Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Gilbert McCallum, son of Jessie Hughan and Alexander McCallum

Gilbert McCallum was born on Saturday, June 29, 1854, at Youngera Station in Victoria’s Wimmera district. He was the second child and only son born to Scotsman Alexander McCallum and his wife Jessie Hughan.
When only six and a half months old, in February of 1855, baby Gilbert accompanied his parents and 2 year old sister Margaret on the ship ‘John Bell’ on a trip to Britain. They were away only eleven months, returning in January of 1856. In October of 1856, the McCallum family boarded the paddle steamer "Gundagai", with the children's grandmother Hannah Hughan acting as their nurse, and sailed down the Murray to Adelaide.
In the autumn of 1858 the family again sailed for England, this time on board the ship ‘Royal Charter’ and accompanied by Gilbert’s young aunt, Bertha Hughan. This time they stayed away for two and a half years, returning in January 1861 on the ship ‘Themis’.
Gilbert had gained a sister, Ivy Jessie McCallum, who was born on the voyage to England, but lost access to his father Alexander, who had not returned to Australia with his family.
It was Gilbert’s mother Jessie who raised her three young children and managed the station, with the help of her sister Bertha and brothers Fergus and Allan. In March of 1865 Bertha married Henry Bishop, whom she had met several years previously when he was living and working with Peter Beveridge on neighbouring ‘Tyntynder Station’.
A mere seven months later Bertha found herself leaving her new home in Ballarat and heading back to ‘Youngera’ on a devastating mission- to comfort three motherless children and become their surrogate carer.
Jessie McCallum had died of pneumonia on October 31, 1865, after getting wet while visiting a sick neighbour. Gilbert was only eleven years old, and his sisters Margaret and Ivy were 13 and 7 respectively.

Gilbert remained with his aunt Bertha Bishop and her husband for almost two years until his maternal uncle, Allan Hughan, purchased a schooner named ‘Pilot’ and decided to set sail from Melbourne to navigate the west coast of Australia as far as the islands of the Dampier Archipelago. His mission was to dive for pearls (or rather mother-of-pearl, which was far more valuable than the pearl itself in that period) , and also to collect plant specimens along the way for good friend Professor Ferdinand Von Mueller who from 1853 had been appointed Victorian Government botanist.
Apart from a small crew, also on board the ‘Pilot’ was Allan and his wife, Phoebe Hughan, their two small daughters Ruth and Marion, and 14 year old Gilbert McCallum ready for the adventure of a life time.
A letter still exists from November 1868 which was written by Gilbert to his sister Ivy back in Ballarat. It was in the possession of Ivy’s granddaughter, Judith Laging, who kindly shared it with me. The ending of the letter has unfortunately been misplaced by me, but it is such a wonderful piece of history that I will copy what remains to me as follows:

November 23, 1868.

My Dear Ivy,
I was very delighted to receive your nice long letter but very sorry you and Roland have been so ill and I trust you both will get strong again. I need not say that I hope Roland is a good boy for I never knew him to be otherwise and such a contrast between his size and little Marion’s but I wish you could hear her sing nearly any tune if you once commence it and she will beat time with her hands. I am very glad to hear that Roland talks so nicely.

I suppose you will not have Miss Hodgkinson with you anymore. I expect she was very angry with me when she heard that her woolwork accompanied us to Western Australia. I expect that you will have a large flock of pigeon before I return and also plenty of fowls.

The ship we have is only a small one but it is a splendid sea boat that is it rides upon the large waves just like a cork and very seldom a wave washes the deck. We have such a nice cabin though it is only a small one with small beds let in at the sides and curtains to draw close. On opposite side of the stairs is a good sized cabin which Uncle and Aunt use for a bedroom.

The ship looked very bad at first for she had not been painted for a long time but we have painted her white inside and the bottom rail of the bulwarks and every place near the deck is blue and the hull is black so that she is quite nice. We are building a storeroom to put the ship’s stores into. Some of the sailors proved very dishonest for they stole a lot of the spirits.

