The house at 165 Dornoch Terrace, close to the peak of Highgate Hill, was built almost 130 years ago from stone, which is quite uncommon in our suburb. It’s had four names and belonged to just three families for most of its first 100 years. Even so, it has been home to many people during its time as a boarding house and later shared accommodation. But let’s go back to the beginning.
The forests covering Highgate Hill were hunting grounds for people camping nearby in places such as the ridge along Vulture Street (see my post South Brisbane War Memorial Park and the Disappearing Ridge ). The area was called Bennung-urrung after the frilly necked lizard, which is now very rare in in the district.
Following the commencement of free European settlement in Brisbane in 1842, the colonial government began surveying and selling the land. Portion 183 comprising around 6 hectares was purchased by Nehemiah Bartley in 1861. Bartley was an interesting figure who travelled widely and wrote two books about his experiences. He seems to have had a penchant for hill top places. As well as this location, which he described as “the aspiring crest of lofty Highgate Hill” and other hilltop land, he built an unusual home known as “Bartleys Folly” at a location in Ascot, still known as Bartley’s Hill.
He sold much of his land after suffering heavy losses in the wake of the bank crisis of 1866 (see my post The Fascinating Story of the First Victoria Bridge). Much of it was subdivided into blocks of around 16 perches (400 square metres) and sold at the height of the land boom .
The house was later built on two of these lots. One was purchased in 1887 by local resident, rogue and multiple bigamist Ebenezer Thorne who you can read about in my post The Enigmatic Ebenezer Thorne. The other was purchased in the same year by Joseph Blain Cook, a builder.
Joseph Cook went bankrupt in 1891, owing over £31,800. Ebenezer Thorne was also declared bankrupt in that year and the bank called in his mortgages. The title deed shows a mortgage of over £323 plus further advances, which seems a large sum on such a small block. Ebenezer was probably up to no good as usual.
Speculators had overstretched themselves in the race to become rich and the crash which unfolded from around 1889 sent many to the wall. In 1891, Johann and Marie Rumpf purchased not only these two lots on which to build their new home, but also other surrounding ones, no doubt at bargain prices. The Rumpfs aggregated a large block of over 2,400 square metres.
The Rumpf family build “Karlsruhe”
Johannn Carl Rumpf was born in Liebenwalden, Brandenburg in 1838. Marie Wilhelmine Kuter was born 3 years later in Görlsdorf, also in Brandenburg. The couple married there early in 1862 and later in the year a child Anna Marie was born. They decided to emigrate to Australia and arrived in Brisbane on board the German immigrant ship “La Rochelle” in mid 1863. It was a risky voyage for baby Anna, as it was for all infants. The newspaper article describing the journey noted that
“There were six deaths, all of infants, who died of maladies incidental to childhood. Three of the deaths were from convulsions, two from atrophy, or wasting away, and one from consumption. There were no births.”
The Rumpfs made their way to the Logan district, where German immigrants had started settling a few years previously. In 1865, Johann purchased 40 acres on the Logan River close to Beenleigh, in partnership with Gottfried Tesch. He later purchased a further 80 acres to the west of Beenleigh.
By 1879, Marie had given birth to another 4 children and the couple had been running a general store in Beenleigh for some years. Johann, by now known as John, often acted as an interpreter for the police and at public meetings.
In 1880, they decided to move to Brisbane. John gained a publican’s licence and took over running the Cafe de Paris in Queen Street. This establishment had been started by fellow German Isaac Lenneberg 16 years earlier and had a reputation for fine dining.
The Rumpfs ran a number of hotels over the years, except for a period in the mid 1880s when they returned to storekeeping in Kangaroo Point. The hotels included the Ulster, the New Star and the New Crown. In 1882, the Rumpfs had plans to build a new hotel at the corner of Waterworks and Windsor Roads to be called the Windsor Castle, but the project didn’t eventuate. In 1890, they took over and rebuilt the Coach and Horses at Oxley at a new location on higher ground.
