There was gender equality of sorts when Lue ladies met Lue transvestites on Lue cricket ground on a fine autumn day in 1914. The ladies went to the wicket first. The men, garbed in borrowed skirts, blouses, dresses, hats and wraps, batted and bowled with their left hand only. They gave themselves nicknames in the spirit of the day: ‘Girlie’, ‘Black Maria’, ‘Black Gin Julia’, ‘Love 40’, and generally played to their audience. Bill Milton attempted to catch every ball under his skirt. Corval Oakley and S Robertson blithely waltzed on the green while the game progressed. There is something brazen, show-offy and hilarious, when men dress as women. All up, a bit of a hoot. No result recorded.
Notable among the players were the Thompsons. Jack, Lue’s ‘genial hotelkeeper’, was spry. Son Reg bowled in a navy riding costume (his mother Jemima’s no doubt, for she was a first-rate horse rider). She was there with daughter Myra on the ladies’ team. And there were probably five little Thompsons enjoying the spectacle. At that time the Thompsons were arguably the most prominent family in Lue and had been for almost three decades.
Lue began with a railway station in 1884. Difficult gradients meant that the village of Dungaree, three miles or so up the road, and its pub the ‘Dungaree Arms’, were bypassed. Licensee John Milligan, and before him John Maloney, had supplied that community with grog for a couple of decades, from at least 1865. Last drinks were 1884.
Jack’s parents, Margaret and William Lockhart Thompson, obviously knew that every rail stop needs a pub. In 1886 they built and opened the ‘Traveller’s Rest’ hotel just across the road from the railway station at Lue – a solitary timber building surrounded by bush. For two and a half decades they had tried their hand in Chippendale, Forbes, Hartley and Gulgong. In Lue they established their legacy.
The nearby holding of wealthy pastoralist and breeder, Vincent Dowling, was also called Lue station. Hence the name of the railway station. I get the impression the locals were not too happy about either the name or the by-pass. For years they continued to call their area Dungaree or Dungaree Lue, and continued to maintain their village with its two churches, school, post office, store etc. For example in 1895 a new school was built at Dungaree, and in 1905 a Catholic Church. It wasn’t until 1913 and 1934 that those were pulled down and new ones opened at Lue.
‘Fire at an Hotel’ was the headline in the Sydney Morning Herald in October 1895. Yes it was the Thompson Hotel at Lue, caused by a lighted candle igniting the curtains in the Thompsons’ bedroom. Four rooms of the large wooden building – bar, dining room, parlour and bedroom – “were a mass of flames roaring and leaping to a great height…The alarm raised the neighbours who flocked to assist without avail.” The estimated damage was £500, partly covered by insurance.
Undeterred, Thompsons built again. In 1897, with his father in decline, John Thompson aged 30, held the license. He assured customers that the new Lue Hotel excelled the old, with best bar stock, good stabling and a large turn-out paddock. Jack was no longer Lue Postmaster, having held it for five years from its establishment in 1891. He would soon be a Justice of the Peace. And he would soon be making enough money to hire servants. By 1907 he had a slaughtering license and was selling various goods from the premises.
With the Thompsons’ help, and with their tribe of children, Reg, Myra, Harold, Lockhart, Ken, Athol, Rita, Ray and Thelma, Lue began to shuffle into the twentieth century. In 1904 it had a race club on Dowling land which was under the secretaryship of you-know-who. The hotel was a venue for political gatherings and committee meetings and Jack was usually chairman. Over the years he helped organise events, contributed prizes, made donations and presented gifts.
In 1912 the headline hollered: “Lue Booming”. The Mudgee Guardian reporter was not just impressed by the additional six rooms that Thompson was adding to the hotel – by L Taylor of Rylstone at a cost of £350. The Government Architect had also pegged out a site for a new school for 90 children and a teacher’s residence. Several large estates around Lue were being subdivided and there was interest in the mining potential of Lue.
Jack Thompson was on a roll. The following year he opened Thompsons’ ‘new and commodious store replete with goods of every description…at prices that must command custom’. The new butchery on the left of the store sold beef and mutton ‘of prime quality only’. The concrete building was ‘a credit to the contractor Mr A Murphy’. (note below)
The Thompson strip continued to expand. Till his death in 1920, Jack’s brother William had opened and run a blacksmiths, a magnet to the boys and young men of the village. Jack’s son Athol had a new shop and bakehouse built in 1933 giving residents ‘fresh bread for the first time for many years’. My grandmother Minnie wrote in March 1933, ‘Snowy Thompson is going ahead with his buildings. He is making a cottage after the style of Underwoods’. Two months later she wrote ‘Snowy Thompson is going strong with bread. He runs to the quarries. He has hot pies on Saturday night and at pictures and dances’. Three months later Snowy was gone and his future brother-in-law took over till 1939.
In the meantime (1929) Jack decided to transfer the hotel license, after forty-four years in Thompson hands, to Hughie Martin. He continued to run the butchery and store with his son Ken, who handed it on to his son Max, who continued serving customers till the eighties. Jack Thompson died on 2nd June 1937, Jemima ten years later, both buried in Lue cemetery. She presented a handsome pair of brass altar candlesticks to Lue Church of England a year after Jack died. Their children married into local families including Walsh, Turner, Honeysett, Currie, Carrett, Kurtz, Wisbey and Lewis, many still scattered throughout the area.
At least two sources suggest Walter Bridge Murphy built Lue Hotel. Walter and Albert were brothers, both builders, both living in Mudgee. They often worked together in and around Mudgee and the Central West. Albert seemed to be the principal contractor. Perhaps both worked on the new store. Did Walter and/or Albert rebuild Thompson’s hotel after the fire? Or did Mr Taylor of Rylstone, given he built the six-room extension? Or someone else?
The featured image is by Adrian Paul redbubble.com