We were very unfortunate for having such bad weather to King George’s Sound but very fortunate to have such fine weather from there to here as Cape Leuwin is a very bad place to pass in stormy weather, but we have passed the bad coast and will have fine weather though it will be in one of the hottest places which are called the tropics.

I am really very sorry that old Ivey is so near death but more so to hear he carries on such bad ways when so near the grave.

But I forgot to tell you what Fremantle was like. It appears to be a very poor place all covered with sand. The glare of the sun in Summer must affect the eyes of the inhabitants very much. I cannot walk down the street without putting something over my eyes for the glare of the white road with the sun shining on it.
King George’s Sound is but a small township but has one of the finest harbours you could wish for. In the scrub surrounding the township grow some of the most beautiful flowers. Some are like scarlet bottle brush and other sorts of which are really lovely.
The pier here is not very large and vessels anchor at some little distance off. There are large sailing boats called lighters that carry about 30 tons which come close to the ship and carry their cargo to shore.
We are going to take several passengers and some cargo to Nichol Bay but I only know the name of two gentlemen- Dr. Mayhue and his wife and Mr. Broadhurst,( rest missing)”.

This Mr. Broadhurst was Charles Edward Broadhurst (1826-1905), who with his wife Eliza (1839-1899) arrived in Fremantle in 1865 bound for the North-West. He became involved in the pastoral industry, pearling, fish canning (at Mandurah), and had guano interests in the Abrolhos Islands. Charles Edward Broadhurst was also member of the Western Australian Parliament, and is considered by many to be one of Australia’s first true entrepreneurs.
In 1872 Broadhurst brought to Western Australia the S.S Xantho, a former Scottish paddlesteamer which had been fitted with the engine from a Crimean war gunboat. For several months it powered its way up and down the coast with its loads of whaling equipment, lead ore, pearl shell, general goods and passengers, including convicts from Rottnest island and Malays who worked as divers. A short time after its arrival the Xantho sank, having been overloaded with lead ore coming down to Fremantle from Geraldton. The ship made headlines again in 1985 when her engine was recovered after 114 years under the sea.
It seems that prior to embarking on this big and expensive venture, Charles Broadhurst joined Gilbert McCallum and the Hughans on their little ship to test the very first diving suit to be tried in the North west pearling industry.
While Gilbert’s life aboard the ‘Pilot’ would have been very exciting, it would have also had its moments of danger. Apart from the wild weather experienced when living at sea, there were also reports of the ‘Pilot’ being threatened by the aboriginal natives of Enderby Island who were furious over past pearlers kidnapping their women. There was also trouble amongst the crew, with a report in April 1869 of a drunken row aboard the ‘Pilot’.

By May 8 1869, the ‘Pilot’ was back in Fremantle with 15 bags of pearl shells, and she sailed for Melbourne on May 29. On Tuesday June 29, Gilbert McCallum sailed back into Port Phillip, and presumably returned to the welcoming home of the Bishop family and his sisters.
Nothing is known of Gilbert’s life for the next five years. He most probably received a good education, since the Hughan family set such importance on schooling. He next appears in documentation in the form of another letter written to his sister Ivy in 1874. This letter was sent from Balnagowan, Queensland, on September 5, 1874. Balnagowan was a 44 square mile Station that had been settled by John Cook in 1862.
The first permanent settler on the Mackay (Pioneer) River was John Cook who came to the district with Lewis Ross and James Muggleton. In October 1862 Ross and Muggleton built a homestead and formed the second station on the river. Although the area was originally known as ‘Shamrock Vale’, Ross named the run ‘Balnagowan' as it reminded him of his native home in northern Scotland. In 1874 Cook also purchased the unstocked Wandoo station from A.T. Bell. Following Ross’s death in 1870, Cook assumed responsibility for Balnagowan despite a legal dispute between the two families that was not settled for some decades, and although local properties experimented in sugar production, Balnagowan remained a cattle grazing property.
It will probably never be known just how 20 year old Gilbert McCallum found himself on a big cattle station in northern Queensland in the 1870s, although it must be remembered that his maternal uncle, Robert Hughan, had lived and worked in the region since his arrival as a convict exile in 1849.He worked on cattle stations and was involved in droving big mobs of cattle for his employers. Robert didn’t move down to Victoria to live until about 1879-80, so he was definitely in Queensland at the time of his nephew’s arrival at Balnagowan. Another Uncle, Allan Hughan, also had contacts in Queensland after spending time there in the 1860s droving sheep.

