Royal Reels: Gambling


This fine cover has a vertical pair of the 1850 vermilion One Penny ‘Sydney Views’ (S.G. 7) tied by an indistinct cancel, addressed to Hamilton Hume at Yass (New South Wales). Not only is the pair of imperforate stamps superb, but the letter brings together four men important in early N.S.W. history. The vendor gives information about the contents of the letter, as follows: “refers to (William Hilton) Hovell (explorer) presenting a petition to the Governor (Sir Charles Augustus FitzRoy) signed by 700 people; also reference to the (John) McArthur (sic) clique, libel and threats of legal action, signature appears to be that of Thomas Mitchell, another famous explorer, superb received back-stamp of Yass” (Figure 1).

Hamilton Hume was born on 19 June 1797 near Parramatta N.S.W. the eldest son of Andrew Hamilton Hume and his wife Elizabeth née Kennedy. She gave their four children the rudiments of a sound education. In 1812 the family moved to a grant of 100 acres at Appin. Hamilton at the age of 17 made his first exploration with his brother John and reached the Berrima-Bong Bong district. Two years later, leaving John at home, Hume further explored the area and penetrated as far as the Burgonia district.

At the request of Governor Macquarie in 1818 Hume undertook another exploration with 2 others, and on the return journey they passed close to the site that became Goulburn. John Macarthur, the great merino sheep pastoralist, next sought Hume’s services and he with 2 others discovered the Yass Plains. His exploration in N.S.W. expanded and for his services he was given a grant of 300 acres and built his first home there, at Appin. One of his co-explorers, Alexander Berry, brought together Hume and Captain W.H. Hovell for what was to be Hume’s most famous and fruitful journey to Port Phillip and return in 1824-25.

Hovell, an English sea captain, eleven years older than Hume offered to accompany Hume and to share the cost. The N.S.W. government provided the bare essentials for this epic extensive exploration, and both explorers each brought three of their servants. Their final objective was finally agreed upon and changed to Westernport, Victoria. On 17 October 1824, the party left Hume’s station at Gunning and in the next 16 weeks they made many important discoveries including the Murray River, many of its tributaries, and the valuable agricultural and grazing lands between Gunning N.S.W. and Corio Bay in Victoria. They arrived back at Gunning on 18 January 1825. For his services, Hume received a grant of 1200 acres which he was forced to sell to pay for incurred expenses. Soon after his return he married Elizabeth, second daughter of John and Hannah Dight of Richmond.

In 1827 the Government offered a grant for the discovery of a new road over the Blue Mountains and Hume was successful, although his suggestion was not followed-up. In 1828 he was attached to Sturt’s expedition by Governor Darling into the interior and the party reached the Darling River. Hume’s health deteriorated and he now had to consider his wife and his future. He moved to in 1829 to Yass Plains as the site of their home, and he established several flocks of sheep and a number of pigs, later moving to a cottage at the Yass River. Hume and his wife were childless and his nephew took over management of his various properties for 2 decades.

Hume and Hovell never explored together again after their momentous exploration to Corio Bay, and in 1853 Hovell visited Geelong where he was feted as its discoverer, and Hume was incensed by what he considered a playing down of his role in the 1824 exploration. Subsequent publications concerning the journey destroyed any friendship they had. Hume was made a magistrate at Yass, was elected a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, and his health further deteriorated after an argument with his nephew and Hume died at his home, Cooma Cottage, Yass (to where the above cover was delivered) on 19 April 1873.

A drawing of Hamilton Hume is seen in Figure 2.

I acknowledge that this information was derived from the on-line Australian Dictionary of Biography.

Categories: Explorers