The Late Hamilton Hume, the Explorer
1 May 1873
The late Hamilton Hume, the explorer. Early on the morning of the 19th instant Hamilton Hume passed away to his rest.
That his memory deserves to be had in grateful remembrance by his countrymen the following brief memoir will, we think, fully prove; for though the public actions of his life were few in number, yet they were of such a character as accurately to show what manner of man he was; and in the history of Australasian exploration his name must always hold a prominent place - a place quite on a level with those of Sturt, Kennedy, Mitchell, and McKinlay.
Hamilton Hume was born at Parramatta on the 18th June, 1787.
He was the eldest of the four children of Mr. Commissionary-General A. H. Hume,* who, in 1797, had left England for Australia on board the frigate Guardian, commanded by Rion, " the gallant good Riou," of subsequent historic fame.
Of these four children only- one now survives - Mr. F. Rawdon Hume, of Castlesteads. Mr. J. K. Hume was killed many years ago.
The only daughter, who had married Mr. Barber, of Glenrock, and who was the mother of a large family (two of which Mr. Thomas Barber and Mr. R. A. Barber are residents in this neighbourhood), has also been dead some years.
The Humes are scions of the old Scottish border family of that name.
Debarred by the circumstances of the colony from receiving a liberal education, the subject of this memoir grew up to manhood without the usual advantages of a young man in his position of life.
What education he did get, he received from his mother; and scanty though it was, he yet turned it to good account.
Much of his boyhood was spent in the prosecution of bush adventures, in which he developed activity, determination, and self reliance - qualities subsequently to stand in good stead.
On entering upon manhood, Hamilton Hume must have been singularly active both in mind and body; his personal physique being, moreover, admirably adapted for feats requiring strength for endurance.
When but 17, Mr. Hume discovered the country round about Berrima; on this expedition he was accompanied by this brother J. K. Hume. In 1816, he thoroughly explored that country; and by his acquaintance with its pastoral wealth was enabled to be of great service to his friends in pointing out to them new country suitable for stock. In 1817 at the request of Governor Macquarie, Mr. Hume
accompanied Mr. Surveyor Meehan on a southern expedition to the “new country." During this trip they discovered Lake Bathurst, Goulburn Plains, and neighbourhood.
As payment for his services on this journey, Mr. Hume received a land order for 300 acres near Appin.
In 1818 Mr. Hume was joined with Messrs. Meehan and Oxley in an exploring expedition to Jervis Bay.
In 1822, he was engaged on Lieutenant Johnston's east coast survey, in search of rivers; during which trip Mr. Hume, with, Mr. Alexander Berry, penetrated from the Upper Clyde to the present site of the thriving town of Braidwood.
In 1821, Mr. Hume, in company with Mr. G. Barber (his brother-in-law), Mr. J. K. Hume, and Mr. W. H. Broughton, discovered the Yass Plains.
The account of discovery has been several times denied, but the weight of evidence is in favour of its being the true version. Mr. Hovell of Minto, whose name will often be found mixed up with that of Mr. Hume, has on many occasions, contradicted the truth of many of Mr. Hume's recorded statements; but the intrinsic character of those statements, corroborated as they are by the strongest collateral evidence will ever outweigh with the impartial inquirer the unsupported testimony of' a gentleman between whom and his once companion there seems ever to have been a considerable feeling of bitterness.
In 1824, Mr. Berry suggested to Governor Brisbane that Hamilton Hume was a most suitable person to lead the exploring party which his Excellency intended to dispatch from Cape Howe or Wilson's promontory back to Sydney overland.
Mr. Hume declined to undertake such a task.
He stated his readiness, if supplied with men and pack horses, to 'push his way from Lake George to Bass's Straits.
This offer, though accepted by the Governor, never was actually realized.
Some time afterwards, Mr. Hovell, of Minto, agreed with Mr. Hume to find, jointly, the necessary men and cattle for an expedition of similar kind, the Government of the day fell in with this arrange arrangement, and, on accepting the offer agreed to furnish pack-saddles, a tent, two tarpaulins, arms, ammunition, and a couple of skeleton charts.
Everything else had to be supplied from private resources; and as an example of the deep interest taken in the work Mr. Hume it may be mentioned that he was compelled to dispose of a valuable imported iron plough in order to raise the necessary funds for fulfilling his share of the obligation.
