Tuesday, September 9, 2008
Jessie Hannah Hughan
Jessie Hannah Hughan was born in Colchester, Essex, England, on Wednesday, December 18, 1833.She was the seventh child and fourth daughter born to 37 year old Scotsman Robert Alexander Hughan and his 31 year old English wife Hannah Oakley. Her baptism can be seen above at the bottom of the page of the register of All Saints Church, Colchester.
Jessie’s first five years were spent in rural Essex, and then in 1838 her family relocated to London for her tea merchant father to attempt to find work. This endeavour was largely unsuccessful, and for the next decade it was Jessie’s mother and elder sisters who supplied an income to keep the family surviving, assisted by Jessie herself when she was old enough to help take in needlework.
In September of 1844, when Jessie was ten years old, her father died in their London home. Emotionally this event would have devastated the family, but financially they would not have noticed much change, as Robert had not been supporting the family with an income. They remained at the same address, 96 Westbourne Street, for at least the next few years
After the death of Robert Alexander Hughan great change was to overcome the Hughan family, and by 1850 its members were spread all over the globe, from Canada to Australia.
Malvina, Jessie’s eldest sister, had died in Solonica aged only in her twenties, but the remainder of Jessie’s siblings also had adventure in their souls and left England far behind.
Oscar Hughan chose to seek his fortune and fame in Canada and the United States before finding his way to Australia to reunite with the rest of his family. Middle child Robert had no choice in the matter over emigration-he was exported as a convict exile to Moreton Bay in 1849. Eldest remaining sister Laura, newly married, left London on board the ship ‘Tasman’ in 1849, and her husband sailed the following year on the ship ‘Culloden’ with Laura’s mother, Hannah Hughan, and sisters Marion, Jessie and Bertha. Brothers Fergus and Allan also came out to Victoria, but have proved elusive as to their ship and date of arrival.
The Culloden discharged her passengers under the guise of night on Friday, July 5, 1850, to avoid trouble that had been brewing between captain and crew. This supports the family story of the newly-arrived Hughans having to camp by the sea until their accommodation could be organised.
It is not known where the Hughans settled immediately after their arrival in Victoria, or if indeed they remained together or were separated as each found employment. The first appearance of Jessie in official records comes from her marriage 12 months after her arrival in the colony, and it states that she had been residing in Kyneton, a town approximately 58 miles north west of Melbourne. Other Hughan siblings also had ties with Kyneton-elder sister Marion Agnes Hughan and her husband Henry Aulert Edmiston had both been living at Kyneton at the time of their marriage in January of 1852, and brother Fergus had been employed as Clerk of the Bench at Kyneton in the 1850s.
Kyneton itself was officially born in the same year that Jessie Hughan arrived in Victoria. It was gazetted as a township on January 4, 1850, and quickly developed into a township of slab huts and tents. At first the population was made up of labourers and stockmen and their families. The population quickly grew after the discovery of gold in Victoria in 1851 and by March of 1852 there were 300 inhabitants. By the end of the year Kyneton’s population had risen to 2,000, as the town was a perfect stopping place for diggers on their way to the gold fields at Campbell’s Creek, McIvor , Castlemaine and Sandhurst Town ( Bendigo).
Jessie’s time at Kyneton was only brief, however, as after her marriage in July 1851 to squatter Alexander McCallum, she left for the isolation of her husband’s Wimmera property. Named ‘Youngera’, the station was located on the banks of the Murray River in the sparsely populated Lower Murray region of Victoria. Alexander McCallum was much older than his young bride, who was aged 17 years and 7 months at the time of her marriage. Alexander was a Scotsman from Inishail, in Argyll, and although he tended to trim years off his age on occasion, on his wedding day he was about 47 years old.
Alexander McCallum was the youngest of eight children born to farmer Gilbert McCallum and his wife Margaret Campbell. Gilbert and Margaret had married at Glenorchy, Argyll, on January 12, 1790, and their family consisted of the following children:
Mary McCallum born December 20,1790.
