National Trust | A closer look at 234 Rankin Street

ROLL CALL: The owners of the house at 234 Rankin Street over the years have included a police constable and the manager of the haberdashery section at the Western Stores.
ROLL CALL: The owners of the house at 234 Rankin Street over the years have included a police constable and the manager of the haberdashery section at the Western Stores.

THE land on the south side of Rankin Street between Piper and Lambert streets was vacant at the beginning of 1884. Some time during that year, this land was purchased and subdivided by William Boswell Ranken of Saltram at Eglinton.

William was born on September 26, 1823 at Saltram, second son of George and Janet Ranken from Kelloside in Scotland, after whom Ranken Street in Bathurst was named.

Mrs Ranken was attended by a convict doctor, “an utter scoundrel, but a skilful surgeon”.

The baby was named William after an uncle, and Boswell after a family friend, Sir James Boswell of Auchinlech in Ayrshire, Scotland.

William was educated at home under the direction of Mr Darvey and by 1837, he and his older brother, Somerville, were sent to the Australian College in Sydney before finishing school in Stuttgart, Germany.

He married his cousin, Constance Grace (Mitchell), on July 27, 1859 at Saltram and raised a family of six boys, George Hamilton, William Hutcheson Charles, Arthur Clifton, Hugh Bullen, Reginald and Laurence Edward, and three girls, Constance, Florence and Margaret.

William inherited Saltram on the death of his father in 1884 but when his brother moved home, William and Constance leased Strath, owned by the Stewart family, on the opposite side of the river to Saltram for seven years.

They moved to Sydney in 1893 and William died at Ingleburn in 1896.

During his lifetime, he managed his father’s pastoral properties including Saltram, Kelloshiel and Osborne.

He purchased several town blocks, including the land in Ranken Street.

Lot 6 of this subdivision was purchased by Roger Murphy, who built a five-room house on the land in 1888 and the annual value was increased from £3/10/- to £26.

Roger Murphy and his wife, Alice, were assisted immigrants from Tipperary in Ireland per Ellora, arriving in Sydney on April 14, 1879 with their five daughters, Margaret, 15, Honora (Nora), 13, Mary, 12, Kate, 9, and Hannah, 8.

The oldest three girls were described as “general servants”, while Roger was described as aged 46 and a labourer.

Roger died on January 25, 1909 and Alice died on February 20, 1917. Both are buried in the Catholic section of the Bathurst Cemetery, along with two of their daughters, Margaret and Nora.

Alice’s obituary stated that she came from a highly esteemed family in Tipperary. She was a devout Catholic and her funeral was largely attended and conducted by Rev. Fathers Coonoy (Bathurst) , Norton (Bathurst), O’Keefe (Carcoar), Brosnan (Orange), Manning (St Stanislaus’ College) and Brother Bernard (Patrician Brothers).

On March 18, 1924, Owen Grant, a police constable, purchased the house from Margaret Murphy, the Executrix of Roger’s Estate, for a price of £500. It was then rented to J. A. Snow, a telegraphist.

In December 1937, Mr Grant had transferred to Tamworth Police Station, and on December 10, sold the property to Ellen Teresa Donnelly for £540.

Known as Nell, Miss Donnelly was the manager of the haberdashery section of the Western Stores, a department store in Bathurst.

Nell was one of 10 children of Bernard and Margaret Donnelly who lived at 109 Havannah Street.

Another sister, Philomena, known as Phyllis, went to live with Nell for some years. From 1928 until the time of his death on June 13, 1951, Phyllis was the personal secretary and confidante of Prime Minister Ben Chifley.

It is said that Phyllis Donnelly slipped in and out of Australian politics leaving behind only the faintest of footprints. She was one of the true mystery women of the political scene of the 1940s and 1950s.

Ben Chifley was a regular visitor to the house.

On August 14, 1953, Mary Hilda Hill Mullampy, wife of John Richard Mullampy, station manager, purchased from Miss Donnelly for £2000.

She lived in the house with her two daughters, and carried out some renovations including adding a bathroom and a sunroom.

The Mullampy family were also well-known in Bathurst. Patrick Mullampy was licensee of the Jubilee Hotel at 46-48 Piper Street back in 1897-8, and Hilda - as she was known – had a great uncle noted on the Boer War Memorial in Bathurst.

Almost 50 years later, on June 15, 2001, Hilda sold the property to David and Judith Pennells, who added a conservatory to the left side of the house, and completely restored the property while retaining original kauri pine floorboards, fireplaces and front timber windows.

Rebecca Hunt has owned the property since late 2001, firstly with Ross Hunt and since April 2015 with Michael Fox.

The house has played an important part in the social history of Bathurst, and the National Trust acknowledges the present owners for their upkeep of the property which significantly adds to the streetscape in Rankin Street.