Work began on the Rumpf’s new Highgate Hill home in 1892 and it was completed in the following year. The house, which they named “Carlsruhe”, was built of stone and featured decorative glass work and extensive use of cedar joinery. The large folding cedar doors between the two main rooms were unusual in having an attractive curved top. The ceilings upstairs were finished with highly decorated plaster work and the marble fireplaces featured ornate tiles.
In the late 1890s, John and Marie moved into retirement with their sons Paul and Charles carrying on the family business. Paul was licensee of the Coach and Horses at Oxley in 1899 and the Ship Inn at South Brisbane between 1901 and 1904, with his wife Annie, brother Charles and his wife Mary all living and working in the hotel . Charles later was licensee of the Logan Reserve Hotel.
In 1905, John and Marie decided to return to Germany. They sold the house as well as all the furniture and other belongings. However, they don’t seem to have left Australia and they purchased another house that they also called “Carlsruhe” in Boundary Street, West End, where they lived in retirement.
The image below of four generations of the Rumpf family appeared in the Brisbane Courier in 1914. Sitting on the right is great-grandmother Marie Rumpf. Her daughter Anna Lawton is sitting on her left. She was the baby who accompanied her parents on the voyage from Germany in 1863. Her first marriage was to Jurgen Meyer. Standing is granddaughter Emily Hinchy nee Meyer. Her daughter Josephine Hinchy at the front was born in 1904.
The years during World War 1 were difficult for Germans in Australia. For 16 years, John had acted as a magistrate, a position of some prestige in the community. In 1916, he was accused of uttering disloyal comments concerning the likely outcome of the war and was struck off the bench, despite his protestations of loyalty. One newspaper article referred to it as “cutting out the cancer”. He changed the name of the Boundary Street house from “Carlsruhe” to “Malta”.
Thirty years later his grandson and namesake John Charles Rumpf was killed in action in Borneo at the very end of World War 2. He was the son of Charles and Mary Brown Rumpf. As a widow, Mary lived for decades in the house “The Summit” at 170 Dornoch Terrace, still standing across the street from “Carlsruhe”.
Below : Mary Rumpf (nee Geddes) with her grandson John Lewis, Anzac Day 1946 and her house “The Summit”.
John Rumpf passed away in 1918 and Marie in 1932.
The Thomson family and “Daar Lodge”
John Thomson was born in Liverpool in 1864, the 9th of the 12 children of his Scottish parents William Thomson and Jane née Rae. His father was a bookseller, and perhaps memories of his early childhood days inspired John to later follow in his father’s footsteps. In 1874, the family decided to emigrate to Victoria to join William’s brother Richard. Dick, as he was known, had been a digger on the Ovens Valley goldfield in the 1850s and then turned to farming.
On the eve of their departure William died, but Jane decided to make the journey despite her husband’s death. Her brother-in-law Dick was unmarried, and Jane inherited his farm “Liddesdale” in the Beechworth district after his death in 1887. She passed away in Beechworth in 1906.
John found his way to Brisbane where he worked for the printing, engraving and bookbinding company Watson, Ferguson and Co. He also spent time working in the composing room of the Telegraph newspaper. In 1884, John’s older brother William took over a bookshop located at 270 George Street, Brisbane. A few years later, John joined him in running the business.
In 1897, John travelled to Perth to marry Janet Adamson Wallace. She had arrived in Perth less than 2 weeks before the wedding. Janet was born in Kirkcudbright, Scotland in 1872. Kirkcudbright was the home town of John’s mother Jane Rae.
By 1905, John and Janet had their first 4 children and they decided to purchase “Carlsruhe” from the Rumpfs. They renamed it “Daar Lodge” after Janet’s parent’s home in Scotland.
After brother William left the business, John ran the bookshop, initially in partnership with his younger brother Jensen. After the George Street building was demolished in 1911, they acquired new premises at 311 Queen Street.
Below :The original shop in George Street and the new shop in Queen Street.
