James Leslie; Blackheath Benefactor.

For many years a retired grazier  from Forbes, Mr James Smart Leslie, had a home in the Blue Mountains at Blackheath. He named it Balquhain, after an ancestral property in Scotland.

Jmes Smart Leslie

James Smart Leslie Esquire

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.

 

Balquhain, Blackheath

No.2 Auxillary Hospital

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.

Balquhain B&B Blackheath

Balquhain today.

Leslie also donated the funds for the erection of the  Presbyterian church at Blackheath, in Wenworth Street.


Presbyterian Church at Blackheath.

A FAMILY TRAGEDY

In 1927 there was an event that could  easily have changed James Leslie’s feelings about the Blue Mountains.  A close relative, Ronald  Leslie,  was brutally murdered at Valley Heights, while enroute to Forbes by car.

Ronald Leslie

The victim, Ronald Leslie.

 

8 Comments
  1. Wow! What s generous man. Some people are so very kind. Thanks for sharing.

    • Pauline

      My pleasure, Lorraine. He deserves to be remembered.

  2. It crossed my mind whether Mr. James Leslie would have agreed with the church selling the property. Surely, something could have been done to pass it onto the hands of a charity as he had first done. It looks a lovely house and grounds. I’m sure as a bed and breakfast it is well presented and no doubt many are enjoying its locality and historical significance. I think that we’re selling our heritage too hastily, sometimes.

    • Pauline

      I thought the same thing, Heather. The church is in dire straits too. There was an article in the local paper saying they hardly have enough people attending services to continue. From 5 to 7 is the average number.

  3. Sad to see that it is no longer in the care of the church as intended, but hopefully the money raised helped others as intended. An amazingly generous couple…

    • Pauline

      Yes, hope it went to a good cause, Chris. Very decent people. It’s a pleasure to give them some credit all these years later.

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