Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Oscar Hughan

Oscar Hughan was the fourth child and first son born to Robert Alexander Hughan and Hannah Oakley on November 29, 1826. He was born at Colchester, Essex, after his three elder sisters had been born in the neighbouring county of Suffolk.
He was well educated, as was befitting the eldest son, and if his obituary is to be believed, led a varied and fascinating life. In his late-teens when his father died in 1844, his obituary states that he left London for Canada when he was 22, in about 1848.

He travelled around before settling in the city of Boston, where he remained for some eight years. The Hughans considered themselves poets of some talent, and Oscar was no exception. Whilst in Boston, he contributed to various periodicals and reviews, including the ‘Museum’, ‘Transcript’ , ‘Carpet Bag’ and the ‘Waverly’. He considered was a personal friend of Longfellow and Nathaniel Hawthorne (who penned ‘The Scarlet Letter’).
During the period in which he was living in the United States, Oscar’s mother and siblings immigrated to Australia. Upon leaving the States, Oscar travelled to Geelong (by what means is still a mystery), where he was reunited with his mother Hannah and several of his siblings.

He became sub-editor of a local Geelong newspaper, and was subsequently connected with a short-lived periodical known as ‘The Spirit of The Age’. Oscar also loved the theatre and acted frequently. He was a friend of one of the best actors of the day, G.V. Brooke, and acted on the stage with him. One of the two obituaries that appeared at the time of Oscar’s death in 1915 stated that he had been during his life ‘a soldier, sailor, schoolmaster and slave holder’, amongst other things…evidence to support these claims has yet to be found!

Despite me not being able to locate Oscar's date of arrival in Victoria, the publishing of items of his poetry and letters to the editor in the newspaper 'Geelong Advertiser and Intelligencer'  proves that he was most certainly there in September of 1853. His poem "Angel Visits" was published on September 23, 1853, followed by "The Hunted Slave" on September 26. Almost immediately, local Geelong resident and fellow poet, George Wright, wrote to the paper accusing Oscar of 'piracy' and plundering the famous works of other poets in the creation of his own. There was a flurry of correspondence, the first of which Oscar penned on September 25, 1853, from Geelong.
  For Oscar to have been in Victoria by September of 1853, he must have left the United States soon after his marriage to Sophia Tuttle in February 1853.
  Oscar disappears from the newspapers for several years from 1854, which suggests that he left Australia for other climes, to return again by the early 1860s. The Argus newspaper reported on March 27, 1860, that Mr O.G Hughan, "a gentleman who has travelled much in America" that night was to deliver a lecture on "The Red Man of Northern America" at the Brighton Mechanics Institute.

Above: Ballarat Star, December 11, 1861.

Oscar was on the receiving end of Joseph Bishop’s venomous attack on the Hughan family in the infamous 1862 letter written to his nephew, Henry Bishop, on Henry's announcement that he was going to marry the youngest Hughan sister, Bertha…..

“ The elder brother, Oscar, is a great scamp – a worthless vagabond, an actor, a loafer that would if the least encouraged live upon you, eat you, smoke you, drink you up, ruin you, and care not.”
-Joseph Bishop, August 1862.

By 1864, Oscar had opted for another total change of scenery, this time sailing up the Darling River to Bourke after spending time in Adelaide. It has been stated that he arrived just before the famous Great Flood of 1864, and played a part in the rescues, but I believe that he arrived in 1861-62. He spent some fifteen years in Bourke, and while there was engaged in a number of occupations. He organized a private mail delivery service to the outlying homesteads, and according to his obituary, his ‘adventures with the blacks and bushrangers were many and thrilling’.

From the time of his arrival in the fledgling town of Bourke, Oscar Hughan started putting pen to paper to record the local happenings for various newspapers, including the Dubbo Dispatch, Sydney's Empire newspaper, the Maitland Mercury and from 1870, the Town and Country Journal. As well as reporting what was going on in Bourke and surrounds, Oscar was also the social and moral conscience of the community..he was certainly one for wearing his heart on his sleeve. If Oscar felt that something was amiss in his beloved little community- whether it be the Government or the contract mailmen-he would let the offending party have it with both barrels. His use of language was unique, often displaying a very dry sense of humour, and his journalism was liberally sprinkled with literary quotes and phrases. He was also quite the 'stirrer'...he delighted in calling the town of Brewarrina "The Fishery" (because of the aboriginal fishing ponds that were present there) despite it driving the Brewarrina newspaper correspondent mad with frustration.

At times his articles would be missing from print for a month or more, then he would pop up again and reveal that he had been away up the Warrego, or investigating the copper mines at Cobar, or even further afield. He was first and foremost a writer, and his other jobs whilst at Bourke seem to have been for monetary purposes only. He had two stints at being the Bourke postmaster; was a mailman with a route of hundreds of miles; was the small claims bailiff for the district court, and became a line repairer once the longed-for telegraph line finally made it to Bourke (and didn't Oscar have something to say about that debacle prior to the eventual arrival of said telegraph!)

