Edward “King” Hulme, (1818 – 1904) “A settlers 35 Years Experience in Victoria, Australia 1856-1891”
My 3rd great grand uncle, Edward “King” Hulme, (1818 – 1904) wrote a small book called “A settlers 35 Years Experience in Victoria, Australia 1856-1891”
I am lucky to have a copy that my Mum found online some years ago.
Below are a couple of excerpts from the book.
In giving this little “Life Sketch,” I am actuated by a desire to assist many, not only hard-handed men in the “Old Country,” but many soft-handed ones also, as I was, and especially those who have large families, as I had, and who are struggling for a living, and see but little hope for the future in the already over-crowded hive in the “Old Land,” and a still poorer prospect for the new swarms; I, therefore, think a little advice and encouragement to those desirous to “cast off,” from one who has been through it all, will be welcomed by many, —— E.H.
SKETCH OF MY ARTIST LIFE
When living in the Old Land,” over 35 years since, I belonged to a class of which there are many thousands ‑ a struggling professor and of the class I have designated as “ soft‑handed.” I was an artist by profession; studied from a child; never did anything else; and in I850 and I85I had so far advanced in my profession to have the honour of having my works hung in a creditable position on the walls of the Royal Academy of Arts, of which I was also a student.
I married rather young (at 25), and soon had little ones running round. I started fairly well in the neighbourhood of London, at Clapham, adding teaching. Just about this time (I8I7) artists were invited by the Government to send in specimens of their works for exhibition in Westminster Hall, for competition for the decoration of the new Houses of Parliament, then just finished. I was rather too young and inexperienced an artist for so great and honoured an undertaking; however, I thought I would venture. I got my large picture finished, but from over‑study, excitement, and anxiety, my health gave way. I contracted nervous typhus fever, and consequently could not finish the other one, which was required by the Commissioners to enable me to Compete. But Sir Chas. Eastlake, the President, whose letter I still have, said my painting ‑ under the section of “Scriptural Allegory,” subject, “The King of Kings and Lord of Lords “‑ though not entitled to compete, could, if I liked, be hung in the vestibule of the hall; which was an honour I gladly consented to.
On getting up from my long and dangerous illness, my medical advisors persuaded me to go to a milder climate for perfect restoration, and to give up my profession for a time, at least to do very little painting. South Devonshire was recommended. We therefore left our home at Clapham, and took up our residence about four miles from that lovely spot, Torquay. To our residence was attached a small farm and splendid orchard. In this beautiful climate I soon regained my strength. I did all sorts of labour on the farm, so that I got a general insight into all sorts of farming work. This I found exceedingly useful since taking to farming in Australia.
I found many kind friends in Devonshire. (I cannot help naming the Savile family. God bless them for their kind patronage and introduction in my profession!) We resided in Devonshire about four years. We then came again to London, but found a difficulty in looking up a connection again, had to fill up my time in decorating in the various courts of the Crystal Palace, at Sydenham, just then being erected. I however, saw but little prospect of advancing in my profession, or even making a living, and less prospect for a large and increasing family, we having by this time seven children, six boys and one baby girl, besides I had contracted a great taste for rural life while in Devonshire. We were determined therefore to depart for Australia, the land of gold.
The goldfields being at that time in full swing. A wide field indeed for enterprise, and anticipated prosperity, with God’s blessing, for, I am happy to say, I had long sought His grace and guidance, and committed my ways unto him, and was sure He would guide our steps.
In the first place, I applied to the Commissioners of Emigration for a situation as schoolmaster for the voyage, on a Government emigration ship, my wife to act as matron. I presented letters of recommendation, one from the Bishop of London (Blomfield). I was well known to him, as Fulham, near London, where he resided, was my native place. The commissioners said my letters were more than enough, but desired to know the number of children I had. On hearing the number they informed me that they regretted to say that, according to their regulations, this would be a bar to my appointment. Three I think was the number allowed.
This was a great blow to us, as we should have saved our passage money, and had a salary besides. I think about I50 pound as schoolmaster, and wife as matron. Parties told me I could have managed it if I had liked, by getting some of the passengers to take the other four children, but this I could not do from principle. To pay our passage in a general passage ship, therefore, exhausted all our little means.
FAREWELL TO DEAR OLD ENGLAND
We did intend taking our passage in the new ship “Schomberg” just launched, owned by the “White Star Company”. On enquiring at the London office, they informed me that I could send our goods on at Liverpool, but they would not be put on any ship until our passage money was paid, and that I could find them in the company warehouse at Liverpool, consequently, I sent the goods on. We could not however get ready to go by the “Schomberg”. On arrival at Liverpool, and enquiring for our luggage, I found it had been sent on in that vessel.
Now the fate of that fine new ship, I presume is generally known. The captain had a bet with the captain of the ship “Kent”, a well known clipper, and declared “if he did not beat the “Kent” he would knock the “Schombergs” bows in”. On hearing that the “Kent” had made the passage before him, the “Schomberg” was wilfully run on shore just a little way from Cape Otway. Luckily it was fair weather and the passengers and crew were taken off, but with only the luggage they could carry in their hands, there being only just standing room on board the rescuing steamboat. The “Schomberg” became a total wreck.