On its completion the party consisted of eight persons :- Mr. Hume and his three servants, Claude Bossows, Henry Angel, and James Fitzpatrick; Mr. Hovell and his three, Thomas Boyd, William Bollard, and Thomas Smith.
Of these, Angel, Fitzpatrick, and Boyd, have each testified the exact truth of a pamphlet, published by Mr. Hume in 1854 under this title: "A Brief Statement of Facts in connection with an overland expedition from Lake George to Port Philip in 1824."
Indeed, as late as last year, Mr. Fitzpatrick now a resident near Campbelltown, in these columns, declared his conviction that Mr. Hume's statement was, in all points, substantially correct.
It is on these points therefore, that we have elected to follow that pamphlet, as the true record of the celebrated journey, ever to be connected with the name of Hamilton Hume.
We may here mention that Mr. G. W. Rusden in his work, "The Discovery, Survey, and Settlement of Port Phillip," declares that after a careful examination of Mr. Hume's statement, and Mr. Hovell's reply thereto, he felt bound to accept the former as the witness of truth.
The instructions given to the party were to take departure from Lake George and to push on at all hazards to Western Port; in the event of meeting a river not fordable, to trace its source seaward as far as possible.
On the 17th October, in 1824, the party left Mr. Hume's station near Lake George.
On the 18th they camped near the site of his late residence, Cooma, close to the town of Yass. From the 19th to the 22nd, they were detained at Marjurigong, the Murrumbidgee being in flood.
Resolved to push on, Mr. Hume took his cart to pieces and a made a punt of it with his tarpaulin, and so overcame what seemed to his companions an insuperable difficulty.
As an illustration of the risks undergone, it should be remembered that Hamilton Hume and Boyd swam and dragged the improvised punt to and fro across the flooded stream.
After crossing the Tumut River, Mr. Hume found they were getting, into too high a country, as he observed the Snowy Mountains crossing their course. He therefore altered his route and steered for the west.
Mr. Hovell was for holding on; but, after leaving the main party, returned to it and adopted the wiser views of his companion.
On the 16th November, they reached the river, now known as the Murray. Mr. Hume called it the Hume, after his father. Unfortunately its later bestowed appellation is the one by which it is now best known.
Mr. Hume's memory, as well as that of his father, is, however, preserved in the name of that electoral district of New South Wales which includes the district about Albury.
On the 20th, they crossed the Mitta Mitta in a boat made by Mr. Hume of wattles and covered with his tarpaulin.
The passage of this river had been violently opposed by Hovell, but the determination of Hume carried the day.
Crossing the Little River, passing over the present Ovens gold-fields (Beechworth), they reached the Goulburn River. From thence they made Mount Disappointment, where they met with a complete check.
After desperate endeavours to penetrate the scrub in the direction they were making, they were at last compelled to change their course, by an infusion of more west.
At their camp, near where city of Kilmore now stands, there was a display on the part of the men of considerable discontent. Mr. Hovell refused to go on; but Hume made this compromise with the party, that if no decided prospect occurred of making the coast within the next two or three days, he would give up the journey and return, homewards.
On the 13th December, Hume, in advance of party, observed an opening and a fall of the land far to the south. He felt that he had won!
Three days afterwards they made the coast, camping, on the 17th December, near tire pre- sent site of Geelong.
It surely would be a mean mind which could refuse praise to Hume for this exploit - which can see ought of bathos in a comparison of the subject of this memoir to - "Stout Cortez, when with eagle eyes He started at the Pacific, and all his men Looked at each other with a wild surmise - Silent, upon a peak in Darien."
The important result of Hume's expedition to the Iramoo Downs, whereon Geelong now stands, became manifest in 1835. On the 29th May, of that year, John Batman reached Port Phillip. His mind had been inflamed by Hume's account of the richness of the land.
Ever since 1827 he had been endeavoring 'to settle in Port Phillip, but it was not until 1825 that he was enabled to do so.
Batman, it must be remembered was the fellow-townsman of Hamilton Hume, having also been born in Parramatta. As Rusden says: - "Hume's overland journey had stirred him (Batman). Bushman as he was, he knew that Hume had been right about Port Phillip Bay and Station Peak."