From transcribing hundreds of pages of Oscar's articles from various newspapers, I think that I have developed a real sense of the man that he was...after spending hours with his words for weeks on end, I almost felt at one with him at times. He loved Bourke...of that there was no doubt, despite his occasional sarcasm about the state of the town. He must have loved it...why else would he have stayed for almost 20 years in conditions that would have broken weaker men? To read his descriptions of drought and flood, and the horrors of men dying from lack of water in the scrub, is to realise just how strong of characters these pioneers were. Oscar was an Englishman, born and bred, of Scots would have thought that his genetic make-up would not have allowed him to last even twelve months in the burning heat of Bourke. But last he did, despite burying two beloved little sons in the Bourke Cemetery.

One of his obituaries also states that ‘he spent some time in the Bourke area as a coach driver, where he wrote some of his poems. One he called ‘The White Kangaroo’ runs:

“ Here she was, as plain as the smoke
I blew from my battered clay,
Shining sleek in the cloudless sun
And white as the salt sea spray.’

On November 30, 1870, at the residence of the Wesleyan Minister in Bourke, Oscar Hughan married Frances Elizabeth Smith. His occupation was given as ‘Gentleman’, hers as ‘Domestic’. Witnesses to the event were Rebecca Smith, Alex G. Ramsay and the Wesleyan minister himself, Robert Johnson.

Greville's Postal Directory of 1872 states that Oscar Hughan was a Post Master, and lived in Mitchell Street, Bourke.
On June 15, 1875, Oscar Hughan made the news in the 'Daily Southern Cross', a newspaper from New Zealand, which published on that date the following article:
" The 'Central Australasian' states that, on the arrival of the Adelaide mail two weeks ago, the acting postmaster, Mr Oscar Hughan, received two packages, which are supposed to have contained strychnine, addressed to Warraweena Station. A great deal of the stuff had come out, and was distributed over the various letters and papers, so much so that Mr Hughan was very ill from the effects of the stuff, and many other parties complained of an exceeding bitter taste in their mouths.
The Postmaster General was communicated with on the subject, and a reply to the following effect was received: "Clear letters and C. as much as you can, and write across each envelope "Destroy this as quickly as possible, as it has come in the same bag with poison." The Postmaster-General( Mr Burns) has communicated with the postal authorities of Adelaide with the view of investigating the matter, and of prosecuting the sender of the strychnine by mail." Even the seemingly safe job of postmaster was fraught with danger in the 1800s!!

Above: From the Sydney Evening News, March 10, 1876.

Oscar and his wife Frances had eight children, five of whom were born in Bourke, and the younger three in Balmain.They also raised a child named Hubert Carl Cahill who was born in Balmain in 1900 to unmarried mother Lillian E. Cahill. Hubert always went by the name 'Carl Hughan', even though his wife and children were known as 'Cahill'.

Son Oakley Ernest Hughan was born in the year following his parents’ marriage, in 1871. The little fellow died aged only seven years, after a nine week battle with pneumonia and enteritis. He died on July 28, 1878, at Bourke, and was buried the very same day in the Bourke Cemetery. Oakley’s death certificate tells us that his father Oscar was a telegraph line repairer.

The second child born to the Hughans was a daughter, Myrtle Mary Hughan, who was born in Bourke in 1873. She never married, and suffered ill health throughout her life, dying near Lithgow in 1933. Her death notice in the Sydney Morning Herald read:

"HUGHAN: At Wallerawang, Myrtle, only daughter of the late Mr and Mrs Oscar Hughan, and sister of Oscar, Alan (deceased), Wilfred and Carl, and sister-in-law of Bessie, Alice and Grace."- SMH, Wednesday, August 16, 1933.

Glen Lennox Hughan was born in 1875 in Bourke. He lived for six months, before his life was claimed by ‘bronchitis, congestion, effusion and exhaustion’. Baby Glen Hughan died on October 29, 1875, and he was buried in the Bourke Cemetery the following day. His death certificate lists his father’s occupation as ‘Bailiff’.

Oscar Milward Hughan was born at Bourke in 1877. Very little was initially known of Oscar Milward...a death was found in the NSW Index for Eric A. Hughan, son of Oscar M. Hughan and Elizabeth Emma Hosking, who died in 1919. The couple also had a son named Oscar Francis Hughan, who died in Dubbo in 1972. Oscar Milward Hughan died in 1946 at Bankstown.
The release of Australian electoral roles 1901-1936 has allowed me to acquire a little additional information about Oscar Milward Hughan. In 1916, he was living at Clifford Street, Day Dawn, Cue, Dampier division, Western Australia. His occupation was given as ‘book keeper’, and with him was his wife Elizabeth Emma Hughan, occupation ‘domestic duties’.
Oscar’s marriage to Elizabeth Emma Hosking, known as "Bessie" was located in W.A. at Murchison in 1910. By 1919, Oscar and Elizabeth Emma Hughan were back in NSW, as their son Eric was born and died in NSW during 1919. In 1930 the Hughan family was living at Wallerawang in the Portland MacQuarie district of NSW. Oscar was working with the railways as a fettler, and Elizabeth, as before, occupied with home duties. Living with them was Oscar’s spinster sister, Myrtle Mary Hughan, who also was occupied with home duties.

