Like many other suburbs and towns throughout Australia, Drummoyne was named for personal reasons, so called by newly arrived settlers to evoke perhaps, a more familiar and long-distant homeland.
Enter William Wright (1807-1889).
Wright was a successful merchant and island trader, born in Colchester, Essex, in 1807. As a teenager he had served an apprenticeship at an ironmongery before making to the move to Australia with his wife Bethia in 1838 to take over his uncle’s trading business in Sydney. The following year Wright organized a trading expedition to New Zealand and in by 1843 had established Wright’s General Commission and Shipping Agency in Auckland.
In 1853 Wright retired from commercial life. He settled on land he had bought on the Parramatta River where he began building a substantial and beautiful home. He called the property ‘Drummoyne Park’ after a family estate in the west of Scotland, with ‘drum’ meaning a ‘a ridge’ and ‘moyne’ meaning ‘a plain or marshy flat’ in Scots Gaelic. Wright invested the best of everything he could in his house at Drummoyne Park. It is believed that he employed around 70 European artisans in the building of its steps and balustrades, many of whom had also worked on the grand buildings that were evolving in the area of Hunters Hill. Italian masons were said to be responsible for the wood carvings inside the house, some of which are now in the collection of the Art Gallery of NSW. However it was not just the house that made Drummoyne Park a striking feature of the area, as Wright’s estate was also known for its extensive and beautiful gardens.
In his retirement, Wright declined several offers of a parliamentary seat, however his influence was still felt in major decisions concerning the local area. In 1889 Wright added his signature to a petition to create the Borough of Drummoyne – all but establishing the land he had named several decades earlier.
After the death of William Wright in 1889, the house changed hands several times through many prominent Sydney-siders. In the early 1900s it was occupied by one of Sydney’s most famous entrepreneurs: Anthony Hordern, whose wife Elizabeth died at Drummoyne House in 1919.
In the 1920s the house was occupied by the McDonagh sisters who rose to fame in that decade as female filmmakers. Their first, career-making film was titled ‘Those Who Love’ and was filmed at several localities around Sydney, including Tamarama Beach and Rothesay House in Bellevue Hill. Playing a central role in the film, however, was the grand facades of Drummoyne House. The film centres on a man who falls from his aristocratic background and in love with the poor but beautiful Lola Quale (played by one of the McDonagh sisters). You can watch a clip of this fantastic silent film online here. ‘Those Who Love’ was a commercial success, launching the careers of the McDonagh sisters and allegedly causing the Governor of N.S.W. to weep at the premiere.
Drummoyne House was demolished in 1971 and today in its place (59 Wrights Road) you’ll find units. However Wright, his estate and its occupants all left their mark on Sydney and the developing local community.