Dobbie, Charles

Charles Archibald 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. While living in Hunters Hill he acted as auditor of the local council and initiated into the Hunters Hill Masonic Lodge on 22 March 1886 [1].

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 then a son John Alister Maitland (Jack) Dobbie was born 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 recreational 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 [2].

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 [3]. He worked with the young men of Beecroft to instil in them a sense of literature and interest in public affairs [4].

Charles Dobbie held a significant position on the School of Arts library committee (1909) and in this he was aided by his wife [5].

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’.I

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. Charles Dobbie died 7 December 1941.

Their children went to Beecroft Public School. Their daughter Jean married Harry Campbell in 1921 and went to live in Pymble. Their son Jack joined the AIF in 1916, 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 [6].                 

[1]    NSW Government Gazette 1890 p 1254 and 1891 p 1279

[2]    Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 1 May 1907, 1 September 1906.

[3]    Land Titles Office 1580/187; Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate, 28 September 1907, 31 October 1908, 16 November 1912, 16 December1912.  

[4]    See the article on this website on the history of children in the District. See under People – Children.

[5]    See the separate article on this website about Alice Dobbie. See under People – Dobbie, Alice

[6]    Information from Mrs Jennifer Brereton of Beecroft.