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Hugh Anderson (1808–1898)

There are but few colonists remaining among us who have conversed with John Batman, seen the tall figure of John Buckley, the wild white man, striding along the banks of the Yarra, and witnessed the growth of Melbourne from a few wattle and daub huts to a city of palatial buildings, and the increase of the population of the colony of Victoria from a mere handful to over 1,000,000. Such a one, however, was Mr. Hugh Anderson, J.P who died at his late residence, "Netherwood," San Remo, Western Port, on 22nd June last. In his 90th year. Mr. Anderson was born in Kirkcudbright, Scotland, in 1808, and was 7 years of age when the battle of "Waterloo was fought. He well remembered the stir which that great event caused in his native town, which had contributed soldiers to the field of renown. The brothers Anderson, three in number, were all early colonists. The eldest brother, Samuel, who went over to Western Port from Tasmania (then called Van Diemen's Land) in 1835, was born in 1803. He died in 1863 at San Remo (then called Griffith's Point) at the age of 60 years. The youngest brother, Thomas, who is still living at "Netherwood," at the advanced age of upwards of 80, entered into partnership with his brother Hugh in a farm at Darebin Creek, a few miles from Melbourne, in 1839. Thomas, the only one of the three brothers who married, lost his wife at San Remo in 1888. The three children of the marriage are grown up, and Hugh and Thomas divided their property among them some years ago, leaving themselves only sufficient to live on. Hugh Anderson, before quitting the old country, studied medicine, but never obtained a diploma. Thomas, his father being a merchant and ship owner, followed the profession of the sea for a time. Hugh sailed to Tasmania as surgeon to a ship in 1837, the year of the Queen's accession, and he remembered seeing as the vessel lay at Plymouth, the illuminations in honor of that event. After a year's residence in Tasmania, he crossed over to Western Port, Victoria, to join his brother Samuel, who had been settled on the Bass River, for about three years. Samuel had previously been negotiating with the Hentys, and intended to take part in the settlement at Portland, which they founded in 1834, but a letter miscarried, and instead of going to Portland he determined to establish himself at Western Port. Hugh joined him there in 1838, but shortly proceeded to Melbourne, and took up a farm at Darebin Creek.

Mr Hugh Anderson's first experience on reaching Melbourne in the early part of 1839 was the boiling of a billy to make tea with wood which he chopped down in the thick bush which covered the site of the present Post Office. That was little more than three years after Batman first moored his boat on the banks of the Yarra, near the site of the present Queen's bridge, and had entered in his diary the line, "This will he the place for a village". The settlement consisted of a couple of hundred of men, women and children, living in huts. The life was rough, for the pioneers had to carve for themselves homes out of the wilderness, but they knew there was a great future before them, and all hearts beat high with hope. The men dressed in blue or red serge shirts, worn over the trousers, with a leather belt and large straw hat. The ladies followed their own caprice, for the laws of fashion were not rigid in those days. The community was distinctively an agricultural and pastoral one. The excitements of the period were explorations (chiefly in the Western District) and occasional conflicts with bushrangers from Tasmania. Batman and his family were settled on a hill (known as Batman's Hill till its removal in the sixties), which was ornamented with sheoak trees, and the graceful figures and open healthfully blooming countenances of his daughters attracted much attention. when they marched on Sunday morning to the low-roofed wooden church. About 18 months had elapsed since the holding of the first land sale. John Pascoe Fawkner, who had already brought out a manuscript newspaper, called the "Melbourne-Advertiser'" was struggling with the difficulties of bad type and incompetent' workmen in connection with the publication of the "Port Phillip Patriot." The farm taken up by Mr. Hugh Anderson at Darebin Creek prospered, and the adventurous colonist saw with satisfaction the gradual expansion of settlement in the colony. When the gold discoveries occurred he witnessed the enormous influx of population from the old world, and was the observer of the advance to the gold fields of as fine a body of men as ever trooped over the startled solitudes of an unpeopled land. Some of them achieved wealth, more were worsted in the struggle and not a few met with a violent end. The addition of thousands of people to the population every week increased the price of provisions enormously. Mr. Anderson had a large quantity of hay, for which he had no use, and he thought of burning it. All at once he found himself able to dispose of it for £70 a ton. He was also the owner of a number of pigs, which he proposed to boil down for their fat, and he sold them at £10 apiece.

In the year 1852 Mr. Hugh Anderson removed with his brother Thomas to Western Port. They settled as agriculturists and graziers on the north-eastern shore of the bay, a few miles from the Bass, and never afterwards, removed. In the course of time they became large and prosperous land owners. Among their early difficulties were the troubles caused by a number of Tasmanian blacks, who, being regarded as comparatively civilised, had been brought over to Port Phillip to humanise the Victorian aborigines. Some of these immigrants, thinking they could walk to their homes, made their way as far as Western Port, where they helped themselves to what stores they could find. Truganini, the daughter of a Tasmanian chief, and since remembered as the last of the Tasmanians, was among these unwelcome visitors, who murdered several of the white settlers. Mr. Thomas Anderson had a narrow escape from them. His brother Hugh lost his dress coat, and afterwards found Truganini clothed with it and nothing more. The Andersons were the real pioneers of Western Port. Anderson's Inlet is named after Samuel Anderson. They were aware 40 years ago of the existence of coal measures at Cape Paterson and Kilcunda. They used coal from the latter place for domestic purposes, but never claimed the reward offered by the Government for the discovery of coal, on the ground that the field was not likely to become a permanent one. Mr. Davies is now working the Kilcunda mine with two or three men. He supplies the residents of San Remo and the steamer Genista— which runs daily between Stony Point and San Remo— with fuel, but none of it is sent to Melbourne. The company which was formed to work this mine did not persevere with the undertaking, and the tramway which they laid from Kilcunda to San Rcmo was taken up by the Railway department within the last few weeks. The Great Victoria Colliery Co., however, are developing their mine in the Bass Country.

Mr. Hugh Anderson was a man of vigorous mind, and he enjoyed good health to within a week of his death, when he suffered a paralytic seizure, which carried him off. He once served for a short time as a member of the local shire council, but he never cared to take an active part in public affairs. Like most men of advanced years, he was a praiser of past times. He had a lingering affection for the pre-gold fields days, when warmer blood coursed through his veins, and the free bush life, with its frank hospitality, was so pleasant. His knowledge of medicine was always at the service of sick settlers, whom he invariably attended free of charge, prior to the arrival of a resident practitioner, and there was no one in the district who was more highly respected. He took a warm interest in medical affairs. He once carried on a newspaper controversy with reference to the position and management of hospitals. The remains of the deceased gentleman were followed to his grave in the San Remo Cemetery on 24th June by a large cortege, representative of the principal residents of the district for miles around. The funeral service was read by the Rev. Herbert E. Potter, Church of England minister at San Remo, who is a relative by marriage.

Original publication

Citation details

'Anderson, Hugh (1808–1898)', Obituaries Australia, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, accessed 16 June 2024.

© Copyright Obituaries Australia, 2010-2024

Life Summary [details]


22 September, 1808
Kirkcudbright, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland


22 June, 1898 (aged 89)
San Remo, Victoria, Australia

Cause of Death


Cultural Heritage

Includes subject's nationality; their parents' nationality; the countries in which they spent a significant part of their childhood, and their self-identity.

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