In August of 1931, the following article appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald:

"FAMILY'S MISFORTUNE: Five members of one Wallerawang family are inmates of the Lithgow District Hospital. During the week a girl named Mary Hughan was admitted. She was followed a day later by her sister. Two other members of her family were admitted yesterday, and another today. All are suffering from scarlet fever."-SMH, August 1, 1931.

Oscar and Bessie Hughan had at least eight children, the exact number of which I am not sure due to birth records in the online NSW index ending in 1911. Four children were born in Western Australia...Alan Milward born Murchison 1910; Oscar Francis born Murchison 1912; Thelma born Murchison 1915 and Lilah Marion born Murchison 1915. After the family moved to NSW, another son Eric was born, and he died in 1919. Electoral rolls also show that two more daughters, Dorothy Elaine and Alma Mavis, also belonged to the family.I can find no trace of the "Mary Hughan" mentioned in the newspaper article about scarlet fever, but 'Mary' may have been a nickname for one of the girls previously mentioned.
Obtaining Oscar Milward Hughan's death certificate revealed that there was another daughter-Bessie Isabel Hughan- who was born between Alma and Dorothy. Bessie Isabel Hughan married Stanley Joesph Edwin Duncan in 1947, and the couple had three sons.

As mentioned, in 1930 the family of Oscar and Bessie were living at Wallerawang. By 1937 they had relocated to Bankstown (70 Cairds Avenue) where Oscar had moved to an indoor job as a clerk. Their eldest son, Alan Milward Hughan, was still at Wallerawang, working as a miner.
In 1943 Alan Milward Hughan married Annie Augustus/Augusta Stewart, and the couple joined Alan's family at Bankstown. The 1943 electoral roll for 85 Meredith Street, Bankstown, has:
Oscar Milward Hughan, clerk.
Elizabeth Emma Hughan, home duties.
Alma Mavis Hughan, milliner.
Alan Milward Hughan, miner
Annie Augustus Hughan, home duties.

Daughter, Lilah Marion Hughan,in 1943 was living at 76 Tennyson Rd, Mortlake, where she was a shopkeeper, and son Oscar Francis had married Raye Lillian Armstrong in 1935 and they were living in Mudgee where Oscar was a linesman.Prior to this Oscar had been in Muswellbrook(1933) and Dungog(1936).

The 1949 Electoral Roll found the family as follows:
85 Meredith Street, Bankstown.
Elizabeth Emma Hughan, home duties
Alan Milward Hughan, miner
Annie Augustus Hughan, home duties.
Alma Mavis Hughan, milliner
Dorothy Elaine Hughan, canteen assistant.

422 Summer Street, Orange.
Lilah Marion Hughan, shopkeeper.

Knight Street, Coonabarabran.
Oscar Francis Hughan, linesman.
Raye Lillian Hughan, home duties.

1954: 85 Meredith Street, Bankstown.
Alan Milward Hughan, miner
Annie Augustus Hughan, home duties
Elizabeth Emma Hughan, home duties.
Alma Mavis Hughan, milliner.
Lilah Marion, shop assistant.

48 Macleay Street, Dubbo.
Oscar Francis Hughan, line foreman
Raye Lillian Hughan, home duties.

Dorothy Elaine Hughan had married Gordon Fyfe Carmichael in 1949, and in 1954 was living at 41 Kitchener Street, Bankstown:
Dorothy Elaine Carmichael, canteen assistant.
Gordon Fyfe Carmichael, body builder
Ross Fyfe Carmichael, panel beater
Catherine Ross Carmichael, home duties
Archibald Carmichael, storeman.

Alan Milward Hughan died in April 1986. His death notice stated that he was "late of Milperra, formerly of Bankstown."
His wife, Annie Augusta Hughan, died in July 1993.

Oscar Milward Hughan's wife, Elizabeth Emma "Bessie" Hughan, died in June 1966, aged 81, late of Bankstown.

Above: Three of the Hughan girls, granddaughters of Oscar Hughan and Francis Elizabeth Smith and daughters of Oscar Milward Hughan and Elizabeth Emma Hosking...left to right: Dorothy 'Dot' Hughan; bride Bessie Isabel Hughan and Alma 'Pop' Hughan. Taken in 1947 at the wedding of Bessie to Stanley Joseph Edwin Duncan. (Source: Ross Duncan, youngest son of Bessie Hughan)

Allan Tower Hughan was born in Bourke in 1879. The family moved to Sydney soon after his birth. Allan never married, and died aged 34 years in April of 1913. A Blue Mountains newspaper of the time noted the following:

“Allan Tower Hughan: son of Oscar Hughan. Allan was 34 when he died. He had, until a few weeks prior to his death, been a railway employee at Wagga and had been bought home seriously ill. He was nursed for seven weeks illness by his mother, who was sixty-five at the time. He left an aged father, mother, brother and invalid sister to mourn him.”