Anne McCallum born January 20, 1793.
Catherine McCallum born February 18, 1794.
Alexandrina McCallum born April 24, 1797.
Jean McCallum baptised August 27, 1799.
Kenneth McCallum baptised November 25, 1801.
Margaret McCallum baptised December 12, 1802.
Alexander McCallum baptised September 4, 1805.
Brothers Kenneth and Alexander both immigrated to Sydney on the ship ‘Formosa’ in 1839 and arrived in Port Phillip later the same year. (Recently a fellow passenger named Gilbert McCallum has been discovered on the ‘Formosa’-as yet a relationship between the brothers and this Gilbert has not been researched). Details of Kenneth’s life are very scarce. A McCallum descendant, Judith Laging, suggested that family legend has Kenneth meeting a tragic ending at the hands of Aboriginals during the early days of their arrival in the colonies. I have found no trace of this event, and wonder if over the years the story has become confused with the well-documented murder of the McCallum’s neighbour, Andrew Beveridge, by a spear-throwing Aboriginal in 1846.
All the same, I cannot find any trace of a death or marriage for Kenneth McCallum, so there may be an element of truth to this story. There is an entry for the death of a Kenneth McCallum, aged 46, in 1850. The person who noted this information recorded “place of event N.S (not sure) and the number V1850113436A”-this needs to be researched further.
At the time of Jessie Hughan McCallum’s arrival in the Swan Hill district, the area was still populated more by Aboriginals than white settlers, and companionship for a girl in her teens would have been severely lacking. For this reason Jessie’s youngest sibling Bertha Hughan spent a great deal of time staying at ‘Youngera’. Just over five years younger than Jessie, Bertha was only 12 ½ years old when her sister married Alexander McCallum. It is hard to imagine that her mother Hannah, living at Geelong, would permit a child this age to live away from her in such primitive conditions, but when Jessie fell pregnant in December of 1851, five months after her marriage, and then again in October of 1853, Bertha’s presence would have been a most welcome addition to the young mother.
The first European woman in the Swan Hill region had arrived in 1847, only four years before Jessie. She was Mrs Margaret Spratt Beveridge, the mother of Peter and Andrew Beveridge who in 1845 had arrived in Swan Hill with nine hundred head of cattle and two bullock drays loaded with enough supplies for a year. They named their first property ‘Tyntynder’, which in the local Aboriginal language meant ‘Song of Birds’.
Andrew Beveridge Snr and family had arrived in Australia in 1839 on the sailing ship ‘Superb’ from Dunfermline, Scotland and settled near Kilmore, Victoria.
Andrew Jnr and Peter settled on the land at Tyntynder and erected a log cabin. This became the centre of the three hundred square mile Station that extended from Swan Hill to Piangil, thirty miles down the river, and approximately ten miles out into the Mallee scrub from the Murray.
Misunderstandings arose amongst the aborigines about killing of sheep and Andrew was speared to death. He was buried at Tyntynder and his grave has been well tended over the years and is still visible at the Homestead.
In 1846 the brothers added ‘Piangil’, a further 16km beyond ‘Tyntynder’, to their acquisitions, and it was here in September of 1846 that Andrew, aged only 24 years, was killed by natives. The Beveridge family were to become very close friends of the McCallums and Hughans. Peter and two brothers remained on ‘Tyntynder’ and ‘Piangil’ until 1868, although his mother and the rest of the family returned to the Kilmore district.
The first lessee of another Swan Hill property, Burra Burra Station, was William Coghill from 1846. In June 1860, the Beveridge family took over Burra Burra, and then sold it to the Macredie family in 1865.As well as photos of several of the Beveridge brothers, there is a photograph of “Macredie of Burra” in an 1860s photograph album passed down by Bertha Hughan.
