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CAPT. RONALD CAMPBELL, SQUATTER, BOMBALA STATION, MONARO N.S.W.

The cover has a strip of three brown-lilac De La Rue ‘TWO PENCE’ stamps of Victoria canceled by MELBOURNE/ 7V/ MY 5/ 70 with the duplex VICTORIA obliterator and there is a ms ‘per Overland Route’at top left. It was addressed to Ronald Campbell Esq., Bombala Station, New South Wales (Figure 1).

The reverse clearly shows the long and out-of-way routing of the 1870 ‘Overland Route’ from Melbourne (May 5) first to Albury N.S.W. (May 7), then Goulburn N.S.W. (May 9) and then back-tracking south to its destination of Bombala N.S.W. (May 17). There is an additional transit stop between Goulburn and Cooma which is indecipherable but it is also dated May 9, 1870 (Figure 2).

 

The overland route from Melbourne to Bombala in the 1870s was distinctly circuitous (red arrows) and the sea-way route might have been more direct providing that the Great Dividing Range could have been passed over, from coastal villages such as Eden, Merimbula or Tathra (all shown with a black arrow), as seen in Figure 3.

Research on Ronald Campbell was made difficult for there were two individuals with that name in the same general area and much the same dates. This account is extracted from Ronald Cameron of Bombala’s obituary:

"The death of Captain Ronald Cameron occurred on the 28th October 1871, at his late residence, Bombala Station in his 85th year. He was one of the earliest squatters of Manaro (sic) who for the last 37 years has been resident at the "Bombala Station," at the advanced age of 85 years. The desire of the deceased to be buried near his late beautiful home was carried out, and the spot selected, some half-mile from the house, was most appropriate. The Church of England clergyman, the Rev. Samuel Percival, performed the last offices."

"The life of Captain Campbell is involved in much interest, and without disputing the age disclosed on the coffin lid, we refer to facts which. if true, would point to an earlier birth than that which is ascribed to him. So soon as 1800 we find that he has a medal for gallant conduct in wars then being carried on by England and her foes; he is also in India all through the Nepal war, and there and then a medal is awarded him for honourable and gallant service. At the memorable burning of the transport ship, Kent, in the English Channel, then taking over troops to India, the subject of our memoir, at that time a lieutenant in the 31st Regiment of Foot, and about the year 1825, carried himself in such a manner in this terrible catastrophe as to call forth official comment in praise of his conduct."

"Afterwards, at Dinapore, with the cholera raging, and 10,000 persons dying of the epidemic, we find him quartered with his regiment, and escaping death, as it would seem almost by a miracle. Attacked by diseases incidental to a prolonged residence in a tropical climate, Captain Campbell was twice ordered to England on furlough, and eventually came to Sydney with a detachment of the 4th Regiment of Infantry to be stationed at that place - this was either in the year 1834 or 1835."

"The transport ship was the John, also bringing out convicts. Seeing the opportunity of satisfactory retirement from his profession, the captain took the step which made him one of us, and selling out of the army, became a station holder in the Manaro (sic) district. Something like 37 years have expired since the subject of this very incomplete biography located on the "Bombala Station.’ The Crown lands at the time of his venture were unsettled, and the country entirely new. To his credit, as a judge of land, either for pastoral or other pursuits, be it recorded that no better selection of property in the whole of this colony could have been made, and this may be evidenced by an inspection of the place where the deceased has so long lived and is now buried."

"Captain Campbell was for many years on the Commission of the Peace, and had the magisterial character of being very gruff but very just – he was a Highlander to the backbone. The deceased, years ago, married the widow of Captain Edwards, of Bangalore, (who survives him), and there are also children of the several marriages who deeply regret the loss of their father, old friend, and protector."

A description of present-day Bombala is presented in the Sydney Morning Herald:

Located 504 km south west of Sydney, 81 km south of Cooma and 747 metres above sea level, Bombala is a small and attractive rural service centre located in the far south east corner of New South Wales. It currently has a population of around 1500. The main road from Cooma to the coast does not pass through Bombala and therefore the town has remained relatively untouched. The district around the town, which can get very cold in winter, supports a variety of agricultural activity including sheep and beef cattle, vegetable growing and timber milling. The area is also known as one of the state's best trout fishing districts.

As far as can be determined the area was inhabited by the Ngarigu Aborigines prior to European settlement and it is from their language that the word 'bombala' is said to have come. It probably meant 'meeting of the waters'.

Europeans settled the Bombala district as early as the 1830s and by about 1833 Captain Ronald Campbell had established a large run. By 1848 he owned nearly 6, 500 hectares which he called 'Bombalo'. The settlement of the area continued throughout the 1840s. By 1849 the small township of Bombala had its own post office and by 1850 a regular mail service was being run between the town and Eden on the coast. [This strongly suggests that Eden would have been the coastal town for access of mail by the sea route from Melbourne].

It was around this time that a street plan was drawn up and Bombala quickly gained the reputation as one of the prettiest towns in the Monaro. By 1856 its population was nearly twice that of Cooma (now the major town in the district) and a number of substantial public and commercial buildings had been constructed.

The town continued to grow and by the early 1890s two bridges had been constructed over the Bombala River. It was around the turn of the century that Bombala was briefly considered as a possible site for the new Federal Capital. The local citizens agitated for the construction of a railway line but it did not arrive until 1921. Today the town is a typical small rural centre providing services for the surrounding farmland. The drive from Cooma to Victoria's Gippsland coast via Bombala is particularly attractive.

This paper was largely extracted from Anne Parker’s Monaro Pioneers website.

 
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