In the late 19th century Albert Higgs established a profitable boot and shoe store in William Street, Darlinghurst. The location became known as Higgs’ Corner. Custom-made footwear drew wealthy city customers, while country folk could order from illustrated catalogues.
The following advertisement appeared in The Catholic Press on December 14 1905;
Higgs and his wife Margaret raised a family of seven sons and three daughter, in very comfortable circumstances. Three of the Higgs boys served in WWI. Albert Jnr. had been wounded at Gallipoli, and 2nd Lieutenant Hubert Higgs had been awarded the Military Medal. A younger brother William (named for his federal politician uncle) had a far less auspicious record. He joined up in July 1918, but within a couple of weeks went AWOL (Away Without Leave). It was then discovered that he was under age, and had lied on his enlistment form. He was dishonorably discharged.
The family had a strong connection to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. Albert Snr. owned a shack in Hazelbrook, as many wealthy families did in those days.
In 1925 young William Higgs established a garage business in the Blue Mountains village of Lawson. However, in August 1926 the premises burned down. William returned to Sydney and found a job selling Kelvinator refrigerators on commission. Because of his familiarity with The Mountains his employer agreed that he should make a trip up, with the object of selling refrigerators to boarding houses, shops and hotels along the way.
AN ILL-FATED EXCURSION
On Tuesday, October 11 1927 William leased a car and set out with two of his brothers, Hubert and Bruce. The trio were feeling a bit hung over, having celebrated Bruce’s 21st birthday the day before. After a few drinks at the Kings Cross Hotel and another few at Taylor Square, they drove on to Parramatta, where they bought a couple of bottles of ale. At Penrith they decided to abandon business and instead have a boys day out. There was a visit to the Hawkesbury Lookout and then it was on to the final stop at Wentworth Falls, where they had more drinks and some afternoon tea before heading home.
The lease on the car was extended and the young men made another trip to the Mountains the next day. This time they said they stopped at the shack in South Hazelbrook for a while, where they boiled the billy. William, with help from Hubert, then did some business at boarding houses and hotels, including The Alexander and Ritz California in Leura and the Carrington at Katoomba.
The following day Thursday, October 13 Mr Higgs was at his home in Rose Bay when the police arrived. They charged his son Hubert over the brutal killing of 48 year old Ronald Lachlan Leslie. The retired grazier had been shot three times in his Buick motor car at the lower Blue Mountains village of Lapstone, on Wednesday morning. William and a younger brother, Bruce Higgs, were arrested soon afterwards. The police evidence was damning.
Albert Higgs, the successful, highly respected businessman, would soon be attending the Sydney Central Criminal Court to support his sons. It was one of the most sensational trials in the city for many years. The cost was borne by Albert, who hired a formidable defence team. It included the recently qualified Clive Evatt.
Much would happen in the lives of Albert Higgs’ boys before the following photo was taken in 1936, virtually all of it bad! Albert died in 1948, aged 79. His wife Margaret had predeceased him.
FOR THE FULL STORY OF RONALD LESLIE AND THE HIGGS BROTHERS, CLICK HERE.