Queanbeyan Age and Queanbeyan Observer
4 March 1921
Yass Celebrates. Hundredth Birthday. Canberra and Apathy.
"Well, do you see anything?" asked Hamilton Hume of his slow-speaking companion, on a high hill near the present situation of Yass, 100 years ago. "Ya-ass," replied that worthy, and that is supposed to be how Yass got its name. The date, as nearly as it is possible to fix it was February 28, 1812.
Hamilton Hume, born at Parramatta on June 19, 1797, was then only 24 years of age, but already he was noted, for his superb bushcraft and the daring and success of his expeditions into the-entirely unknown regions to the west and south. Four years before, in 1817, Hume, with a companion named Meehan, had penetrated to the Goulburn Plains and the Bathurst Lake, whose discovery is wrongly attributed to Oxley.
He then devoted some time to the South Coast, and in 1821, he, with four companions, set out from Appin to explore the country to the far south of Bowral and Moss Vale. His companions were: John Kennedy Hume (his brother), George Barbour (brother-in-law), and W. H. Broughton. The name of the fourth man is not definitely known. Some say that he was George Barbours' son, others that his name was Bailey, and an ancestor of Mr. Bailey, at present a member of the Legislative Assembly. The party is believed to have traversed the Yass plains, and it safely returned to Appin some weeks later.
Pilgrimage to Hume's Grave.
The people of Yass, under the energetic leadership of: Mr. E. Howard (president of the Centenary Committee), Mr. James Duffy (Mayor), and Mr. A. Shearsby (organising. secretary), have arranged to celebrate the centenary very fittingly. The programme of events will extend over a week, an agricultural show, tours of the various places of beauty or of historic interest, social functions of all kinds, and a street carnival every night.
The programme commenced on Sunday with a pilgrimage to the grave of Hamilton Hume, who died in 1878 and was buried in the Yass cemetery. Several hundreds of townspeople took part in this solemn ceremony. Among the wreaths laid on the grave were tributes from the Centenary Committee, from St. Clement's Church and Sunday School, from the Barbour family (descendants of George Barbour), from the Presbyterian community, and from the Royal Historical Society of New South Wales. Addresses were delivered by Captain J. H. Watson, on behalf of the Historical Society, and Mr. Howard, on behalf of the Centenary Committee.
Was He First?
Captain Watson made the interesting statement that Hume's party was, perhaps, not the first white men to reach Yass Plains. Barracks, a servant of Governor Hunter, with two convicts, Wilson and Roe, between January 24 and April 2, in 1798, made an exploration away to the south of Berrima and Moss Vale. Barracks made a second journey, but both of these expeditions were unrecorded. The majority of people, however, willingly give to Hamilton.
Hume's party the credit of the discovery.
"One hundred years ago," said Mr. Howard in his eloquent address, "this magnificent panorama of a mountain and valley, forest and plain, rocky heights and sparkling rivulets, had never been looked upon by any white man nor by any member of any civilised race. We need not here give in the adventures, trials, and successes in penetrating into what was then a wild and unknown region. We simply meet here to-day to do honor to the name and memory of the first white man who ever visited these parts."
The Acting Premier, Mr. J. Dooley, arrived on Monday morning to formally open the celebrations. The town was in gala dress. The morning was occupied by children's sports, and in the afternoon a civic reception was given to the Acting I Premier. Mr. Howard, the president, welcomed the visitors in a forceful speech, in which he did not hesitate to draw attention to the needs of Yass-Burrenjuck hydro-electric scheme, the Federal Capital, the coast railway, and above all, a water scheme for the town. The mention of the water supply evoked loud cheers.
Strikes and Droughts.
He gave a characteristically witty speech and voiced his appreciation of meeting so many of the old pioneers and enthusiastic towns people. The spirit of recognition of the worth of the pioneers was a commented on by him in the most favorable terms. He recalled in 1917 being on a mail boat with a cosmopolitan crowd from all the corners of the earth. Every one of them praised their own countries, yet an Australian got up and said his country was a land of drought and strikes.
Mr. Dooley did not say what he said to the Australian. "We have our strikes," he said. "And we have our droughts, but Australia is the greatest land on earth for its possibilities. We hear a great deal of pessimism these days but, God knows we must see some sad sights, but if we realise the cash in our possibilities and look to our opportunities, our pessimism will vanish in the grandeur of the project." Regarding the water supply, Mr. Dooley was wary. He said he would see, but he drew a picture of a cold and unsympathetic Treasarer, whose treasure consisted of anything but £.s.d. However, he would see.
Mr. Austin Chapman, M.H.R., received a great reception. Mr. Dooley had spoken of a coast rail way to Jervis Bay, not so much as a Federal matter, but as a project in which the State should assist. That was the spirit. The brick kilns had started at Canberra that day, he went on, and carting was beginning for six cottages and two administrative offices - the former to be built in six months and the latter in about a year. "I pledge myself that something is going to happen," said he, "or I'll bust!"
The Mayor's' speech was full of appeal for that co-operative spirit and he asked the sympathy and assistance of the visitors in, their efforts. He proposed a vote of thanks, to the visitors. Then it began to rain steadily.
But rain as it would it could not damp the ardour of the people who were celebrating. A magnificent, procession took place in the evening, composed of decorated cars and all the other pieces which usually go towards this end. It was easily the best seen in the district.
The railway people, with some queer idea, held up the train bearing visitors to the celebrations at the Junction until after the procession had passed. A display of the Mission aboriginals was splendid.
The town was gaily lit by electric light specially generated for the purpose, though the rain did fuse an important wire and put them out for a time. Levenson's side shows, stills, confetti, gay crowds, dancing and numerous fancy costumes gave the rain no chance to quell the enthusiasm.
On Tuesday, the Yass Agricultural Show opened, and was in every respect a fine display. It was attended by a record crowd, and should certainly prove a great advertisement for the district.