Whatever the case, Gilbert found himself living and working at Balnagowan Station for the Cook family, and from the contents of his letter to his sister it is very apparent that he had a wonderful experience:
“ Balnagowan,
September 5, 1874.

My Dear Sister,
I daresay you are waiting anxiously for your letter, but I met with an accident just after I wrote to Aunt Bertha. I was run into a fence by a colt I was riding and broke my arm. It was the right one- of course I could not write sooner. I can only send a brief note for if I use my fingers too much they get painful and I cannot hold a pen.
Mrs. Black is going to Melbourne shortly and will call to see you. I have given her all sorts of news to tell you. I have got a number of alligator eggs I will send down as soon as the schooners run direct to Melbourne.
I must tell you the great chase we had a little time ago after a great old alligator. He was seen some time before at what we call the Upper Crossing, about a mile above the house, but he took up his abode in a deep part of the river. I expect he knew we wanted him for he never came to light till the morning we captured him.
The blackboy first saw him near the boat landing just at the bottom of the garden. We all went out armed with rifles. I fired at him and hit him in the head, and then we got the boat and gave chase. He came up to the surface with his great mouth open and one of the men threw a rope over his under-jaw. When we got the end of the rope to the bank we all caught hold of it and pulled him up on the land and then tied him fast.
We fired a regular battery into his head, and then left him till the next morning, intending to skin him.
When we went to him next day he was half in the water and had a tremendous strain on the rope, but he was too far gone to hurt anybody so we proceeded to skin him. When we had the skin half off he turned right over on his back. I never saw anything so hard to kill. I believe if we had skinned him carefully, he would have gone back into the river and never mist his hide.
We measured him and found him 16 feet long, about 7 feet round his body, his head was 3 feet 4 inches long and his mouth 2 feet 10 inches long.

I must leave off now dear, write to me at once.
Give my love to all.
And dear believe me ever your affectionate brother,

The 1874 Post Office Directory of Queensland shows that H.Murray was the manager of Balnagowan Station, and most likely would have been Gilbert’s boss under the direction of John Cook.Gilbert next surfaces in NSW, as manager of a big station near Broken Hill called ‘Mulculca Station’. He wrote a letter to his cousin, my great grandmother Olive Bishop, from Mulculca in February 1897, and was named as ‘Gilbert McCallum, Mulcula” in the Yewen’s Directory of Landholders for 1900.

To follow is a sketch of Mulculca Station as it was when Gilbert managed the property. He drew it for Olive, and notes on the bottom “Ask Guy if he can improve on this. The proportions may be a bit out, but this is about how the places are situated where your most amiable cousin reignes as boss.” ‘Guy’ is Olive’s brother, Guy Bishop, who must have visited Gilbert.(NOTE: Guy may not have neccessarily visited Gilbert..he was a draughtsman, and Gilbert may simply have been suggesting that Guy may have been able to better draw a plan of the station based on Gilbert's sketch)
It was while Gilbert was up north that he met and fell in love with a girl from Broken Hill. Caroline Gibson Kitchen was born on October 30, 1874, so she was about twenty years younger than her husband. Known as ‘Carrie’, she married Gilbert McCallum in 1910 at Broken Hill. Gilbert was aged 56, and his wife Carrie Kitchen was 36.

Gilbert and Carrie did not have any children. They moved to South Australia, and both died there- Gilbert first in 1936, and Carrie some twenty five years later on August 31, 1961. Gilbert was buried at Woodville, South Australia.

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