BUNGUNYAH MANOR – THE MOUNTAINS’ FIRST SAFE HOUSE
A brief history of Bungunyah Manor as provided by Mr. Eugene Franklin, son of Emily Franklin, the founder of Bungunyah Manor.
Bungunyah – The Guest House
The history of “Bungunyah” dates back to before the turn of the century, to approximately 1882 and is so closely integrated with the then proprietress, Emily Franklin (nee Curtis) that one cannot be separated from the other. Both must be incorporated. “Bungunyah” the house, had its origin in what used to be known as “The Syndicate House”. This was built in approximately 1882 by a syndicate of Brisbane businessmen as Tamborine Mountain’s first commercial tourist venue. It closed due to isolation, lack of access roads and transport. This building remained unoccupied and overgrown by bush and rainforest for many years.
Emily Jane was born in 1886 to Edmund and Mary Curtis who were the first settlers to take up a selection in their own name and live permanently on the Mountain. The family lived in a small home on Curtis Creek with the usual slab walls and shingle roof, common to that time, and it rapidly became too small for the growing family.
About 1889, when Emily was 13 years old, her imagination was fired by vague references by her parents of this mystery “syndicate House” so she decided to enlist the aid of brothers and a sister to see if they could locate the old home. Full of excitement and with some directions from their father, they set off. After some considerable time, and after having to force their way through dense rain-forest, they arrived at what had obviously been a clearing years earlier. There, right before their eyes was the most wonderful house they had ever seen.
It had a galvanised iron roof, doors and windows (with GLASS in them!), a verandah on three sides with sawn timer having been used in its construction.
After a hurried trip back home, with much persuasion Emily took her father back to look at this wonderful house. This resulted in his negotiating for, and eventually buying, the house for the princely sum of 20 pounds. Edmund Curtis, Emily’s father, not being a carpenter but being a very practical man, set about dismantling this home, marking every piece of timber and reassembling it exactly as before. This then became the Curtis home.
The years rolled by, Emily married and lived away from the Mountain for a short period of time, returning to her parent’s home with her husband and two small boys in 1921 during the early stages of the Great Depression which lasted through to the thirties.
During this time the first all-weather bitumen road outside the Brisbane area was constructed, taking two years to build and it was opened in 1924. All work was done by manual labour. Pick and shovel aided by horse drawn ploughs and scoops. At last the Mountain had become more accessible. People began to come as tourists needing accommodation. Emily was now caring for her aged mother who was confined largely to her bed, but still there was need for family income and with her parent’s consent she decided to turn a couple of spare rooms into guest rooms.
About 1926, because of Emily’s care for her mother, her father gave her the old Syndicate home and built a small cottage for himself and youngest daughter May, who was a Downs Syndrome child. At this time Tamborine Mountain was fast becoming a flourishing tourist resort. Emily’s husband Jim Franklin was a building contractor who owned 10 acres of land around the hill top on Long Road. They decided to demolish the Syndicate home and use any timber, iron, joinery etc. that was suitable in the construction of a new home on the hill-tip and this is where Bungunyah stands today. Some of the original timber adorns the present lounge of Bungunyah and is visible as the wide boll-gum panels that line the walls. The old French light doors are from the Syndicate home as are many of the roof rafters, roofing iron and flooring joists.
In constructing Bungunyah, Jim designed a two storey building to withstand the regular cyclonic weather and monsoon rains of the era. This home if it was built today would be classified as a pole home for built into it are ten or twelve 7″ x 7″ sawn posts that go deep into the ground and up to the top plate of the building. Emily’s father, who was still alive at the time, was most interested in the strong constructions and asked permission to find a suitable name for the home. After some research he came up with an Aboriginal name, Bungunyah, which as near as possible in our language means, a ‘tall, safe house’. By now, Bungunyah the guest house was in full swing. Thousands of guests have passed through its door and I am sure every one of them took home some happy memories. During Tamborine Mountain’s hey-day as a tourist resort, Bungunyah, five other guest houses and three hotels, serviced the Mountain tourists. During this same period and up to 1939, two daily bus services plied between Brisbane and the Mountain. By 1942, Bungunyah had ceased to operate as a guest house. It was leased to the Marist Bros. as their junior school when children were being evacuated from Brisbane as the fear was that a Japanese invasion was imminent.
When Bungunyah reverted back to the Franklins, they decided to convert it into flats. Over the years Emily developed acute arthritis and had to give up her two great loves, her music and her gardening, which she loved dearly. She spent a number of her declining years confined to a wheel chair and passed away in 1970 aged 82 years. Emily had a great love for ‘her Mountain’ and was one of the first white children to be born there. Of Jim and Emily, one could only say their home was their castle. They both loved Bungunyah with all their heart and soul, in fact so much so, that as each one passed away, their family felt that they would be happiest to stay on their beloved hill-top, so their ashes were scattered in Bungunyah’s garden. If it’s possible I am sure their spirits will still be making Bungunyah’s guests most welcome.