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Hacking, Henry (1750–1831)

by G. P. Walsh

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

Henry Hacking (1750?-1831), seaman and explorer, arrived in New South Wales as quartermaster of the Sirius in 1788. He was 'reckoned a good shot' and while shooting game for the officers and ship's company he acquired much knowledge of the country around Sydney. On one of his shooting expeditions he was attacked by Aboriginals, but escaped without injury; David Collins in relating this incident mentioned that he was held 'in great estimation by the officers of his ship both as a man and as a seaman'. After the wreck of the Sirius in 1790 he appears to have returned to England.

He arrived again in Sydney in the Royal Admiral in 1792. On 20 August 1794 with a companion or two he attempted to find a passage across the Blue Mountains; a week later they returned defeated but claimed to have penetrated twenty miles farther inland than any other European. In 1794 he was granted thirty acres (12 ha) at Hunter's Hill. In November 1795 he was one of the party that found the lost government cattle on the Cowpastures. In February 1798 he accompanied a military party to the Cowpastures to investigate killings of the government cattle there and in the following month was sent by Governor John Hunter to investigate the salt deposits discovered by John Wilson near the junction of the Bargo and Nepean Rivers. In October 1799 he was convicted of perjury and sentenced to be transported to Norfolk Island for three years, but received an absolute pardon.

In 1800 and 1801 he piloted the Porpoise into and out of Port Jackson and the following year was appointed first mate of the Lady Nelson which accompanied the Investigator on its journey up the Queensland coast. In 1803 he was appointed first pilot at Port Jackson. Then he fell upon bad days and in November 1803 he and Robert Colpits were found guilty of stealing naval stores from the Investigator and sentenced to death. Both were reprieved, Hacking on condition that he be transported for seven years to Van Diemen's Land, though it was less than six months since he had been pardoned after being condemned to death and reprieved for shooting and wounding a woman. Despite Hacking's obvious failures, Governor Philip Gidley King was very sympathetic: 'He is still a good Man', he wrote to Collins in November 1803, 'and I am inclined to believe the last Crime was Committed to Obtain Spirits'. Later, when Hacking was at Hobart Town with Collins who wanted his services as a pilot, King wrote: 'I am glad you have kept Hacking, he is a good man but was lost here by the Arts of a Woman'.

On 1 June 1804 Hacking was appointed coxswain to the lieutenant-governor at Hobart and in the same year accompanied a party which explored the Huon River. In 1805 he was instrumental in the recapture of six escapees and won Collins's commendation. In July 1806 he was appointed pilot at Hobart at £50 a year, and had charge of all the government boats and their crews. He appears to have spent the rest of his life at Hobart except for a short visit to Sydney in 1806 as a witness at the trial of Robert Stewart, the ex-officer and notorious escapee. In 1816, 'useless as a Pilot from Drunkenness and other infirmities', he was granted a pension of half his salary. He died at Hobart on 21 July 1831, aged 81. Port Hacking, south of Botany Bay, which he discovered probably on one of his overland excursions, was named in his honour by Matthew Flinders in 1796.

Select Bibliography

  • Historical Records of New South Wales, vol 3
  • Historical Records of Australia, series 1, vols 3-4, 7-8, series 3, vols 1-4, 6
  • D. Collins, An Account of the English Colony in New South Wales, vols 1-2 (Lond, 1798-1802)
  • Sydney Gazette, 19 June, 13, 20 Nov 1803.

Citation details

G. P. Walsh, 'Hacking, Henry (1750–1831)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hacking-henry-2140/text2721, published in hardcopy 1966, accessed online 26 October 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 1, (MUP), 1966

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