Beecroft-Cheltenham History Group

Charles Dobbie

Charles Dobbie was born in 1861 at Potts Point, Sydney, the second child of John and Isabelle Dobbie who had left Birmingham, England, for Australia in 1859. John Dobbie was a schoolmaster and strong Congregationalist, and while living and teaching in Hunters Hill he founded the Longueville Congregational Church. He brought his children up with a great knowledge and love of English literature and this was to be the abiding interest in the life of his son Charles.

Charles Dobbie became an accountant and worked at Wright Heaton and Co. Ltd of Pitt Street, Sydney, a state-wide firm of shipping and customs agents, carriers and produce merchants. He remained with his company all his working life.

In 1892 Dobbie married the 28-year-old Alice Read of Lochinvar and some three years later they came to live in Beecroft. A daughter, Jean, was born in 1893 and a son John was born in Beecroft in 1896. They leased a brick house recently built at 38 Hannah Street by Joseph and Sarah Grant and purchased it in 1904, naming it ‘Blue Hills’. The grounds of half an acre were formed into a lovely garden by the Dobbies, gardening being Charles’s second love after literature. He was a foundation member of the Beecroft Literary and Debating Society formed in 1902, was editor of members’ manuscripts and at various times Chairman. Apart from debates and lectures, members gave readings; on one such occasion Charles Dobbie and Clement Meadmore read selections from ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’.[1]

Dobbie was one of the foundation trustees of the School of Arts site in 1904, was twice President of the committee and its Secretary from 1909 until about 1932.
He was also a committee-man and a performer of the Beecroft Musical and Dramatic Society.[2]

Charles Dobbie held a significant position on the School of Arts library committee (1909) and in this he was aided by his wife. Alice Dobbie shared her husband’s deep understanding and love of English literature and together they guided the selection of books for the library. She was the first woman admitted to the committee of the Literary and Debating Society and was also a member of the Musical and Dramatic Society Committee.[3]

To arouse the interest of young people in poetry, Alice Dobbie ran classes of poetry-reading in her home. ‘I must admit I learned more about poems there than I ever learned at school’ was the comment of one young girl. Another young Beecroft woman tells of Alice Dobbie’s delight in sharing her knowledge:

‘Alice Dobbie had never been out of Australia and yet she had the most complete and famous library of English poetry in Sydney. She was passionately fond of poetry and various University people used to come up for lunch. Alice’s sister Lill (Elizabeth Read, who lived with them) was a magnificent cook, so all those people had the most divine lunch and then talked poetry to Alice in the drawing room or on her delightful back veranda.’ The same lady recalls how, during the years of World War I, when she was living in Strathfield with her young children, Alice Dobbie

 ‘Once a fortnight filled a basket with poetry books, came by train to Strathfield and by taxi to my house and renewed my books until the next time she came. I would have starved if it hadn't been for Mrs Dobbie.’[4]

In his busy life, Charles Dobbie made time for writing poetry and over many years wrote short and simple poems for children. In 1928 he unsuccessfully submitted a collection of poems to a publisher. A few were printed in newspapers; one in the Sydney Morning Herald in 1936, having the author’s pseudonym as ‘Blue Hills’.

Charles and Alice Dobbie are remembered as very kind people, generous with their time for public affairs, peacefully living their lives at ‘Blue Hills’ until their deaths in the 1940s.

Their daughter Jean married Harry Campbell in 1921 and went to live in Pymble. Their son John joined the AIF in 1915, being posted to the 1st Machine Gun Battalion. He was gassed in France, invalided to England and returned to France to take part in the Battle of the Somme. In 1927 he married Olive Holt, daughter of a neighbour, Dr. Arthur Holt. After a few years in Beecroft they moved to Epping and in 1941 they returned to live in an old timber cottage on three acres of land between Albert Road and Chapman Avenue which had been part of Herring’s orchard. A few fruit trees remained and John extended the grounds to a lovely garden, ran poultry, had two milking cows and grew vegetables. For a time he worked in the city, but gave this up to grow flowers for a city florist. Here John and Olive Campbell and their families lived a life harking back to Beecroft’s semi-rural early days.[5]





[1] Cumberland Argus, 1 May 1907, 1September 1906.

[2]Land Titles Office 1580/187; CumberlandArgus, 28 September 1907, 31 October 1908, 16 November 1912, 16 December1912.  

 [3] Cumberland Argus, 1 July 1905, 27 July 1907.

[4] Stories from Miss Helen Macready of Castle Hill and Mrs Joan Redshaw of Beecroft.

[5] Information from Mrs Jennifer Brereton of Beecroft.



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