Saturday, 16 December 2017

Tale of Two Georges

This was the second of six short pieces of writing, with a reflective statement, which was part of the first assessment for Writing the Family Saga.

The small band of explorers walked out of the shade of the trees into the sunshine to encounter a lake and large expanses of open land. Was this what they had been looking for?

Years later, back in England, George Mackillop recounted stories of his part in the expedition to his young grandson who lived with him while his parents were in India.

Additional land was required for grazing sheep and cattle as the colony of Van Diemen’s Land grew. George told his grandson how in 1834 he travelled from New South Wales following the course of the Snowy River to explore land south of the present Omeo. Stories of this expedition encouraged further exploration and two years later settlers from Tasmania, including George, had established sheep and cattle properties in Victoria. However George lost faith in the new colony and returned to England.

By the time he was 19 George Hutton decided to try his luck in the new land described by his grandfather.

Initially George worked on sheep stations in southern New South Wales and western Victoria before helping his family establish their property at Lilydale. Then it was time to explore more of the country so George joined a droving party, travelling north until he decided to settle down.

Parkes was chosen by George as the place to purchase his own sheep station. Initially this was a successful venture but nature intervened and drought forced George to sell his land. Broken but not defeated George became a rabbit inspector in the Parkes region.

Much of my family story revolves around family members owing properties in various parts of Australia and the challenges of living on the land. In writing The Tale of Two Georges I became aware of the parallels, as well as the differences, between the stories of these two men who were explorers as well as landowners in a new and challenging environment.

Sketch of Mr Mackillop’s route in Australia [copies of the map available in State Library of Victoria and National Library of Australia via Trove]

George Mackillop wrote two articles entitled ‘On Australia’ and On Port Phillip in Australia’ published in the Quarterly Journal of Agriculture in June 1839 and March 1940.

In the 1930s George Hutton made notes about his early years in Australia and also some of the family stories including his grandfather’s expedition to the Omeo region.

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