" DEATHS: HUGHAN- January 3, 1913, at Wentworth Falls, Alan Tower Hughan, fourth beloved son of Oscar and Fannie Hughan, in his 34th year. Queensland papers please copy." - SMH, January 4, 1913.

                                             Above: January 10, 1913. Blue Mountains Echo

Wilfred Fletcher Hughan was born in 1882 at Balmain. Like his brothers, we know very little about his life. I located a crew list for the ship "S.S Norfolk" of London, arriving in Sydney from Durban in December 1907, and amongst the crew was 24 year old Wilfred Hughan, birthplace Sydney, who was an "O.S" on board ('O.S' standing for 'ordinary seaman': An Ordinary Seaman (OS) is an unlicensed member of the deck department of a merchant ship.) Wilfred married Alice Maud Ryan in 1923, aged 41 years.The couple appear in the 1930 electoral roll as living at 9 High Street, Singleton, NSW, where Wilfred's occupation was given as 'lineman'. By 1936, Wilfred and Alice had moved to a house at 100 Chin Chin Street (now Chinchen Street), Islington, near Newcastle. Wilfred remained at this house, working as a linesman, until his death on October 20, 1947, at the age of 64. His wife Alice Maude Ryan Hughan, died in 1963. They had no children.

Oscar Hughan’s last three children were born in Balmain…

Bertha Eliza Kate Hughan was born in April 1885. She was only twelve months old when, on May 4th, 1886, at her Nicholson Street, Balmain, home, Bertha passed away. Her cause of death was noted as ‘Dentition, atrophy’, the former cause literally translating as ‘teething’! According to her death certificate, she had been suffering from this for a week prior to her death, and had been seen by a doctor the day before her death. Her father’s occupation was given as ‘Sheriff’s officer, Supreme Court.’
Baby Bertha Hughan was buried in the Balmain Cemetery on May 5th, 1886.

Two years after losing their little daughter, Frances and Oscar had their eighth child, a son whom they named Oakleigh Athelstane Hughan. Unfortunately, the cruel disease diptheria took his life at the age of only three years. Oakleigh died at 9 Vincent Street, Balmain, on December 12, 1891, after a five day battle with the disease. He was buried in the Church of England Cemetery, Leichhardt, on December 5, 1891.
Again, Oscar Hughan was recorded on the death certificate as being a sheriff’s officer.

Final child Hurbert Carl (also sometimes known as ‘Hebert’, and usually by his middle name of 'Carl')) Hughan was born in 1900.As mentioned previously, he was not the natural child of Oscar and Frances Hughan, but was raised by them as their own son. He served in WW1 and WW2, and died in 1959 in Sydney. There is more about Hubert Carl Hughan's life in a later blog entry.

Above: Hubert Carl Cahill Hughan, raised as Oscar's and Francis's son, but in reality most likely their grandson. (Source: Karen Dean, grand daughter of Hubert)

Above: A little bit harsh...from the Blue Mountains Echo of January 6, 1911- a poem written by Oscar for his eleven year old "son"/grandson, Carl or Karl Hughan.
It is difficult to imagine the heartbreak inherent in parenting during the this period. For example, Oscar and Frances Hughan had nine children, four of whom died aged 6 months, 12 months, 3 years and 7 years. Of their five remaining children, one daughter was an invalid, and one unmarried son died aged only 34 years.Of their three remaining sons-Wilfred, Oscar and Carl- all married, but only Oscar and Carl had children.

There are entries in the Sands Directory of Sydney for Oscar Hughan of Balmain for the years 1883-1906.
The NSW Law Almanac for 1887 has an entry for : Sheriff's Officers: County of Cumberland: Oscar Hughan.

Oscar continued to write his poetry, and had at least one published in The Bulletin. Called 'The Larrikin', the poem appeared in 1880, six months after the birth of the journal. It reads as follows:

The Larrikin.

Standing at the corner
Of each thoroughfare
rampant, ribald scorner,
Tainting social air.
By his obscene chatter,
By his senseless whoops,
By the smoke and splatter
Of his vile cheroots.
Shuffles cards for winning
But his straightest tip
Is the art of spinning
Pennies on a chip.
Fond of polished leather
Weak in point of dress,
Aping in all weather
Famous R.B.S.
Manner light and airy,
Not adverse to drink,
So 'tis drawn by Mary,
Costing but a wink.
Brave as wounded bison
When no strength is nigh,
Weak as twice-used Hyson
When there's danger by.
Votes the Randwick ticket,
Good at scull and bat,
Cross 'tween Spoff and Trickett,
land and water rat.
Shrewd to spinal marrow,
Calculating gains
At the stall or barrow-
So much for his brains.
Seldom wholly idle, Seldom toils for bread,
save where prison bridle
Ornaments his head.
Dozing in the sunshine,
Brawling in the dark,
Down the streets and tramline,
Thro' the dismal park."

In about 1906, Oscar and his family moved to the Blue Mountains for health reasons…his obituary reads:
“ The grave illness of his son necessitated the family leaving Balmain in 1906 and coming to the Falls, where they have lived ever since.”

