The Late Mr. Hamilton Hume

Australian Town and Country Journal

17 May 1873

On Saturday, 19th. ultimo, Mr. Hamilton Hume, one of the early explorers of New South Wales, and a native of the colony, departed this life at his late residence, near Yass.

Mr. Hume was descended from the Scottish border family of that name.

His grandfather was the Rev. James Hume, of Moira, in Ireland.

His father, Mr. A. H. Hume, received the appointment of Commissary-General for New South Wales, and came out to this colony in 1797.

He had married Elizabeth Moore Kennedy, daughter of the Rev. John Kennedy, of Teston and Nettlestead, in the county of Kent.

Shortly after their arrival, viz., on the 10th June, 1797, Hamilton, their eldest son, was born at Parramatta.

Two more sons and one daughter were afterwards born to them:- Mr. J. K. Hume, who was killed many years ago; Mrs. Barber, of Glenrock, who died, at a later date leaving a large family settled in this country; and Mr. Rawdon Hume, of Castlestead, now the only survivor of Commissary Hume's family.

When Hamilton Hume was a boy, there was scant opportunity in this country for obtaining what is termed a liberal education.

His mother, however, gave him instruction in the elements of learning, which he turned to good account; and his energies found scope in a different kind of training to that of the Grammar School.

He learned agility, perseverance, and self-reliance in the bush adventures which he undertook while a boy.

Thus by the time he was seventeen he was an accomplished bushman, with fine muscular frame, quick eye, and sound judgment.

At that age, in the year 1815, in company with his brother, Mr. J. K. Hume, he discovered the fine country about Berrima; and after exploring it returned and gave information to his friends of its excellent pastoral capabilities.

In 1817 Hamilton Hume, at the request of Governor Macquarie, went with Mr. Surveyor Meehan on a tour of discovery into the southern country.

They discovered Lake Bathurst and Goulburn Plains. In 1818, he went with Messrs. Meehan and Oxley to Jervis Bay.

During the next three or four years he took part with Mr. Alexander Berry in the exploration of the Clyde River and the Braidwood district; and in company with his brother J, K. Hume, his brother-in-law, G. Barber, and W. H. Broughton, discovered Yass Plains.

In 1824 Sir Thomas Brisbane determined to send an expedition to explore the country between Sydney and Wilson's Promontory; and Mr. Alexander Berry recommended the Governor to secure the services of Mr. Hume to lead the exploring party.

The proposal of the Governor was that they should start from Wilson's Promontory or Cape Howe, and travel thence to Sydney.

Mr. Hume declined to undertake that task; but offered, if supplied with men and horses, to go from Lake George to Bass' Straits. T

his was not carried out. But shortly afterwards Mr. Hume and Captain W. H. Hovell, of Minto, agreed together to undertake an expedition in that direction.

They found men and horses and bullocks; the Government furnished them with pack saddles, tarpaulins, tent, arms, ammunition, and skeleton charts.

On the 2nd October, 1824, Messrs. Hovell and Hume met at Mr. Hume's house, Appin, and thence started upon their expedition.

The party when complete, consisted of eight persons, - Mr. Hume and his three men, Claude Bossowa, Henry Angel, and James Fitzpatrick;-Mr. Hovell and his three men, Thomas Boyd, William Bollard, and Thomas Smith.

They reached the most distant out-station towards the south-west, about 165 miles from Sydney, on the 13th. On the 19th they passed Yarrh - or as they are now called Yass Plains.

Their first great difficulty was in crossing the Murrumbidgee. The timber growing on the banks of this river was too heavy to float; so they resolved to make a raft of the body of one of their carts.

Mr. Hume and Mr. Hovell's man Boyd, swam across the river first, with a small rope between their teeth, to which was attached a line long enough to reach across the river.

It was a work of peril, as the current was strong. But they succeeded, and then, with much labour, got the whole party, with baggage and cattle, safely over.

On the 24th October they came up to what seemed an impenetrable mountain barrier.

Here the leaders parted, in search of a pass by which they might traverse the range.

Mr. Hume, with two men, following a chain of ponds, came to a chasm through which the whole party (Mr. Hovell and his men having rejoined them) afterwards descended.

On the 31st they found themselves on the western edge of the table land.

The descent was not accomplished without much difficulty. And here they proved the great superiority of bullocks over horses for travelling over a mountainous country.

On the 6th November, they came in sight of the Australian Alps.

The spectacle which burst suddenly upon their view, of a range of conoidal mountains, covered with snow for one-fourth of their height, and extending in a semicircle from S.E. to S.S.W. at about twenty miles distance, filled them with wonder and delight.

They came after this upon a very rich country, abounding in kangaroos and other animals, with frequent tracks of aborigines; and on Tuesday, the l6th November, they arrived suddenly on the banks of a fine river.

