Lists (None yet)

Login to create lists

Tagged (None yet)

Add Tags

Comments (None yet)

Add New Comment

3 corrections, most recently by anonymous - Show corrections




Early in the year 1812 the dull round   of life in the tiny, isolated, eight-year-old settlement at Port Dalrymple, in the north of Van Diemen's Land, was brightened by

an unexpected arrival. A small brig from Calcutta, the Active, of 100 tons, worked its way up the Tamar and anchored near the village of Launceston. This was in itself an event, for Port Dalrymple was off the track of overseas vessels, and its rare visitors were but Government vessels and stray schooners from Sydney. The owner and supercargo of the Active, who gave his name as Jona- than Burke Hugo, was, too, vastly dif- ferent in type from the few strangers who reached this remote corner of New South Wales. He was a young man of handsome appearance, of prepossessing and princely manners, was well-informed, and could talk familiarly of high society in London. He dropped dark hints that he was in reality far other than the wandering trader that he seemed. Certainly his methods of dispos- ing of the pipes of wine, the spirits, tea, clothing, and Indian goods which formed the cargo of the brig were unusual. Three cases of Madeira wine were sent as presents to Major George Alexander Gordon, of the 73rd Regiment, Commandant at Port Dalrymple, and gifts of Madeira, spirits, tea and sugar to Captain Kenny and other officers and civil officials. Apart from this liberal distribution, Hugo showed a princely disregard of sordid questions of cash or of sufficient security in disposing of the rest of his goods. This, at least, made his wares exceedingly popular. One of his best cus- tomers, who bought articles to the value of several hundreds of pounds, was Peter Mills, then Acting Deputy Surveyor at Port Dalrymple. Peter bought on credit, and a year or two later he absconded, and took to the bush, where, with George Wil- liams, who had been acting deputy commis- sary at Launceston, he became leader of a famous and formidable band of 27 bush-


On no one in the little settlement did the visitor's charm of manner, and his air of distinction and mystery, not to mention the Madeira, make so strong an impres- sion as on the autocrat of Port Dalrymple --the Commandant, Major Gordon. A few months later this settlement was made subordinate to the larger one across the island at the Derwent, but for the moment Maior Gordon, as Commandant, still held undisputed sway, subject only to the con- trol of Lachlan Macquarie, Captain-General of New South Wales and colonel of the 73rd Regiment.


Major Gordon, a worthy but somewhat thick-headed and easily led officer, was so impressed by this remarkable trader that he gave easy credence to hints which his mysterious visitor threw out thal he was a personage of the most exalted rank visit-

ing the British colonies in the South Seas   for high purposes of State. So far did this belief lead him that he actually handed over the command of the settlement to the distinguished visitor. This is the story as told by Governor Macquarie in an official despatch:

''Major Gordon, Commandant at Port Dalrymple, Suffered himself to be so far Imposed on by the wild and extravagant Nonsense of Mr. McHugo as to Imagine him to lie one of the Royal Family Incog., and possessed of Authority at pleasure to super- sede all Governors, Commanders, etca., etca. Wherever he pleased to visit. In this Belief Major Gordon had actually Surren- dered the Command to Mr. McHugo, who was likely to have made a Very Alarming Use of the Power so Yielded to bim had not the other Officers found it Necessary to their personal Safety and to the Duty they owed to their Sovereign to remonstrate with Major Gordon, whereby they at length Effected the Measure of sending Mr. McHugo to Sydney under a Military


The poor "prince" found no credulous Gordon to deal with at Sydney. Macquarie   sent him before a medical board, which reported that he was in a "state of Out- rageous Insanity." After a period of de- tention Hugo was sent back to India. Richard Jones, a Sydney merchant, sold the Active, and what was left of her cargo, re- covered as much as he could of the money due for the goods sold at Port Dalrymple, and finally remitted £7,015/17/2 to the firm of Alexander and Co., of Calcutta, from whom Hugo had borrowed the money for his venture.        


Three years later Hugo was placed on board a vessel bound from Calcutta to Lon- don. On January 1, 1815, when the ship was about to sail, he wrote a letter to Mr. John Palmer, of Calcutta, in which he   claimed, in somewhat shaky Latin, to be the lawful King of all the British domi- nions, and a direct descendant of Mary Queen of Scots. The letter runs as fol-


"Although in a very infirm state of health, in conscquence of the Cruelties exercised towards me, and the infernal doses administered to me at South Wales, and my subsequent long confinement of 2 1/2 years in the General Insane Hospital, Cal- cutta, in the hope of intimidating me, where I was fed on provisions such as no Honest Man in England would attempt to feed his dog with, I am now placed, under the paltry plea of my being a pauper, a Charter Party Passenger on board this Ship by those time-serving Satellites of that Unfeeling Illustrious Usurper the Prince of Wales-the Earl of Moira, General Sir George Nugent, Bart., and Mr. Udney, president of the Marine Board, whose mother has dry nursed the would-be Princess of Orange; but their Infamous conduct shall not have the cleared effect, and I trust in God they will all have cause to repent, for as a Lawyer I have long known that when the Heirdom per Stirpes takes place, that, the Heirdom Per Capita must give way, and every intelligent Man who knows me must be aware that altho' the Son of an Irish Snuff and Tobacco Seller, I am the lineal Descendant of Earl Both- well and Mary Stuart, Queen of Scotland, the Great Grand daughter of Henry the 7th of England, in the line of his daughter Margaret, the Wife oí James the 4th of Scotland, Consequently the rightful Heir to the Crown of England; 'but Henry Plantagenet I deem the root of my family

in this Country.'  


Prince of Scotland, and of Great Britain and Ire- land, Rex de Jure Divina."      

The "tools of the Usurper" were to hear more of Hugo. On January 10, 1817, he wrote to Lord Sidmouth complaining that his property had been unjustly detained at Sydney, and added:--"I now Officially de- clare to your Lordship that if the Members of Government have the real feelings of Gentlemen, they would not subject a Man whom they know to be their King, De Jure, although he is an Irishman, to this humili- ating Necessity." In an affidavit, Hugo valued the cargo of the Active at £8,000, apart from a chest of plate on board worth £350 and a gold watch worth £50. He

declared that if the "Government at South Wales" had let him alone he could have cleared £4,000. The authorities sought in- formation from Gordon, then in London, and a lieutenant-colonel, who wrote a very confused and rambling reply from "Old Slaughter's Coffee House." He did not   mention the handing over of the command, but admits that Hugo told him that the name was an assumed one, and that "he should soon learn who he really was." He also stated that he had paid Jones, as Hugo's agent, for the three cases of Madeira presented to him by Hugo. When the matter was referred to Sydney it was learnt that there was no balance due to Hugo. When last we hear of him he was, as he puts it in a letter to Under-Secretary Goulburn, "on the brink of starvation in the London streets." At least he had been King, if but for a few brief hours, and only of Port Dalrymple.