The family lived at a home named ‘Glen Ira’, at Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains. After her husband Oscar died in 1915, Frances Hughan continued to live there until her own death in July 1919. She was buried with her husband and son Allan on July 8, 1919.


“ Vale! Oscar Hughan.
Pressman, Poet and Pioneer.
At last comes the realisation that Time, the inexorable Reaper, has gathered Oscar Hughan. The grand Old Man of the Mountains (96) has been gathered into the harvest of immortal souls, where great men met; for Oscar Hughan was a great man, and, to those privileged to know him and call him “friend”, his was the greatness of a rugged personality, unconsciously preaching the doctrine of self-abnegation and emanating a love for all mankind.
As a man, his literary ability was worthy of greater recognition than it received , as his verses ever breathed visions of beauty and high ideals. His conception of the beautiful was a glorification of the spirit of the Almighty Creator. The soughing of the wind through the trees was to him the voices of the Angels singing the “Gloria In Excelsis”. Paradoxical though it may seem, the spirit was at times dominated by the body, and Oscar Hughan, the idealist, the poet, the apostle of nobility, became Oscar Hughan, the man about town. He was hail-fellow-well-met when he went to his cups, but even then was the best of boon companions.
Born at Colchester, in England, 96 years ago, he had, during his varied and somewhat checkered career, tasted the sweets and gall of experience in Canada, Mexico, South America, Cape Colony, and other places. By turns he had been soldier, sailor, schoolmaster, slave holder, having turned his hands to anything that came along.
Finally, he was in the Sheriff’s office from 1879 to 1896, when he retired to reside at Wentworth Falls.
He was the sub-editor of the “Spirit of the Age” which was published in Geelong in 1852. By a strange coincidence, his brother was the editor of the opposition paper, and sometimes the exchanges between the two papers in connection with “our contemporary” were, to say the least of it, very vigorous.
In 1871, Oscar Hughan was offered the sub-editorship of the “Town And Country Journal”, which he refused, preferring the life of the “freelance”, that nomad of the press who owns no man his master. Oscar Hughan wrote only that which he was inspired to write, and in every line he traced his personality. It was his lines on the Chicago Fire which bought him into prominence; but methinks that his poem “Gone To God” is amongst the most beautiful. Take these lines, that moan of sorrow:-

“ Cold, sinless are the limbs which thrilled me with a touch,
And the dear eyes veiled in shadow-O God, it is too much,
A Rachel’s voice is crying for the lost one of her breast
Nor will she hear the Voice that bids the weary spirit rest.”

And further on the lamentation ceases and there is the pathos of

“Yes, there is a rest for all who meekly bear
The burdens which His mandate deemeth best,
A glorious, never-ending, blissful calm
Within the shadow of His Holy Breast.”

The man who wrote these lines experienced to the full the realisation of the Spirit of God, and it was the man who wrote them who bore the name of Oscar Hughan- the bluff, rugged individual whom to know was to love.
It was when he was mail contractor doing the trip from Bourke to Cunnamulla, that he conceived some of his finest poems.
From Bourke to Cunnamulla was a 250 mile ride, and in those days the blacks were bad. In the vicinity of the Springs and Engonia they had murdered two white men, and Oscar Hughan confessed that when he laid down to sleep, wrapped in his wagga, he was often torn between a desire to keep going and to see the night out where he was. He was never harmed, however, for to those uncivilized blacks he was a “budgeree white pfeller” and, therefore, he did his lonesome circuit unmolested.
He was a Beau Brummel in his way, and all Bourke was startled one day to see Oscar Hughan with a scarlet coat on tootling his post horn. Then did the warrigals and the old man kangaroo get a shock, for that horn was blown from Bourke to Cunnamulla until the bush rang again and again with the blast. When driving the coach, Hughan would oftimes strike an old “Sundowner” recovering from a bad attack of the horrors: maybe it was an old “Billabinger” blinded with blight and suffering with Barcoo. Then did the man of dreams become the practical Good Samaritan. Bidding them climb aboard, he was repeatedly known to turn his leaders’ heads for the town and go back again with his load of suffering humanity. When he had seen that they were comfortably installed in the hotel, he would commence his weary drive again, and he always made up lost time. I well remember those lines, so redolent of the open spaces, which he wrote, one verse of which runs-
“ Here she was, as plain as the smoke
I blew from my battered clay,
Shining sleek in the cloudless sun,
And white as the salt sea spray.
I took a pull at my saddle girt’s,
And straightened myself to ride
A race to prove to the Sanda folk
That none of their lips had lied.
I clutched the rein of my pack horse tight,
And jerked it off with a blow,
Then struck with the speed of the feathered dart
The track of the flying doe.”

Then the poem goes on to tell that the chase was a fruitless one, and is told with all the vim of a rugged bushman. Oscar Hughan knew the bush as few men do, and he loved it. It whispered to him of freedom, and brought to him close intimacy with the pioneers of the plains. He was bosom friend of all, and it was the sad page of his life that too often he allowed his heart to rule his head. The teamsters children would lisp his name with gladness, for he was their fairy godfather, and always had his pockets full of lollies for them. To the murder-loving aboriginal, as before stated, he was a “budgeree white pfeller”.
How easily I recall those lines of his on General Gordon-

“ Girt by the dusky foe he sought to save
A lion, circled by approaching flame,
He calmly waited as a hero may
The help which never came.”

