Hamilton Hume (1797 – 1873) explorer
Hamilton Hume and William Hovell made many important discoveries including the Murray River, many of its tributaries, and the valuable agricultural and grazing lands between Gunning and Corio Bay in Victoria. In 1860 Hamilton Hume was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He became a magistrate and attended to his duties in Yass almost to the day of his death. An Anglican, he was a foundation trustee of St Clement’s, Yass, and other institutions in the township.
At the request of Governor Macquarie, Hume in 1818 accompanied Charles Throsby and James Meehan to the ‘New Country’, virtually the area already referred to but taking in more of the County of Argyle. The party split up; Hume and Meehan pressed on and discovered Lake Bathurst and the Goulburn plains. Whilst at the lake Meehan discovered and traced the course of the Mulwaree River for some distance while Hume made an excursion to the Gourock range. Rejoining for the return journey they passed close to the site of what became Goulburn. Next year Hume accompanied John Oxley and Meehan to Jervis Bay; Hume and Meehan, who worked well together, returned overland.
Hume agreed to lead a party overland to Spencer Gulf, but was unable to finance the journey wholly himself. As government backing was not forthcoming he was on the point of abandoning the project when Hovell offered to accompany him and share the cost. Hovell, an English sea captain, eleven years older than Hume, had settled on a grant at Narellan. He had little experience in the bush but could navigate. An agreement was signed but the arrangements were loose and unsatisfactory. The government contributed a few bare essentials: a tent, tarpaulin, pack-saddles, firearms and ammunition, but everything else was provided equally by the two principals, and each brought three assigned servants. Such instructions as the government’s contribution permitted it to give were a bone of contention between Hume and Hovell almost from the start, and by mutual consent their objective was changed to Westernport. On 17 October 1824, a fortnight after leaving Hume’s home at Appin, the party left his station at Gunning, then the farthest out. In the next sixteen weeks the party made many important discoveries including the Murray River, which the explorers for different reasons named the Hume, many of its tributaries, and the valuable agricultural and grazing lands between Gunning and Corio Bay in Victoria. It was a rich return for the distance travelled. They arrived back at Gunning on 18 January 1825. For his services Hume received a grant of 1200 acres (486 ha), which he was forced to sell to pay outstanding expenses; he had had to sell ‘a fine iron plough’ to pay for essentials before setting out.
Both Hume and Hovell convinced Governors Sir Thomas Brisbane and (Sir) Ralph Darling that the farthest point reached by the expedition had been Westernport. Hume’s failure to voice his suspicions that the point reached was Corio Bay in Port Phillip was a grave error. On the evidence available his later statement that he was ‘aware of it all the time’, must be considered an afterthought.
The government in 1827 offered a grant or other indulgences for the discovery of a new road over the Blue Mountains. This attracted Hume and he was successful. Though his line of road was not adopted he received a grant of 1280 acres (518 ha) for his services and as additional remuneration for his work with Hovell. In 1828 he was attached by Darling to Charles Sturt’s expedition into the interior. The party reached the Darling River. On this trip Hume showed his ability to work well and enthusiastically under a man he liked and respected. They became lifelong friends and Hume’s ability to handle the Aboriginals was never better illustrated than on this journey.
In 1860 Hamilton Hume was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. He became a magistrate and attended to his duties in Yass almost to the day of his death. An Anglican, he was a foundation trustee of St Clement’s, Yass, and other institutions in the township. As the years advanced his health declined; another pointless quarrel resulted in the parting of uncle and nephew in 1865. From then on the explorer’s deterioration was rapid. Almost totally deaf, with a failing memory, and now obsessed with the idea that his place in the 1824 expedition had not been restored in the public’s estimation, he was preparing a second edition of his Statement when he died at his home, Cooma Cottage, Yass, on 19 April 1873.
Hamilton Hume’s Grave :
William Wilberforce and his impact on Australia Celebrating 200 years since the Abolition of Slavery -
Public Lecture (mentioning Hamilton Hume) by Associate Professor Stuart Piggin given on 26 March 2007 at Parliament House, Canberra :
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