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Hann, Frank Hugh (1846–1921)

by G. C. Bolton

This article was published online in 2020

William Hann (1837-1889), and Frank Hugh Hann (1846-1921), explorers and pastoralists, were the sons of Joseph Hann and his wife Elizabeth, née Sharpe. The family migrated from Wiltshire in 1851 to the Westernport district in Victoria. In 1862 Joseph Hann was attracted to the newly-opened upper Burdekin district in Queensland where in partnership with Richard Daintree and some Melbourne investors he took up Bluff Downs, Maryvale and Lolworth stations. After Joseph was drowned in the great Burdekin flood of January 1864, his sons struggled with hostile Aboriginals, speargrass, dingoes and falling wool prices and in 1870 William had to overland their last 19,000 sheep to Victoria; Lolworth and Bluff Downs were surrendered and he ran cattle at Maryvale.

In 1872 William was given charge of a well-organized official party to explore the interior of the Cape York Peninsula. The country was difficult and Hann was often irked by assistants whose bushcraft was less competent than his. Dense scrub prevented him from reaching his goal on the Endeavour River but the party located some fair pastoral country and named the Tate, Daintree and Palmer Rivers. On the latter he reported traces of gold which led to James Mulligan's prospecting party and a dramatic gold rush. The new fields soon provided Hann with a market for his cattle and he prospered. In 1886 after a trip overseas he introduced axis deer from Ceylon to the Maryvale district. He was also a benefactor of St James's Cathedral, Townsville, and a member of the Dalrymple Divisional Board. He died suddenly while swimming near Townsville on 5 April 1889, survived by his wife and two daughters; a son had died in infancy. A daring horseman and whip and a first-class bushman, Hann was notable among the first generation of North Queenslanders.

Frank Hann, born on 19 October 1846, managed Lolworth station in 1865-70 and in 1875, when the cattle industry revived, took up Lawn Hill station in the Gulf country. Refusing to sell in good times, he was overtaken by low prices, poor seasons and the outbreak of redwater fever in the 1890s, and walked off the station in 1894. Penniless and very miserable he overlanded to Western Australia with 6 Aboriginals and 67 horses in 1896. He searched in vain for suitable country in the Nullagine district and in 1897 decided to return to Queensland but was diverted to a short-lived gold rush at Mount Broome in the West Kimberley district. In the winter of 1898 he penetrated the Leopold Ranges, till then a barrier to expansion, named the Charnley and Isdell Rivers and located some fine areas of pastoral country. This feat of bushmanship and endurance was remarkable for Hann was over 50 and suffering from the after-effects of a broken thigh and the area he traversed was one of the most difficult in Australia and peopled by unwelcoming Aboriginals. He took up over 1000 square miles (2590 km²) of the new country but had no funds to buy stock and it was pioneered by established Kimberley families. Hann lived in Perth for four years and then turned to prospecting. Authorized by the Western Australian government to explore the inland desert, he opened a track from Laverton to the Warburton Ranges on the South Australian border in 1903 and investigated a rumour of gold at Queen Victoria Springs in 1907. An accident put him on crutches in 1918 and he retired to Cottesloe, Perth, where he died unmarried on 23 August 1921. In his last years he had corresponded with Daisy Bates on appealing for more government attention to Aboriginal welfare. Each of his diaries in the Battye Library, Perth, is prefaced by the motto, 'Do not yield to despair'.

Select Bibliography

  • R. L. Jack, Northmost Australia, vol 2 (Lond, 1921)
  • J. Black, North Queensland Pioneers (Charters Towers, 1931)
  • G. C. Bolton, Richard Daintree (Brisb, 1965)
  • Votes and Proceedings (Legislative Assembly, Queensland), 1873, 1031
  • Hann papers (State Library of Western Australia).

Additional Resources

Citation details

G. C. Bolton, 'Hann, Frank Hugh (1846–1921)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published online 2020, accessed online 3 March 2021.

This article has been amended since its original publication. View Original

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