The birth of Jessie McCallum’s first child was surrounded by drama of the highest order. The events unfolded on Sunday, September 19, 1852, at a time in which the Murray River was raging in high flood. The decision was made to evacuate the homestead as the waters grew higher, and Jessie took refuge on a ‘Youngera’ sandbank which offered a more elevated position. She must have been terrified when her labour pains began, but finally gave birth to a healthy baby daughter named Margaret, in a makeshift tent close by to a stockman’s grave.
Margaret’s father did not register his daughter’s birth until March 29, 1854, 18 months after she arrived. He registered the event in Melbourne- perhaps the 210 mile journey from Swan Hill to Melbourne was not one frequently made by the McCallums.
The extreme Australian conditions in which Jessie found herself less than two years after her arrival from England are highlighted in a brief article published in the South Australian Register on February 9, 1852:
"News had reached Melbourne of the melancholy death of Mr. McDonald, late Commissioner of Crown Lands for the Lower Darling District, and brother of Mr. McDonald of Port Phillip. It seems the unfortunate gentleman was on his way to Melbourne and stopped at Mr. McCallum's station on the Lower Murray on Saturday the 17th January. He strayed that day about a quarter of a mile from the hut into the Mallee Scrub, and was lost. The body was found by the blacks on the following Monday in a fearful state of decomposition, and immediately buried on the spot."
In September of 1853 the McCallums would have witnessed the glorious sight of the steamer ‘Lady Augusta’, piloted by Captain Cadell, churning her way down the Murray from Adelaide. A passenger on board, James Allen Junior, wrote an account of the trip, and made note of the day they passed ‘Youngera Station’:-
“ Wednesday, September 14, 1853: After accomplishing the shipment of our wood at Ross’s station, we left our moorings about ½ past eight o’clock a.m, and proceeded our course up the river. Passed McCallum’s Station about midday, at which there are 13,000 sheep, and reached the junction of the Murrumbidgee by ten o’clock.”
He also added shortly after:
“ The natives seem generally to attach themselves to the settlements along the Murray, making themselves very useful in assisting the settlers in their various occupations.”
On the return trip, James Allen wrote:
“Saturday, October 1.–Started at four o'clock this morning, and arrived at Youngera, McCallum's Station, at eleven o'clock, where we remained for a couple of hours, and reached
Ross's at half-past four o'clock. Here 50 bales of wool were taken on board, as also a supply of fuel.”
The South Australian Register newspaper also had a 'special correspondent' on board the Lady Augusta, and published his accounts of their journey down the river. I will include his reports as they made their way through the Swan Hill district as they give a marvellous portrayal of the social circumstances that Jessie McCallum, a young bride not yet 20 years of age, was immersed in:
Jessie's sisters Laura and Marion had both married and settled in Geelong by 1853, but her brothers’ movements are not known for this period. Robert was still in exile in Queensland, and Fergus and Oscar supposedly worked for a time for opposing Geelong newspapers. Allan definitely had ties with ‘Youngera’, working on the station in the 1860s and most probably even sooner. Like his neighbour Peter Beveridge (albeit to a far lesser extent), Allan became very knowledgeable about the Swan Hill aboriginals, and was in charge of their welfare at ‘Youngera’ in the early 1860s.Allan may have even gone to ‘Youngera’ with Jessie from the very beginning to learn how to manage a sheep station- he was 14 years old at the time of her marriage to Alexander McCallum and certainly of an age to be helpful in the management of so large a number of sheep.
When her daughter Margaret was only eleven months old, in October of 1853, Jessie McCallum again fell pregnant. Her son Gilbert, named for his paternal grandfather back in Scotland, was born at ‘Youngera’ on June 29, 1854.Again, some time passed before his father travelled to Melbourne to register the baby’s birth- Gilbert was six months old when registered on January 3, 1855.
