For many years a retired grazier from Forbes, Mr James Smart Leslie, had a holiday home in the Blue Mountains at Blackheath. He named it Balquhain, after an ancestral property in Scotland.
When WWI broke out, Mr Leslie and his wife Elizabeth (Betsy) were anxious to help.
‘I have pleasure in stating that my wife and I are prepared to hand over to the government our residence and grounds here, free of cost, from September 1st next, or sooner if required, as a convalescent home for wounded soldiers…Balquhain is an ideal mountain home, and would accommodate 15 to 20 soldiers without encroaching on the billiard room, which will of course, with the table, be for the use of the soldiers. There are two acres of land, which are under vegetables, fruit trees and large English shade trees, tennis court and also two milch cows and poultry. In addition we will give a donation of a thousand pounds (£1,000) to assist in defraying the cost of upkeep. We will leave our car (a 38 h.p. Silent Knight Daimler) in perfect order, to enable the soldiers to have drives, and will pay the salary of the driver.’
By late September the ‘hospital’ was in full swing;
Below is a photo of Balquhain, taken in 1915. The property was located on Govett’s Leap Road, prompting one military man to suggest that the cliffs at Govett’s Leap were similar to those the Australians faced at Anzac Cove.
As the war continued Mr Leslie made further donations;
Not long before he died, Leslie donated Balquhain and its spacious grounds to the Blackheath Presbyterian church, as a rest home for aged and infirm clergymen. It has since been sold by the church, and is now privately owned and run as a Bed and Breakfast.
Leslie also donated the funds for the erection of the Presbyterian church at Blackheath, in Wenworth Street.
A FAMILY TRAGEDY
In 1927 there was an event that could easily have changed James Leslie’s feelings about the Blue Mountains. A relative, Ronald Leslie, was brutally murdered at Valley Heights, while enroute to Forbes by car.