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Hull, Hugh Munro (1818–1882)

by R. L. Wettenhall

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

Hugh Munro Hull (1818-1882), civil servant, was born in London, the eldest son of George Hull and his wife Anna, daughter of Captain Hugh Munro of the Coldstream Guards. He sailed for Sydney with his parents and sister in the convict transport Tyne, and in September 1819 arrived at the Derwent where his father became assistant commissary general. The family home was soon established on a 2560-acre (1036 ha) land grant at Tolosa, Glenorchy; his father was transferred to Launceston in 1823 and after a few months Hugh became a boarder at Dr Thompson's Academy in Hobart. In 1829 he returned to Launceston to assist his father as a 'volunteer clerk'. On a visit to his office Lieutenant-Governor (Sir) George Arthur promised him a formal civil service appointment when he reached a suitable age. When his father retired in 1831 the family returned to Tolosa where Hugh joined them.

Hull was presented by his father at Government House in 1834 and became a clerk in the governor's office. Arthur took a personal interest in him, giving him books to read, and encouraging him to broaden his knowledge. He soon tired of the long daily rides between Tolosa and town, and after August 1835 lived in Hobart. He became senior clerk and keeper of the records in the colonial secretary's office in 1841 and in 1848 chief clerk in the governor's office. He got on very well with Lieutenant-Governor Sir William Denison, for whom he had great respect, and who when he left the colony glowingly acknowledged Hull's services and gave him a gold watch. Vigorous in community affairs Hull was also secretary of the new Tasmanian Public Library and of the committee for the review of convict expenditure, acted as unofficial government statist and as meteorologist at Government House and was a fellow of the local Royal Society.

The second phase of Hull's career began in June 1856 when he became police magistrate for the Bothwell, Hamilton and later, Green Ponds districts, living at Bothwell and also holding office as justice of the peace, coroner, chairman of Quarter Sessions, commissioner of the Court of Requests, returning officer for Cumberland electorate, chairman of Bothwell Road Trust and manager of Bothwell and Hamilton Savings Banks. Pluralities were then common and like many contemporaries he was pleased to recite his long list of offices. Nearly 40, he considered himself hale and hearty, weighed exactly nine stone (57 kg) and could ride fifty miles (80 km) without much fatigue, but the harsh inland climate and strenuous duties affected his health; in October 1857 his doctor advised him to give up riding and that meant the end of his country magistracy. Soon after responsible government was granted, he became assistant clerk-librarian of the House of Assembly, acting clerk in 1862 and clerk in 1864-82. He also served as secretary to royal commissions, organizer of Tasmania's exhibits at intercolonial and international exhibitions and secretary to the reception committee for Prince Alfred's visit in 1867 as well as putting his spare time to good use by developing his talents as scholar, lecturer and writer. He produced and published many statistical summaries, abstracts of legislation, newspaper articles, catalogues, calendars and guides to Tasmania. The government bought thousands of his Hints to Emigrants, and his Guide of 1858 and Royal Kalendar and Guide of 1859, published by Charles Walch, were forerunners of Walch's Tasmanian Almanac. Elected a member of the Royal Colonial Institute in 1873, he became a corresponding member of other intercolonial and overseas societies. He was elected manager of St John's Presbyterian Church of which he was a member, and other societies and associations availed themselves of his services as secretary. One of his greatest satisfactions was his organizing, at first through the Oddfellows' lodge, of a volunteer rifle company. In 1861 he was commissioned a captain and by persistent practice became a champion rifle shot.

Quiet, genial and obliging, Hull was a good family man. He took a close interest in his brothers and sisters, the twelfth of whom was born in 1841. On 31 October 1844 he married Antoinette Martha, daughter of James Aitkin, sheepfarmer and magistrate of Epping; they had two children before she died in July 1852. In raising his young family Hull was helped by his late wife's aunt, whose daughter, Margaret Basset Tremlett, he married on 3 January 1854. Hull died in Hobart from a heart attack on 3 April 1882, survived by his second wife and eleven of their twelve children. His second son, Hugh, had joined him on the parliamentary staff in 1868 and rose in the civil service to head the Stores Department.

Hull's obituarist in the Mercury declared that 'seldom in the longest lifetime has any man filled so many honorary positions'. Two of Hull's own writings furnish the main accounts of his career: The Experience of Forty Years in Tasmania (London, 1859); and a memoir written on extended leave in 1875.

Citation details

R. L. Wettenhall, 'Hull, Hugh Munro (1818–1882)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/hull-hugh-munro-3814/text5891, published first in hardcopy 1972, accessed online 24 August 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 4, (MUP), 1972

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