In February of 1855 the McCallums made the first of two visits back to Britain. On February 13, 1855, the young McCallum family boarded the ship ‘John Bell’ and set sail for what was going to be a relatively short visit to England and presumably Scotland. They returned to Victoria only eleven months later on the ship ‘Forest Queen’. It would not have been easy for Jessie with two young children aged only eight months and almost 2 ½, although the McCallums did travel with a servant. She is named only as ‘servant’ on the passenger list of the ‘John Bell’, but named as 20 year old Isabella McInnis on the return passenger list of the ‘Forest Queen’.
Soon after arriving back in the colony, Alexander McCallum visited a solicitor in Melbourne and wrote this last will and testament. Found elsewhere in the following pages, he left everything to his wife Jessie and infant children, and a bequest to his sisters Margaret and Catherine. The will was witnessed on February 16, 1856, by his brother-in-law, Henry Aulert Edmiston, store keeper, of Mercer Street, Geelong, and William Garlick, clerk to Messrs Ross & Clarke, Solicitors, Melbourne.
Alexander McCallum had engaged a fellow Scotsman, Archibald McIntyre, to be the 'superintendent', or manager of 'Youngera'. On March 1, 1856, Archibald met a tragic end in the Murray River where it flowed past the Youngera homestead, which was named 'Wirlong' after a local Aboriginal boy. The Argus newspaper of March 22, 1856, carried a death notice for him:
"DIED:- On the first instance, at Youngera Station, Lower Murray, Mr Archibald McIntyre, drowned whilst crossing the river at the home station. Friends and relatives will please accept this intimation."
Archibald's death certificate revealed the following about him:
Archibald McIntyre, superintendant of Mr McCallum's Station.
Died: Wirlong, Lower Murray, on March 1, 1856.
Male, about 39 years.
Drowned in the River Murray
Parents' names not known.
Informant: Edmund ______, Euston, Lower Darling district.
Registrar: Robert McPherson, March 13, at Swan Hill
Burial details: Not registered.
Born in Scotland, 18 years in Victoria.
Not married; no issue.
In October of the following year, 1857, Jessie conceived her final child, despite plans being afoot to make another trip to Britain. On Saturday April 10, 1858, six months pregnant Jessie McCallum boarded the ship ‘Royal Charter’ with her husband Alexander and their two children, 5 ½ year old Margaret and Gilbert aged just over 3 ½. With them was Jessie’s sister Bertha Hughan who by now was almost nineteen years old, and well able to help with the children. The shipping report of the Port Phillip Herald for April 11, 1858, records a “Mr Hughan” as accompanying “Miss Hughan” on board the ‘Royal Charter’, but there is no other reference to him in the official Royal Charter passenger list. It had been assumed that Allan Hughan, and perhaps brother Fergus, resided at ‘Youngera’ during the McCallums’ absence to manage the property. Certainly Allan was manager during the 1860s, and since Fergus was once described by Robert Brough-Smyth in his 1878 book ‘The Aboriginals of Victoria’ as “Mr F.M Hughan, who has had much intercourse with the Aborigines”, it was most likely at ‘Youngera’ where he gained his knowledge.
A Supreme Court case from May of 1860 in which Allan Hughan tried successfully to retrieve wages from a recalcitrant boss reveals that he was not in fact at ‘Youngera’ from 1858 when the McMallums left for England. He had started employment as an overseer at one of the sheep properties belonging to the pioneer Chirnside family in November of 1859, and prior to that had been a superintendent at ‘Glenloth Station’ near Avoca.
There are two family stories that have been passed down over the generations about the McCallums’ excursion to England. The first has been substantiated by other sources, and concerns a young Aboriginal boy named Billy Wirlong (or ‘Werlong’, ‘Wurlong’ or ‘Whoorlong’) who lived and worked at ‘Youngera’.
My great uncle, Gordon Oakley, was told by his mother Olive Bishop (eldest daughter of Bertha Hughan) that when the Hughan sisters, Jessie and Bertha, returned to England they took with them Wirlong, an Aboriginal boy, who dressed in a possum skin rug and performed boomerang throwing for Queen Victoria at an international Exhibition at the Crystal palace.