In his prime, Oscar Hughan was a fine figure of a man. Of medium height, and straight as a dart. He possessed the small hips and massive chest of the trained athlete. His face was firmly moulded, withal delicately chiselled. He was a fine singer, too, and his magnificent basso was often heard in what he was pleased to term a “real bush jollo”. Many years ago he fulfilled an engagement at the then high salary of 8 pounds per week. I tell you all this, for I want you to know him as I knew him- a staunch, open-handed, brave-hearted son of the bush.
Oscar Hughan was a great lover of Lindsay Gordon, and often on reminiscing on the days that were he was proud to repeat:- “But those were the dead days. Now, as Gordon would say-
For to me the sunlight seems worn and wan,
The sun he is losing his splendour now-
He can never shin as of old he shone
On her glorious hair and glittering brow.
Ah, those days that were, when my beard was black,
Now I have only the nights that are.”

A freshly-hewn mound, in the peaceful and picturesque cemetery of Wentworth Falls, marks the last resting place of Oscar Hughan. Of some people it may be said that “After Life’s fitful fever he sleeps well”. It may even be claimed that Hughan’s own lines, dedicated to Mr. G.N. Pitt, on July 14, 1887, would make a fitting epitaph for himself:

“ These are the treasures we gave to earth’s trust,
Sealed ‘ashes to ashes’ and ‘dust to dust’,
And we pass o’er her bosom with reverent tread,
Lest a false, rude step should disturb the dead.”

But no, even in death I think Oscar Hughan would prefer a peep at the sunny side to the long vale of peace, and would ask no better fate than to
“ Let me slumber in the hollow where the wattle blossoms wave,
With never a stone or rail to fence my bed,
Should the sturdy station children pull the bush flowers on my grave,
I may chance to hear them romping overhead.”

Printed in the Blue Mountains Echo, December 3, 1915.

( From our Mountain Representative)

On Thursday last at Wentworth Falls, Oscar Hughan, late of “Glen Ira”, Bathurst-Road, solved the greatest of all problems, crossing the “Great Divide” on the afternoon of that day, having reached the ripe old age of 96.
The deceased, who had been confined to his bed for close on three years, suffering from paralysis, was a well-known resident, having come to the Falls in 1906 from Sydney. The funeral took place on Friday evening in the local cemetery, the Rev. A.J.A Fraser, of Leura, officiating.
At the graveside many of his friends assembled and included Mr and Mrs Barling, Mrs Thomas and Messrs. Paterson, Wilson, and Bradford (“Lithgow Mercury”), whilst the chief mourners were Mrs. Hughan, widow, Messrs. Wilfred and Carl Hughan, sons, Miss Hughan, daughter, and Mrs Robinson, sister-in-law.
The deceased, who was related by marriage to the late Duke of Rutland, in addition to possessing literary abilities of no mean order, was a distinguished Shakespearian scholar and, moreover, had experienced a diversity of changes.
Born a year after the late Queen Victoria in the Hermitage, an old time monastery in the Roman town of Colchester, England, in 1846 Mr Hughan went to Canada, finally taking up residence at Boston, where he resided for eight years. Whilst there he contributed to various periodicals and reviews, including the “Museum”, “Transcript”, “Carpet Bag” and the “Waverley”, whilst he was a personal friend of Longfellow, Nathaniel Hawthorne of ‘The Scarlet letter’ fame, and Mrs Schillaber, whose classic ‘Mrs Malaprop’ is known world wide.
On leaving the United States, Mr. Hughan joined his mother at Geelong and there became sub-editor of the local newspaper. Subsequently he was connected with a periodical known as the “Spirit of the Age”.
In addition to his literary attainments, he was an actor of no mean standard, and appeared, and was an intimate friend of, the late G.V. Brooks.
After visiting Adelaide, he went up the Darling, and after his arrival at Bourke took a prominent part in the rescues in the great flood of ’64.Whilst there he organised a private mail delivery to the various outlying homesteads, and his adventures with the blacks and bushrangers were many and thrilling.
He was an intimate friend of Charlie Campbell, whose children were the original though unconscious discoverers the Great Cobar Mine, and missed a fortune by his refusal to come into the partnership with Campbell and his four mates.
Whilst at Bourke he filled several Government positions and in 1870 came to Sydney to a post in the Sherriff’s department, where he remained till his retirement from the service. The grave illness of his son necessitated the family leaving Balmain in 1906 and coming to the Falls, where they have lived ever since.
With the death of Oscar Hughan an interesting page of early Australian history has been turned down, but the memory of the man will long remain green, whilst the world of letters has lost both a scholarly writer and a natural poet."