Both the leaders of the expedition had anticipated the early appearance of a large river in this direction, being of opinion that the large bodies of water lately met with, though pursuing a southerly or even easterly course, would, in consequence of the impenetrable barrier presented towards the east by the Australian Alps, revert before long to the west ward, and be distributed to the interior.

Mr. Hume was the first to see the river, and named it "the Hume," after his father, the commissary.

This river, where they first came upon it, is about eighty yards in breadth, and of considerable depth.

The current was about three miles an hour, and the water clear. The course of the river is serpentine, and its banks covered with verdure.

The description of this river awakened much interest at the time, and it is so important a feature in the country, that the honour of discovering it will always be much thought of.

On the 3rd December, they came upon a river further south, which they called "the Hovell."

This river is a branch of the Hume, or Murray, and has since been called "the Goulburn," a name very inconveniently applied, by way of heaping honours on a former Secretary of State for the Colonies, to river after river, to towns, and other geographical features.

On the 16th December, they came in sight of the sea at Corio Bay, Port Phillip. Satisfied with this achievement, they set out on their return after two days rest.

On the 17th January, 1825, they forded the Murrumbidgee; and on the 18th, arrived at Mr. Hume's station on Lake George.

Of the country through which the Hume flows, Mr. Oxley, Surveyor-General, had previously reported thus:- "We had demonstrated beyond a doubt that the country south of 34 degrees and west of 147 degrees 30 min. east was uninhabitable, and useless for the purposes of civilised man.

The previous publication of this desponding opinion made the discovery of Messrs. Hume and Hovell the more famous.

Dr. Bland, in his concluding remarks on the narrative says: "The results of this undertaking were the discovery of a vast range of country invaluable for every purpose of grazing and agriculture, watered by numerous fine streams and rivers, and presenting an easy inland intercourse extending from Port Phillip and Western Port to the whole of the settled districts of the eastern coast of New Holland, thus refuting the previously adopted opinion by which this line of country had been denounced as 'uninhabitable and useless for all purposes of civilisation;' while further, when taken in connexion with the later discoveries of Captain Sturt and those of Major Mitchell on the tour from which he has only just returned, they give access to regions of extent and capabilities fully adequate to receive, at the lowest estimate, the entire supposed surplus population, not merely of Great Britain, but of Europe."

Among the greatest results of this expedition was the settlement of Port Phillip within a few years afterwards.

John Batman, a fellow-townsman of Hamilton Hume, having been born in Parramatta, giving full credit to Hume's account, determined, from the time he saw the report of this journey, to take advantage of the discovery by settling on some of the rich land reported by the travellers as adjoining Port Phillip.

He was delayed by various obstacles year after year, but at length, in 1835 on the 29th May, he landed on the shores of Port Phillip, and began his part in that work of pioneer settlement which has led to the formation of the colony of Victoria.

In 1828, Mr. Hume accompanied Captain Sturt on his expedition along the Macquarie River.

Ten years previously Mr. Oxley had gone down the Macquarie until he was stopped by the swamps.

It was now resolved by Governor Darling that an attempt should be made to explore the country beyond this barrier. Captain Charles Sturt, an officer of the 39th, then stationed in Sydney, was selected for the conduct of the undertaking; and Mr. Hume was chosen to accompany him.

They had with them, Mr. M'Leod, an army surgeon, two soldiers of the 39th, and eight prisoners of the Crown.

They left Sydney on the 10th September, 1828, and came on the 26th December to the great marshes at which Mr. Oxley had been brought to a stand.

While Captain Sturt endeavoured to navigate the river in a boat they had brought up with them, Mr. Hume went on horseback towards the north.

It was long before they could find a practicable route; but at length they came out of the swamps upon sandy and scrubby plains, over which they travelled for hundreds of miles, suffering much from want of water and other inconveniences, until on the 4th February, 1829, they were cheered by the sight of a river 240 feet wide, and covered with wild fowl.

To their surprise they found the water to be salt. They called it the Darling.

Soon after they discovered the Bogan and the Castlereagh. The whole country was then suffering from a prolonged drought; and Captain Sturt gives a vivid picture of the desolation that prevailed.

The party returned to the settled districts in April. From his experience of the help afforded him by Mr. Hume during this expedition, Captain Sturt expressed a high estimate of his qualifications as a sagacious and intrepid explorer.

He afterwards endeavoured to secure the services of Mr. Hume for another journey; but by that time he had entered into pastoral pursuits, and did not feel warranted in leaving his business.

Mr. Hume married a lady of the Dight family, long settled in this country.

This lady survives as his widow. They had no children. For many years Mr. Hume discharged the duties of a justice of the peace in the Yass district.

As the infirmities of age came upon him, he was the more honoured by the respect due to him for his services to the country, and his fulfilment of the duties of a country gentleman.

With many friends, and the good will of his countrymen, he advanced peacefully along the vale of years; and at last departed from this earthly scene at the age of nearly 76 years.