peat, 5 months wages, etc., 18/19/5; and again Mrs. Hume, bill for soap, 10/18/5 .

There were five children of the marriage. Hamilton and John Kennedy Hume, the explorers; Isabella, who married George Barber; Francis Rawdon Hume, and another who died an infant from the results of a fall received while his older brother Hamilton, was playing with him. In the Hawkesbury floods Mrs. Hume and her infant son (the late Francis Rawdon Hume, of Burrowa) were rescued in a pig trough with nothing but a feather bed. In 1811 Mrs. Hume received a grant of 60 acres at Parramatta, and in the following year her husband was granted 100 acres at Appin.

Mrs. Hume's time was taken up with her home and the education of her family. The two elder boys at a very early age developed an almost unprecedented love of exploring, and as early as 1814, when still in their teens, and accompanied only by a black boy, they set out on an expedition and discovered the country around Berrima. But a mother's anxiety caused her to forbid the second boy to go again till he was older. But Hamilton, although only l8 in the following year - 1815 - again visited this district, and from then on was chiefly occupied in exploring. His greatest trips were, of course, those with Captain Sturt, with Mr. Surbey or Meehan, and the greatest of all was in 1824-25, when he and Captain Hovell and six men made the great overland journey to Port Phillip and back, thus opening up all the country between Lake George and Melbourne.

The younger of the two explorers was killed at Gunning, in 1840, by bushrangers, leaving a young family.

Mrs. Hume's life in Australia was spent chiefly at Parramatta (Toongabbie), the Hawkesbury, Appin, and Gunning. She died in 1847 at the latter town, in her 87th year.

Mary E J. Yeo.