This I suppose, is one of the most wicked and shameful incidents that ever happened on the shores of Australia. We took our passage in the next ship, the good ship “SULTANA” from Liverpool, on the 2Ist October, I855.
MELBOURNE AT LAST
We were thankful to arrive safely, after a fine passage of 8I days. We arrived off Cape Otway in the night, and stood ‘on and off’ until daylight, when the pilot came on board, and the first thing he told us was the loss of the ‘Schomberg’.
Well of course, we then knew also that all our goods were at the bottom of the sea. We were thankful though, that we did not ship on board that ill fated vessel, but ought we to attribute her loss to fate? No! It was wilful wickedness. I regretted our loss the more as my Westminster Hall picture was among the things lost, as it was the highest class work I ever attempted.
OFF TO THE DIGGINGS.
I started alone with swag, blankets, billy, pannikin, etc., in orthodox style, for a 200 miles’ tramp through the bush. (See frontispiece.) This, however, was not much of an undertaking for me, as I was a great pedestrian, could do my six miles an hour easy, and often over 50 miles per day on my sketching tours in the “Old Country;” being tall (fully six feet), I had a good stride. At that time the Sydney Road was only formed a few miles out of Melbourne, and from the Rockey Waterholes to the foot of the Big Hill (commonly then called Pretty Sally’s Hill) was swamp ground. I found a difficulty in getting over this; I had to tread the thistles down for miles to prevent bogging, and it was raining fast. The contractors were just forming the road, and on the first rise on the other side of the swamp the camp was formed. The men had knocked off on account of the rain. Just as I was level with the camp, I beard my name called out in true Irish accent, and out ran one of our shipmates to greet me. He occupied the next berth to us on board ship, and was ill a great part of the way. He had been a tradesman in Dublin. He was lively enough now, as he grasped my hand and cut a real, Irish caper, with “Hurrah! for Australia and I4s. a day, and wood and water”! He was driving one of the contractor’s drays. He wanted me to stay, as it was far into the afternoon, but no ‑ my alloted mileage was not done, so I marched on.
My first night’s ”bushing” was a strange experience. Rolled up in blankets, at the foot of a gum tree, I had not turned down long (I cannot say turned in) when I was conscious of something being upon my shoulder, and, cautiously turning round saw an animal perched quite innocently there. It was an opossum. I presume he did not recognise me from a log.
He appeared quite content to sit there until I gave him a cant and sent him some distance off.
This ” camping out” is not at all an unpleasant experience, as many might think, and this was a splendid moonlight night. At that time it was far more safe to keep clear of restaurants and shanties as they were the resort of the vilest characters. Neither was it safe to camp out alone with a fire at night, as this was an attraction, and you were pretty sure to get objectionable company. The plan, therefore, generally adopted, was to boil the billy for tea, then, after tea, leave, and go on a little distance in the dark, and turn off the road or track into the silent bush, and roll up in your blankets; thus you avoided unpleasant company. I got through in about seven days. I passed through the famous “Woolshed Diggings,” where the rich claims were, and where the men had to wash the gold off their boots when they left work. There was a “ strike” on just then. The claim‑holders wanted to reduce the wages to £I per day. I was interviewed, and offered work at that price, but of course, I refused, as I was on my way to join my wife’s brothers. I then went on through Beechworth – Spring Creek diggings. The scenes on the diggings were strange and novel to me. Beechworth was the chief centre of the mining district, and the other diggings around were named by the distance from Beechworth, thus – “ The One Mile,” “ The Three Mile,” and “The Nine Mile.” This last was my destination. It was also called “Snake Valley,” from the winding course of the creek. It was late in the evening when I arrived, quite dark and pouring rain, and there had been a long rain before, so that the roads in the township were wretched. At the crossings of the creek it was impassable, and was only indicated by side logs, on which I had to crawl. The worst of it was, I had to wander up and down the creek to find my brothers’ hut. The storekeepers knew them by sight, but could not say where they lived. I was directed to a large restaurant, about a mile down the creek. There were about 40 diggers, just at tea. I walked up and down between the tables, and I think they were the finest, strongest, and roughest set of men I ever saw. I did not see my brothers, though. Came back, enquired at the police camp, also to no purpose. Over the creek again, when at last I found a butcher who pointed out on the bank, on the other side of the creek, the light shining through the calico top of their hut. He lent me a piece of candle to cross the creek with, and I managed to work my way among the holes and sludge, etc., to the other side. And glad I was to get there, and I was as “wet as a rat,” and pretty well tired out. I soon got “a shift ” however, and such a fire as they had never saw before; enough to roast a bullock; at which also I got a good roasting; and after a good supper of beef, damper and tea, soon felt all right. This for my first tramp in Australia.
I’m happy to know that the book is now available online to read online through the State Library of Victoria.
The link is http://handle.slv.vic.gov.au/10381/245578