The Accidental Heiress: Journey of a Glencoe squatter’s daughter has just jointly won the Keain medal for the best History book about South Australia published in 2020. The Glencoe estate, near Mt Gambier, spilled over into Victoria and Portland in Victoria was the port for the estate.
The heiress at the heart of this is story is Letitia Sarah Leake, the daughter of squatter Edward Leake who, with his brother Robert, moved from Tasmania to the South East of South Australia in 1844 where they established a vast pastoral empire; Glencoe Station.
Edward had a reputation as a rake and at age 42 fell in love with migrant Irish girl Amanda, who was already pregnant and married to a bullocky who carted wool for Glencoe station. Edward married Amanda after the bullocky mysteriously disappeared. The couple’s first-born, Letitia, inherited the Glencoe estate at the age of seven after the death of Robert and then Edward. It was managed by trustees until she came of age at 21. The estate was then sold for the equivalent of $25 million in today’s money. Following a massive and unpleasant court case Letitia became the sole beneficiary of this estate and she and husband Charles Billyard, son of a Solicitor General of NSW, moved to England.
During World War I, the couple offered their home, Harefield Park outside of London, to the Australian Government as Hospital No 1 for wounded Australian soldiers. Letitia, with her family, helped in the convalescence of over 50,000 soldiers
The authors, John Berger, a heritage architect, and Carol Grbich, an Emeritus professor at Flinders University, live “just over the paddock” from the Glencoe woolshed and volunteer for the National Trust which now manages the woolshed.
Published by National Trust South Australia.