The first Great Exhibition was held in the Crystal Palace, London from May 1 to October 15, 1851, which was far too early to be the exhibition featured in the Wirlong story. There was another Great Exhibition staged in 1862 after the Crystal Palace had been removed and reassembled in South London, but the McCallums had returned home by this stage. Exhibitions were continually being held in the Crystal Palace, and presumably it was one of these lesser affairs that saw Wirlong throwing the boomerang for Queen Victoria.
In 1921 the ‘Sunraysia Daily’ newspaper published a series of articles about the Aboriginals of Mildura, and mentioned Wirlong as follows:-
“ When Wurlong was fifteen years of age, Mrs. McCallum went to England...she took the black boy with her, to show her friends what manner of native was to be found in Australia. Young Wurlong was a smart, well mannered, well set up youth, a good horseman, and clever with the stockwhip and with the boomerang- a lad to be proud of. He was presented to Queen Victoria, and gave an exhibition of boomerang-throwing before her. A visit to Paris was among Wurlong’s most cherished memories. For a “t’chillin” he would discourse on his doings and sight seeing by the hour, and when in later years, he had any argument with a white man, and felt that he was getting the worse end of it, he always closed the discussion tellingly by saying: “you say what you like: but I bin there, an’ you haven’t. And I done something you have not done- if you are a white man and I’m a black one- I bin shake hands with Queen Victoria in England!”
Alfred Kenyon in his 1912 book “The Story Of The Mallee” wrote on page 110:
“ Still lingers at Euston, Whorlong, who, taken to England by Mrs. McCallum, of Youngera, threw the boomerang before the old Queen in 1859, saw Paris and London and marvelled not.”
The other story involving the McCallums’ trip to England concerns the sisters purchasing a headstone for their mother back in Geelong. Hannah Hughan died in 1860 whilst her daughters were still away, and since the family legend states that she kept the stone in her bedroom until it was needed, it may be supposed that perhaps Jessie acquired the marble headstone from stone mason on her first trip to England in 1855. The story is definitely true- the name of the English stonemason, “C. Wilkins, 90 Euston Place” is very clearly engraved on the bottom of the stone in Brighton Cemetery.
The passage to England on board the ship ‘Royal Charter’ passed smoothly except for one rather monumental event- whilst crossing the Irish Sea, Jessie McCallum went in to labour, and on Sunday, July 11, 1858, she gave birth to daughter Ivy Jessie McCallum.
Whilst overseas, the McCallums and Bertha travelled throughout England, France and Scotland, presumably visiting family and friends as well as taking in the sights. Bertha bought back beautiful crystal scent bottles embellished with ormolu filigree and decorated with eglomised Grand Tour miniature portraits of Paris. They were passed down to her eldest daughter Olive and then to Olive’s granddaughter Margaret Oakley, and now I have them for the moment in my proud possession, over 148 years later.
When the McCallums boarded the ship ‘Themis’ at Liverpool at the end of 1860 for their return voyage home, there was one big change in their family dynamic...Jessie’s husband Alexander did not board with them. He and Jessie separated, and in fact never saw each other again. I am not descended from this branch of the family, and so am not familiar with the reasons behind their parting. There have been whispers of Alexander’s drinking and ill health, and then there was the huge age difference of 28 years- most likely there were numerous difficulties which we will never know about.
Whatever the case, Alexander returned to Scotland, and he died in England on May 30, 1871. It is an unusual situation indeed that finds a woman of that period separating from her husband and returning to her adopted home land with three small children to run a huge pastoral run, but Jessie Hughan McCallum was certainly a woman to accept the challenge and succeed. With the help of her family, particularly sister Bertha and brother Allan, and the support of neighbours such as Peter Beveridge, Jessie kept ‘Youngera’ going.
