Duncan Currie

Duncan Currie "Mr Dunoon"

Duncan's signature (from his will)

Duncan Currie (1831 - 1924) was born in Dunoon Scotland and was Archibald Currie's brother.  He arrived in Australia a few years after his brother (around 1855) and was the first white settler in the Dunoon region north of Lismore.  He appears to have been quite a character.  Duncan began as a timber cutter and later selected various portions of land in the area around what is now Modanville.  He lived as a farmer, successfully growing melons, sugarcane, bananas and grapes.  Duncan named his own property 'Dunoon' and the name was taken up for the new parish.        

Duncan built 'Dunoon house' but rented it out and later sold it.  He preferred to live in a slab and shingle humpy he had built overlooking his orchard.  His house was a port of call for travellers and friends who were welcome to stay whether he was home at the time or not.

The Junction Hotel was owned by Duncan and stood at the junction of Fawcett and Leycester Bridges on what is now Bridge St, North Lismore.  There have actually been three hotels on this site, firstly the North Lismore Hotel (pictured below) which was built by Duncan and opened in 1878, then the Junction Hotel which opened in 1886 on the same site, which was a much grander affair with 22 rooms, parlours, dining rooms, brick fireplaces, gas and plumbing.  After only a few years Duncan put the Junction Hotel up for sale.  By the time Duncan died in 1924, the Winsome Hotel was being built on the old Junction Hotel site, opening in 1925 if the plaques on the front of it are correct.  I get the impression Duncan was a farmer at heart and a bit of an entrepeneur.  He leased out the Junction Hotel rather than run it himself and photographs of it show the names of the various lessees or subsequent owners on the building.  

The following are the recollections of Mr Braid, taken from broadcast by Miss Millership in 1963, courtesy of Richmond River Historical Society:

The Manager of the Bank of NSW in Lismore persuaded Duncan to mortgage his land to back a couple of well known cattle dealers.  They decamped and left him holding the debt.  To recoup his lossses Duncan engaged with some others in a sawmilling venture.  This mill was built where the Modanville dip now stands and employed a considerable number of men.  It was supplied by horse and wagon teams with hardwood and softwood timbers from the thick scrub that covered the ridges.  Cedar and white beech, teak and cudgery were plentiful.  Duncan Currie contracted the water to supply the water for the mill, but the wells that were sunk proved inadequate and particularly in dry times he had to pay men with horses and tanks on drays to cart water.  The cost of this proved ruinous and the mill failed.  The ridges around Dunoon are well endowed with springs and ironically, when the excavating for the dips, which were erected on the site of the mill, were being carried out a good spring of water was struck.  It would have meant the difference between failure and success to Duncan Currie.  He also had a lawsuit with a neighbour over a fire that got away but this was a minor matter.  It was the combination of events that served to ruin him financially.  (I would guess this was sometime in the mid 1880's - I have ads starting from 1887 where Duncan tries to sell off land).  Having lost his property he obtained 10 acres of land from his friend, Bill Murray and proceeded to grow sugar cane and bananas.  It was Duncan who first saw the possibilites to grow bananas commercially in the area.  He tried hard to get the C.S.R company to build a two rail line from Lismore to Dunoon so that the cane growers on the ridges could rail their produce down to Lismore.  At that time there was a cane wharf between the two bridges.  Here the cane that was grown on the surrounding hills was unloaded and punted down the Broadwater mill.  He was unsuccessful in his efforts to obtain the line, the company holding that the cost of construction and operation was not warranted by the returns.  Apparently neither failure of enterprises nor the loss of property could quench Duncan Currie's urge to venture or his generosity of spirit.  Nor did being let down by those he trusted undermine his confidence in other peoples integrity. 

A keen walker, Duncan would cross the Nightcap Range to the Tweed in a day.  He was well liked and respected and was always invited to attend local events as a guest of honor or patron.  Duncan never married and lived to the age of 94.  He prized two books he had brought with him from Scotland, a bible and a volume of the poems of Robbie Burns. 

A row of shops in old Lismore, with J Bryant Butcher at one end and W Reed Chemist at the other.  Duncan is standing with some children wearing a hat, his trademark beard is visible.  He probably just happened to be there when the photo was taken.  Photograph courtesy of Richmond River Historical Society. 

Photograph courtesy Richmond River Historical Society 
The opening of Rocky Ck Bridge 1907 with Duncan Currie on left

photo on the cover of "Dunoon Story" loaned from Dennis Matthews.

Lismore Northern Star ad from 1878.  The North Lismore Hotel was built by Duncan but I believe was a predecessor to the Junction Hotel which he owned.  This in turn was replaced by the Winsome Hotel after Duncan sold it just before 1900.

photograph courtesy Richmond River Historical Society

The North Lismore Hotel, built by Duncan Currie.  It was replaced by 1886 with the Junction Hotel.  This could have been to take advantage of the new clientelle expected from the construction of Leycester Ck and Fawcett Bridges.

photograph courtesy Richmond River Historical Society

Fawcetts bridge construction linking North and East Lismore.  You can imagine how Archibald and Duncan Currie felt watching this going on and knowing that their Bridge Street businesses were now accessible by road.  The next year Duncan opened the Junction Hotel (below).

The Junction Hotel during flood.  Note "-.W.Wotherspoon, cheap general store" behind the Hotel - probably William Watson Wotherspoons shop.  William was married to Duncan's niece Susan Robertson Currie.  Photograph courtesy of Richmond River Historical Society.

Article from Lismore Northern Star discussing the opening of a sawmill and available timber on Duncans land

1888 ad for the Junction hotel and 205 acres of land at Dunoon. 

The Lismore Northern Star ad advertising the Junction Hotel for sale in 1890.  Fortunately for us they gave a good description of it but I think the bit about the 'owner going back to Scotland' might have been a bit of sales spin!   

Dunoon House built by Duncan Currie.  Originally the verandah would not have been enclosed.  In the Dunoon Public School centenary booklet, Janet McLeod (whose family bought Dunoon house) recalls:  "Duncan used to walk the hill to our place, (over half a mile), about twice a week in the evening.  When about 40 feet from our side entrance, he would shout at the top of his voice, "Good evening everybody".  Dad and Duncan used to sit on the long front verandah and smoke their pipes and talk for two or three hours.  I was usually on a chair listening to them.  Other times my brother Sid and I used to go down to Duncan's place (it was in the slab hut style), he used to give us nuts and who us how to crack them, we called them bush nuts.  Now we know them as Macadamia Nuts."

Duncans slab hut around 1960, just before it was demolished. 

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