At the end of 1916, John decided to enlist in the Australian Imperial Force. He was 51 years of age, and with an upper age limit of 45 years for recruitment, he claimed on his recruitment form to be 44. John served with the 11th Field Artillery Brigade and received gun shot wounds to the ear, thigh and legs on November 4th, 1918, just one week before the armistice. He returned to Australia in July 1919.
Janet and John Thomson.
The image below of “Daar Lodge” was probably taken from around this period.
Both John and Janet had a strong involvement with the Presbyterian Church. John was ordained as an Elder in Saint Andrew’s Presbyterian Church and Janet served as president of the Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union.
In 1925 Griffiths Brothers Ltd., the tea merchants who owned the adjacent premises in Queen Street, suggested forming a partnership to build a new 6 floor building on the site. Being a canny Scot, John wanted quotes and a fixed price, but he was overruled by his partners. The expected cost of £43,000 blew out to some £70,000. With many newer buildings competing for rent, it never had high occupancy and the partners sold the building to City Mutual Life Assurance Ltd. in 1936 for £80,000, in what was described as Brisbane’s biggest property deal up to that time.
After John’s death in 1935 his son Walter, always known as Watty, who had been working in the store since 1926, took over running the business. He eventually sold it on his retirement in 1973. With new owners, the store continued operating until around 1983. After the Mutual Life Building was demolished in 1976, there were two stores in the Piccadilly Arcade and in Cordelia Street, South Brisbane.
Janet continued to live in Daar Lodge until she sold it in 1948. The family had been running the lower floor as a boarding house from 1933.
Later, they seem to have been renting out the entire lower level, as there are newspaper references to other occupants.
Janet passed away in 1962.
“Daar Lodge” was sold to Thomas and Adelaide McHugh in 1948. They rented it out as two flats, one on each floor. Four years later, they put the property up for sale. At this stage, the land behind the house is described as being beautifully terraced with gardens and lawns. The total area was around 2,400 square metres.
It was purchased by Harold and Mary Ryan who also rented it out as flats. They sold the property after just one year to Cecil and Vera Hegerty, who were to live here for almost 40 years.
The Hegertys and “Rodmaun”
Cecil David Hegerty was born in Murwillumbah in 1909. The first mention of him in the news was when he applied to the court for a divorce in 1937. He married Kathleen Birmingham in 1930. At this time he was working as a hairdresser in Coraki, a small town to the east of Casino, NSW. According to the undisputed evidence given in court, after the marriage Kathleen had never lived with Cecil, although they did have a son together. At this time, he was described as a “retired tobacconist” although he was only 28 years old.
He moved to Mackay where he resumed working as a hairdresser at the Palace Hotel before taking up bookmaking in 1940. Cecil owned a racehorse “Sardius” that had some success. He enlisted later that year and served in the Middle East before returning to Mackay in 1942 to marry his fiancee Vera Hodge .
Cecil was discharged from the army in 1944 and a son Rodney was born in 1948, followed by Maureen in 1950. The family moved to Brisbane in the early 1950s and purchased the house at 165 Dornoch Terrace in 1953.
They built the façade that gave the house its distinctive appearance, well known in Highgate Hill for over 40 years. The new name “Rodmaun”, derived from the two Hegerty children’s names Rodney and Maureen, was prominent over the front door.
The Hegerty family rented out the lower floor. When the house was open for inspection in 1990, there were still numbers above the bedroom doors downstairs, possibly dating from the 1930s. These may also have been used as accommodation for jockeys visiting from the country. Cecil continued as a bookmaker and his daughter Maureen became a talented show rider and horse trainer. She married jockey Mick Dittman.
It was a family affair. The stallion “All Ashore” was owned by Vera Hegerty, trained by Maureen and often ridden by Mick. All Ashore won the Goldmarket Handicap in 1990.
By 1990, Cecil and Vera were anxious to sell the house and move to the Gold Coast, where Maureen was living. At this time, the property comprised 1,700 square metres of land. The gardens behind the house described in the 1951 advertisement had long disappeared, with just a few remains of the terracing breaking up the sloping block.