Peter Beveridge’s relationship and strong friendship with Jessie McCallum is an interesting one. There was only four years age difference between the couple, and they would have had a great deal more in common than Jessie’s much older husband. Jessie was still in her teens when they first met, and Peter was only 21years old. There are several photographs of Peter Beveridge in collections belonging to Bertha Hughan- in fact, before I had seen a photo of Peter Beveridge I had assumed that the man who faced Jessie McCallum on opposing pages in Bertha’s album from the 1860s was her husband, Alexander. There was also a large portrait in a gilded oval frame of this man, and assuming it to be Alexander McCallum I passed it on to Alexander’s great-granddaughter, Judith Laging. The subject of these photos has since been identified on various internet sites as Peter Beveridge. These photographs are reproduced in the following pages.
Peter Beveridge did not marry until well after Jessie McCallum’s death - at the age of 42 he married Annie Dalgleish Forrest. An internet biography describes him thus : “A Presbyterian, Beveridge was described as a 'conversationalist of no mean order', and was liked as a 'frank, genial and companionable man'.
In the early 1860s, Bertha’s future husband, Henry Bishop, was sent to ‘Tyntynder’ as a young man fresh from England to learn the ropes of ‘squattocracy’ under the Beveridges’ guidance. Henry and Peter Beveridge became very good friends, and Peter stood as a witness to the marriage of Henry and Bertha Hughan in Melbourne in 1865. Many years later, in 1890, Bertha was given by Annie Beveridge a copy of Peter Beveridge’s book on Aboriginals.
Although Ivy McCallum was born overseas, she was 2 ½ years old when she returned, and spent the next four years living at ‘Youngera’. As an old lady in the 1940s, she sat down and recalled some of her earliest memories, and following is a written account of life at ‘Youngera’as a child in the 1860s, as transcribed by her granddaughter Judith Laging:-
“ Now that so many people are taking such a great interest in everything connected with the early life of our state, I thought I would write down what I can remember of my own life passed in the bush more than seventy years ago.
The first few years of my life were spent on a large sheep station where of course sheep took the first place in our lives. From the time the big mobs were bought in, shorn, the wool pressed into bales and loaded onto great wagons drawn by patient-looking bullocks ready for that long journey south, little else was thought of.
We had our own small tribe of blacks, ruled over by King Jacky and Queen El_, a very portly pair. Several of the young blacks were very clever with stock, helping to break in the young horses (and with no great cruelty).
We always had a number of cows in use, and as Dickens was then at the height of his fame, the cows used to be named after his heroines. There was a big red ugly brute named Sally Brass and another little strawberry, always breaking into the garden, was Susan Nipper, and so on.
We even had a pair of pet sheep named Napoleon and Eugenie, in honour of the French Empire! Once I went for a ride on Eugenie who tipped me into a pool of muddy water!
Many dogs, of course, all colours and sizes. Also many cats, adored by me but not so favourably regarded by my elders, for they used to course over the thin calico ceilings of those days and make unsightly dents, so a long pole with a needle at the end was kept and whenever a cat curled itself up for a sleep it was firmly instructed to “Move on”.
Another joy I had was to go with my Mother when she went to the store to weigh out provisions, some for home use and some to go miles out to the Country Shepherd’s hut. This store was a big, dark, dusty place full of everything likely to be needed when supplies came up but seldom. Machinery, harness, tools, drapery, crockery, and food of all things- great bags of flour and sugar, tobacco on planks or in stacks in round boxes, drums I think they were called, and casks of dried apples from America. These were dark, leathery, often gritty and not over pleasant to eat, but all we could get then, and when I contrast them with the dried apples of today done up in clean white cartons I feel glad that things have so much improved. Those were very happy days, over all too soon.”
In 1861, two photographers decided to take a voyage down the Murray River from Echuca to Adelaide, photographing everything from Murray River scenery to homesteads and their occupants. George Burnell and Edward William Cole ventured forth on January 1, 1862, and we are fortunate that along the way they stopped at McCallum’s ‘Youngera Station’ and captured a wonderful moment in time.