The Heart’s Hymn
Thank God! I’ve lived to see
The boughs of the withered tree
Put forth its leaves
To the warm sunshine of better days
The golden sheaves
Of Hope are bound
And garnered up in sound
Of the heart’s soft lays;
The dried up fountain
Is singing gay,
And the mist from the mountain
Is cleared away:
The wing of the dove
No longer bleeds,
But soars above
Through the azure meads;
Winter has bound up his icy hair,
And Spring has decked it with blossoms rare.
I hear no longer the wild wind’s blow,
Nor the digging away of the drifted snow;
All is happy, without a frown,
Like Ocean’s forehead when storms are down.
And the sun is dressing the waters blue
In mantles of many a brilliant hue;
The tear-wet eyes
Of the heart are bright,
And stars arise
In its cheerless night;
A heart is plighted,
And sang its hymn,
A fire is lighted
Which will not dim.

* * * * *
I thank thee, God, that I have seen
The darkness fade away,
That I am not what I have been,
A night without a day;
A flower from light shut out,
A lamb without a fold,
A ship in the whirlwind’s rout,
A bird in the winter’s cold;
A wretch that bends the knee
At the well in the desert dry,
A corse drifted out to sea
In the gloom of a starless sky.
- Oscar G. Hughan
( from ‘Dwight’s Journal of Music’, Boston, August 14, 1852)

POST SCRIPT: I was fortunate enough to discover a wonderful article about Oscar Hughan which was published in 'The Queenslander' in 1890. Entitled "The Poet Of The Darling", it is transcribed as follows:

"The Poet of the Darling River Country
Oscar Hughan

Just after the great fire of Chicago- the date of which I do not recollect although I know it was a good many years ago- a very vividly written and striking poem on that event appeared in the Sydney ‘Town and Country Journal’, and was immediately republished in one at least of the Melbourne weeklies, as well as in newspapers of a lesser note elsewhere.
The poem impressed me at the time as one of unusual excellence, so much so that, after the first reading, certain of the lines were wont for a while to recur to me every now and then, unbidden, and remain to this day unforgotten. The name of the author and that of the far inland town where he resided, both inscribed at the foot of his verses, were likewise imprinted upon my memory- “Oscar Hughan, Bourke.”
Some time afterwards, in October, 1874, it fell to my lot to become for a couple of years or so a dweller in that same Darling River City- then, however, merely a town of, perhaps, about 600 inhabitants- and to make the acquaintance of the poet whose “Chicago Fireman” I had so long ago known, almost by heart. The Hughans- Oscar and his wife- were neighbours of ours, it appeared, and very neighbourly neighbours, too, as I learned, our Bourke kinsfolk had always found them to be long ere my arrival on the scene.
Oscar in the old days- somewhere in the earlier sixties- had been the Warrego mailman, and in that capacity had deserved well of those in the more distant parts of the district and of their friends. Afterwards, as the township postmaster, he had maintained his character for integrity and obligingness and for other good qualities. At the time I first met him he held several minor public appointments- such as that of secretary to the trustees of the common and other small affairs, the names of which, unluckily, were somewhat bulkier than the salaries.
The way in which I first came to hear of the poet’s being so close to me is associated in my mind with one of those pleasantest of recollections in life, an agreeable surprise. It was the morning of the Pastoral Show- a hot November day. There was to be a ball in the evening, and, so far as I was aware, there was not a flower to be had in the place-certainly none for me. A patter of small feet was heard on the veranda and an unknown childish voice called me by name. I hastened to my unexpected visitor and found him to be a very little boy, such a bright-looking little fellow, dressed like a tiny Robin Hood in the neatest small suit of green and bearing in his hands with the utmost of carefulness a lovely bunch of freshly-gathered flowers. It was little “Okie” Hughan, the poet’s son, and his father and mother had thoughtfully anticipated a wish I would not have expressed to anyone and had generously robbed their garden, which in that arid season cost them no small toil, of its flowers. This was but the first of many similar kindnesses.
Poets are popularly supposed to be, as a rule, somewhat unpractical. Oscar Hughan, however, was not only willing, but able to turn his hand to some half-dozen handicrafts, and to show a fair aptitude in them all. His life had been rather an adventurous one, and doubtless he had been forced to take to fresh trades oftener than most folks.
He is a native of Colchester, in England, and was born in 1832. Before coming to Australia, he had tasted the sweets of existence in a variety of foreign climes- Canada, Mexico, South America, Cape Colony, and possibly in other places.
Besides being a handy carpenter, a good gardener, and a useful man among stock, he had gained some experiences as soldier, sailor, student, slave-holder, sawyer and schoolmaster. At one time he was a Socialist, but the calling had not at that period become a remunerative one. Now he is a subordinate in the office of the Sheriff of New South Wales. When in the United States, Oscar Hughan was, I believe, entitled to claim as friends many of those whose names in the worlds of art or literature are “as household words”.
I trust that I have not been mistaken in fancying that the readers of the Queenslander will welcome these few reminiscences of and particulars concerning the darling River Poet, together with such extracts from one or two of his poems as space allows. I wish I could believe also that this- necessarily inadequate- presentation of his claims to a place in our Australian poets’ corner would lead to some worthier recognition in more influential quarters.
Among the poems of which I have copies are the verses on Gordon, which were published in 1885, from which I extract the following:-
“ Girt by the dusky foe he sought to save
A lion circled by approaching flame,
He calmly waited, as a hero may,
The help which never came.