After their return home, with their party, Mr. Hovell had insisted that they had made Western Port, Mr. Hume that they had made Port Phillip. There cannot now be a shadow of doubt as to who was right.
The skeleton chart which Mr. Hume had filled in, was, in years after used by Sir Thomas Mitchell, and found by him (to use his own expression) "surprisingly correct.
It cannot but be a subject of regret that the two associates on such, a hazardous journey - one so fruitful of great results - should have been so unequally yoked: Hume all determination, resource and hope; Hovell all timidity, and vacillation.
Hume's pamphlet (of 1855, and a second edition was at press when death removed its author), if it do justice to his companion, paints him as the poet painted Blondel-Vatre in the drama, "a man wise in negatives expert in stepping backwards, and an adept in augering eclipses."
Such a word portrait is not complimentary, but the reader of the account is forced into believing it to be correct.
Before starting, a promise had been made by the Government to Messrs. Hume and Hovell that a cash payment should be made to them for the hire of cattle; and that a grant of land would be given should any important discoveries result from that exploration.
On their successful return money payment for the cattle was refused! Mr. Hume had great difficulty in getting tickets-of-leave for the three men who had accompanied personally.
He obtained an order to select 1200 acres of ground for himself, but was under the necessity of selling it to defray his expenses.
In the year 1828, Mr. Hume went as second to Captain Sturt on that famous Australian explorer's expedition to trace the Macquarie River, from the experience of that journey, Sturt pronounced Hume to be an able, sagacious and intrepid bushman.
The acquaintance then formed ripened into a friendship which was never broken. Some of Sturt's letters to his friends give pleasant glimpses into the nature of regard which existed between them.
Captain Sturt was very anxious to secure Hume's services a second time, but private interest compelled the latter to forego what otherwise would have been so pleasurable an employment.
After 1828, the career of Mr. Hume ceased to present points of special interest to the general public. He had done his work as an explorer.
The remainder of his years were spent in the successful per suit of pastoral occupations, by which he amassed a competency; retiring at the close of his career to spend his days at his seat upon the banks of the Yass river, to which [he] had given the name of Cooma.
For years he could say - "My way of life Is fallen into the sere, the yellow leaf; And that which should accompany old age As honour, love, obedience, troops of friends I am richly blessed with."
For many years Mr. Hume satisfactorily performed the duties of a justice of the peace on the Yass bench; but increasing infirmities attendant upon his weight of years forbade the exercise of them for some time past.
For several months preceding his death, he had been superintending the erection of a tomb in the Yass Church of England cemetery, in which his own remains were to be buried. Mr. Hume was a married man, his wife having been a Miss Dight.
Their union was not blessed with children.
Mrs. Hume still survives; and it will, we trust, prove to her consolation in her deep sorrow, that her late husband's memory is sure to be long treasured by his countrymen, as that of one who in his day and generation did his state good service.
It is probable that in a short time, the second edition of Mr. Hume's "Brief Statement" will be issued from the Press.
We believe it will contain no alterations whatever in 'the original text; but that several confirmatory additions will be the only new matter.
It was in the act of being prepared by Mr. Hume when summoned away; and was intended for an appeal to posterity that his claim as the leader of the pioneer overland expedition from New South Wales to Port Phillip should not be ignored. T
o Hamilton Hume it now matters little what the verdict of posterity may be.
He has done with the troubles, the rivalries, animosities of this world.
But to those who survive him, to those who have benefited by his perilous work, so boldly and sagaciously carried out, it does matter that strict justice should be done to his memory.
Some ten years ago he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and that was the sole public recognition his work ever won for him: no honours were bestowed upon him by the Crown, though others with less claims for distinction reaped ribbons and crosses.
History, let us hope, will determine more justly; will award to him the praise of doing a brave act loyally; will recognise in him a man of the grand old Anglo-Saxon type, one of that heroic stamp who take for their resolute motto -"Viam inveniam aut faciam."
* Eldest son of the Reverend James Hume, of Moira, Ireland. Mr. A. H. Hume married Elizabeth Moore Kennedy, second daughter of the Reverend John Kennedy, of Teston and Nettlestead, county Kent, England.