I attended the sale and the auctioneer told a dubious crowd that there was no reserve and the house would be sold. The bidding reached $340,000, offered by well known barrister Shane Herbert, and the hammer fell. It was a very good buy at the time given the location and the size of the block.
Once again, the house became a rental property. A few years later, local resident Richard Cassels interviewed some of the residents of the house from this period for a neighbourhood newsletter that he produced. There were about 10 people living in the house at the time. A strong memory was of the extensive inner city bushland at the rear, as the controversial gully development was still years in the future.
One of the people interviewed recalled the parties.
‘We had big parties that the whole neighbourhood just came to, they were massive and they were crazy. I remember a guy going down the hall in a miniskirt, on roller skates, with a tray of watermelon slices, and I thought, in amazement, “this is my house!” The parties were outrageous but nothing bad ever happened, everyone was just having a good time, there was nothing aggressive.’
Many of the residents were politically active. ‘Rodmaun’ was the Brisbane headquarters for a 2-week protest against a radioactive waste storage facility planned by the Goss Labor Government near Esk. They monitored police broadcasts and relayed information via a radio system to the Esk base and the protesters on-site.
And then disaster struck. At about 10.30pm on a Sunday night, a fire broke out in a bedroom on the lower floor. It quickly spread through that level and was threatening the top floor before it was extinguished by the Fire Brigade. At this point, the damaged house was at high risk as it wasn’t heritage listed and sat on a huge block. It was, however, purchased by a sympathetic developer who retained the house and built town houses at the rear.
The new owner gave the house the name “Rihia” after a town in the Peloponnese area of Greece and built the internal staircase that had mysteriously never been built by the Rumpfs. Perhaps the lower level had originally been planned as separate accommodation for one of their children.
Hopefully the future of this historic house is secured.
Nehemiah Bartley entry in the Australian Dictionary of Biography
Stories from the Honour Board, St. Andrews Uniting Church, John Thomson 1864-1935
Papers relating to Thomson’s Bookstore / compiled by Watty Thomson. Fryer Library
© P. Granville 2021
6 thoughts on “Beer, Books and a Bookie – the Story of a Highgate Hill House”
Well done Paul. You are certainly thorough in your research. You are making a great contribution to our understanding of this part of town. I do not remember the fire in1990?. I must have been away at the time.
Anyhow, congratulations on another valuable post.
Dr William J Metcalf
Adjunct Lecturer, Griffith University,
Honorary Associate Professor, University of Queensland,
Thanks Bill. I’ve been researching the Princess Theatre and thanks to Trove I’ve found a lot of new material not in the heritage listing or the BHG article from the 1980s.
Fabulous work! I used to live in Rodmaun (downstairs) in my first year of Uni in 1991. Some great memories of this wonderful house including some fabulous parties that spilled across into Highgate Hill Park. You could feel the history of this house and the walls certainly whispered many a story! So grateful to finally learn more about its true heritage. Fun Fact: The Facade of Rodmaun also featured in the Go Betweens “Streets of Your Town” video clip. Thank you so much for your fantastic website.
Hi Sam thanks very much for your comment. I’ll have to track down the video clip.
Thankyou so much for your note left in my box recently. Paul’s blogs are absolutely fascinating, I cant get enough of them. I had always thought that Dornoch Terrace was mainly Greek, years ago when looking to buy a house the Greek Real Estate agent said, when I asked whether there were any places for sale on Dornoch Ter., ‘the Greeks get first chance on Dornoch Terr. and if there are any they dont’t want you can inspect them’. Rude I thought. But from what I read in Paul’s blogs the first home owners were mainly German.
I must look for Paul’s books about this area. Thanks so much. Just love it all. Regards, Pamela
Hi Pamela, It’s Paul here. Thanks for your comment. I haven’t actually written a book yet but I’d like to. I’ve actually found that a lot of the early European settlers on Highgate Hill were Scots.