Thousands have climbed Fame’s ladder, high and steep,
And from its topmost rung have gained the spheres;
Beyond the grave crowned by the love which dwells
Deep in a nation’s tears.

But none among the host of glorious souls,
Whose presence bright to earth a radiance gave,
Have stirred the pulses of the world as he-
Sleeping in desert grave.”

From “The Chicago Fireman” come these lines:
“ The last flame we had lit up in the dark-
But wasn’t dark long, by sin,
For the light that squirmed from a lantern spark
Made the stars in the heavens give in.

Injun, hose-reel, and fire-escape
Like Maryland niggers wrought,
But they all might just a been under a lake,
For the amount of good they brought.

The water, like peas on granite rocks,
Jist splattered, as if in pain,
While the flames licked up the city in blocks,
Like turkey broods pick up grain.

And a cry went up in the heat and smoke
To God and his pitying Son-
The first real prayer as had been spoke
Since the fiery fight begun;
And jist to show the mistake we made,
Unaided to push things through,
The clouds rolled up with the Rain Brigade,
And did what we couldn’t do.”

“The White Kangaroo”, the longest and at the same time also, perhaps, the best of Mr. Hughan’s poems, gives a most vivid and realistic picture of what may happen to a man in the Darling River country- at all events, what might happen in the old days, before the era of wire fences and galvanized iron roofs, let alone that of artesian bores and Wolseley shearing ( although the originator of the last-named innovation was none so far away). The poem describes an adventure which takes place on a Christmas Day during a Darling drought. The narrator is sent out with rations to a sheep camp, and during his long and lonely ride he suddenly encounters the “White Kangaroo”, which certain of his comrades had sworn they’d seen in the outer blocks-

“ Straight ahead in the open ground
Stood the mystical kangaroo.

Here she was, as plain as the smoke
I blew from my battered clay.
Shining sleek in the cloudless sun,
And white as the salt sea spray.
I took a pull at my saddle girths
And straightened myself to ride
A race, to prove to the Banda folk
That none of their lips had lied.
I clutched the rein of my packhorse tight
And jerked it off with a blow,
Then struck with the speed of a feathered dart
The tracks of the flying doe.”

The wild and fruitless chase is depicted with wonderful spirit, and all that follows is told both with pathos and with power. F. “
- “The Queenslander”, September 6, 1890

It is a wonderful personal depiction of Oscar and his family...I especially love the story of little'Okey' in his Robin Hood outfit offering the author flowers.


There has never been the slightest hint of the existance of another marriage for Oscar Hughan prior to marriage in Bourke in 1870...according to his marriage certificate he was a bachelor, and on his death certificate there were the details of only one wife and marriage. So it was with amazement that I came across a marriage for Oscar G. Hughan to Sophia Tuttle in 1853, in Cambridge, Massachusetts!!!

This is definitely our Oscar G. Hughan, as we have him placed in Massachusetts for an eight year period in his twenties; c. late 1840s to mid-to-late 1850s. The 1850 U.S Federal Census reveals that Oscar Hughan was living with the Irish Quinn family in Newton Massachusetts- he had given the information that he was a 24 year old carpenter from Scotland.
The Scottish birthplace myth was continued on his marriage certificate..his father was a Scotsman, but Oscar himself was most certainly born on English soil. Perhaps he felt the romance of a Scots birthplace enhanced his standing with the Poets and Writers of Massachusetts...a second Robbie Burns in their midst???
Whatever the case, on February 19, 1853, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, 25 year old Oscar G. Hughan, a resident of Boston, married 21 year old Sophia M. Tuttle, also of Boston. Oscar's father was stated as being Robert Hughan, his birthplace as Scotland and his occupation as 'printer'. Strangely, Sophia's parents were not named at all, but her birthplace was recorded as being New Market, New Hampshire. It was the first marriage for both parties.

Going back three years, we can find 17 year old Sophia Tuttle living on the family farm at New Market, New Hampshire. Also in the home are Benjamin Tuttle, 59, and Dolly Tuttle, 60- presumably husband and wife and parents of Sophia. Also living there are Sylvanus, 30,farmer; Sarah H Tuttle, 27; Benjamin Tuttle , 20, labourer; and Stephen Hely, 37, labourer. All were noted as having been born in New Hampshire, and Sophia was stated to have attended school within the past 12 months.

Sophia Tuttle Hughan's father, Benjamin Tuttle, died on July 4, 1855, at New Market, New Hampshire.
I can find absolutely no trace of Sophie after her marriage-no death records from the U.S or Australia where her husband Oscar was by the late 1850s...she appears to have vanished both from Oscar's life and the records. As I previously mentioned, there was not the slightest hint or suggestion of her existance in my Hughan family tree....a huge mystery, me thinks!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't suppose you'd have a photo of Sophie would you?