Living on Lord Howe Island

Apr
19

Lord Howe Royalty

Posted by Dani Rourke – Friday, April 19, 2013

Arriving on Lord Howe in the old days

Arriving on Lord Howe Island by ship in 1937

I thought you might like to see some old photos sent to me by one of our guests, Murray Higgins. Murray visited Pinetrees recently with his wife, Dianne, son and daughter-in-law Neal and Brooke, and grandchildren Ella and Luke. The Higgins family have a long history of Lord Howe holidays: Murray and Dianne spent their honeymoon at Pinetrees in 1968 and Murray’s parents, Doris and Reginald, also honeymooned at Pinetrees in 1937. The whole family are scheming a return visit for Dianne’s 70th birthday in a few years’ time.

I loved talking to Murray about his memories of Pinetrees and Lord Howe. The rest of Murray’s family groaned theatrically and rolled their eyes whenever he talked about Pinetrees in the old days (perhaps they’ve heard some of these stories once or twice before?), so when I appeared with a pen and paper and asked if I could take some notes, Murray was happy to keep talking…

Murray said that he persuaded Dianne to come to Pinetrees for their honeymoon because he’d always loved hearing his parents’ stories about Lord Howe. When they were married, Murray was 26 and working for the Water Board in Sydney (he said he was “quite a formal young man”) and Dianne was 21. After the wedding in Hurstville, the newlyweds spent two nights in a motel in Wahroonga. The flying boat left very early in the morning from Rose Bay (it could only land in the lagoon at Lord Howe on high tide) so they spent the third night “in a grotty little place in Bondi”. The flying boat trip took about three hours and the highlight was the mixed grill served for breakfast. Murray wore a collar and tie and Dianne wore her “going away dress”. When they arrived at the jetty at Lord Howe, they were amazed to see that the whole island had come to welcome the visitors.

Happy honeymooners

Well dressed honeymooners arriving by flying boat in 1968

It’s so easy to forget how much better off we are than our parents were. (I know it doesn’t always seem that way…). In my parents’ generation, people had modest weddings, held the reception at a local restaurant or the family home and honeymooned in motels not too far from home. These days, although we usually live with our partners before we are married, everyone seems to have the big designer wedding and overseas honeymoon. Maybe we don’t realise how lucky we are.

The first Lord Howe islander they met was Mr Morgan, who owned the bike shop. Murray had written a letter to him from Sydney requesting that he reserve bikes for them for 7 days. When they arrived at the bike shop, Murray introduced himself to Mr Morgan and enquired whether he had received the letter. Mr Morgan said: “oh yes, I remember something about a letter now. I think I’ve got some bikes. I’ll just get the cobwebs off them and pump up the tires for you”. Murray said that after that, he took off the tie.

Off for a picnic on Lord Howe Island

Happy Pinetrees honeymooners in 1968

Murray asked us if he could see the guest register from 1968. We still have most of those records at Pinetrees – nothing was ever thrown away. When we got it out, Murray couldn’t believe that he had signed in as M Higgins (not Mr and Mrs Higgins) and given his parents’ address, not the address of their new home in Engadine. (In his defence, he said that “it was the man’s job to sign things like that, in those days”).

Murray and Dianne made lots of friends at Pinetrees. The whole place was full of honeymooners and one day the whole lodge had a picnic lunch at North Bay. Murray said to me: “you couldn’t do that now, your guests are much older” (but I don’t think he was referring to himself or Dianne). They rode their bikes, swam and walked. They had a BBQ and cooked fish that they had caught the day before. They also met some of the local characters, like Clive Wilson, “who patted Dianne on the bottom and always called her Blondie”.

Lord Howe was an expensive place to visit in 1968. Murray paid $440 for two return tickets on the Sunderland flying boat and 7 nights’ accommodation. If that doesn’t sound like much money, he put it this way: they had $20 left in the bank when they got home.

Murray and Dianne brought their children Neal and Jacqueline to Pinetrees for a holiday in 1986. Murray said: “that was the year of Halley’s Comet and I got the kids out of bed at 4:00am to see it. We went out into the middle of the oval and I told them that this would be the only time in their lifetimes that they would ever see it. They couldn’t wait to get back to bed. I think they said: ‘you can keep it, Dad’”. The family rode bikes, had a trip on a glass bottom boat, went to North Bay and did a half day tour of the island on Jim Whistler’s bus. He said that the kids always remembered that holiday.

The next visit to Lord Howe

Higgins family dinner at Pinetrees in 1986 (nice pants, Murray!)

They visited again with Neal and his wife Brooke in 2008 (before the grandkids were born) and Neal arranged the trip for them this year to celebrate their 45th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, due to terrible weather on the island, they were two days late arriving and spent the actual wedding anniversary hanging around the airport in Sydney. (Sorry about that!) The attractions of a Lord Howe holiday this time were not so different from 1968 (or even 1937). Four year old Ella loved feeding the fish at Neds Beach, but two year old Luke was a bit scared of them. They both loved the turtles at Old Settlement Beach. Dianne and Murray looked after Ella and Luke while Brooke and Neal did the all-day climb up Mt Gower. Another day, Neal enjoyed a few rounds of golf at the Lord Howe Golf Club.

Multiple generations on Lord Howe Island

They grow up so fast - Higgins family holiday in 2008

Murray says that he’s hoping to bring the family (including Murray and Dianne’s daughter Jacqueline and her partner) back to Lord Howe to celebrate Dianne’s 70th birthday in 2017. He said that he is always talking to people about Lord Howe: “they say: ‘it’s expensive, isn’t it? You could almost go to Europe for that’ but we’ve been to Europe, several times. What we want to do is have another holiday at Lord Howe. It’s so laid back, beautiful and peaceful. You can walk, swim or just relax and it’s a real holiday. We love it”.

Still enjoying their favourite places on Lord Howe Island

Three generations of the Higgins family on Lord Howe Island in 2013

I really enjoyed meeting the Higgins family and hearing Murray’s Pinetrees stories. As I drove them to the airport I thought about how privileged I am to be at Pinetrees. I was watching a Rick Stein show about Spain a while ago and he was in a tapas bar in Seville talking about how the owner of the bar buys hams from a farmer, and that his grandfather used to buy hams from the farmer’s grandfather. It’s pretty rare these days to work in a family business, especially one that has been around for as long as Pinetrees. It’s even rarer to be in a family business that has seen generation after generation of guests from the same family – and that’s what makes the Higgins family Lord Howe royalty.

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About Dani Rourke

HELP! I have 2 children, 25 staff and up to 75 guests. I was a lawyer for 10 years, but escaped. My husband and I moved from Sydney to beautiful Lord Howe Island to run Pinetrees Lodge, which has been in my family for 6 generations. I'm writing about family business, island life and the whole work/family disaster. Did someone say balance? When I'm not writing, my lovely staff do it for me - they see more of the island than I do.

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