The First Overlanders

The Sydney Morning Herald

20 March 1897

In the year 1855 the late Mr. Hamilton Hume, then residing on his estate, Cooma, near Yass, published a pamphlet called "A Brief Statement of Facts in Connection with an Overland Expedition from Lake George to Port Phillip in 1824."

This pamphlet bad been edited by the Rev. Mr. Ross, of Goulburn, who wrote the preface.

The occasion for its appearance was the glorification of Mr. Hovell as the real hero of the memorable expedition which did so much to ascertain the character of the country towards the Murray and beyond it, in what is now Victoria.

Mr. Hume wrote:- "I hope it may not be imputed to me as unwarranted or discreditable that I have felt roused to find that Mr. Hovell has almost monopolised with the public the fame and credit, of the expedition to Port Phillip, in which he was associated with myself in 1824; and that where my name has been referred to at all it has almost invariably been in a secondary style, and more as Mr. Hovell's companion or assistant than in the fair true light of the undertaker and leader of the expedition."

Determined claim what credit really belonged to him, he wrote a short account of the expedition.

Mr. Hovell made a reply, and in a second edition of the pamphlet Mr. Hume issued a rejoinder.

That was about 1873, but he died before the second edition issued from the Press.

These are the manly and pathetic words which closed his preface:-"I am now near upon fourscore, yet I retain a vivid recollection of the facts narrated in my statement.

I offer them to the public as a statement substantially correct, in the confident hope that my claim to be recorded in the history of my country as the sole leader of the pioneer overland expedition to Port Phillip, may not be denied me. Into my labors, undergone during that expedition, other men have entered.

Of material fruit they never bore me much. What benefit others reaped I never grudged to them I only covet the acknowledgment of my countrymen that my story is true and my claim just.

Such an acknowledgment can do me, personally, but little good; the withholding of it but little harm.

Still, truth is truth, and for the sake of those who bear my name I should wish it to be held in remembrance as that of one who, with but small opportunities, and with but limited resources, did what he could for his native land."

Nevertheless, even in Mr. Hume's narration the reader cannot but be struck with the evidence of friction and unpleasantness between the two principals extending to their servants.

Indeed, it would seem that both Hovell and Hume were men of strong wills, self-assertive, and obstinate to a high degree.

Incontestably, Hume, the native, and an explorer who gave proof of his abilities under the great Sturt and with Mitchell and Berry in exploring the South Coast, was a fine bushman; and Hovell, the sea captain, was not. But it is an old story now.

However they fought out or reconciled their sometimes paltry differences, the two men were the first overlanders; but for Hume it is very probable that Hovell would have come to grief or have returned, his hard journey unaccomplished.

The memorial of that achievement must long remain an interesting record for the generations which have entered into the labors of these two men, have occupied the wilderness and filled it with the homes and the work of man, with flocks and herds, vines and fig trees, corn and oil.

This third edition, supplemented with fresh matter bearing upon Mr. Hume's claim to pre-eminence is published by Messrs S. E. Lees and Co., with a view to "erecting a monument to the memory of the late Hamilton Hume at Albury, N.S. W., near the spot where he first crossed the Murray (or Hume) in 1824".