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Morning coffee with two who helped create 'Parc Exclusif' (later renamed as 'Chesapeake Estate')

Updated: Jun 1, 2019


Denis Hampson (left) and Ian (Molly) Moffat worked on our house and/or its surrounding estate during the late 1970's to early 1980's.


1. Molly Moffat


When did you first visit the house site? 1982


What job/s did you do? Labourer. General duties but including, cutting glass, building rock walls and fencing.


When did you finish working there? 1984 - the year they started building the house. When I left they were still working on the first storey, forming up the walls.


Did you see the owner (Donald McDonald) on-site very much? Yes I saw him a few times. He usually came up after the workers went home, a bit of a recluse. Short man. Baldish. In his 60’s. casual daggy dress. I never saw his wife. They used to rent a house in or near Hillcrest Avenue. They would come to Airlie Beach for weeks or months at a time and then disappear.


The builder was Fred Russell from Mt Julian. The Leading Hand was Tony Price from Cannonvale. Two other workers were Richie Walters from Cannonvale, and Fred (?) from Proserpine. Andy Theuws was the foreman or on-site manager for the owner. Andy paid Molly although Molly's job included helping the builders. Andy also had a guy called Frank Jayo (now deceased), and other younger guy called Frank, plus Taffy Palmer.


The builders were bemused about the project as they considered it over-sized and over-engineered in comparison to pre-existing properties in the Whitsundays. They were also puzzled by its unusual features including a large wine cellar beneath the house, and the extensive and very robust infrastructure being installed through-out the estate. The plans and blueprints for the house were also unusual in their level of details, even showing for example where power points would be placed and appliances installed, etc.


Don McDonald (the owner) wanted privacy, and was working on a long term plan for the estate with for eg. the water pump station. Actually two pump stations. Industrial size storage shed further up the hill. Don wanted to have the estate looking like a park, so from early on, considerable mowing and whipper snipping took place year round.


2. Denis Hampson was a member of the crew who built the road through the estate and associated engineering works.

Molly and Dennis met on-site in around 1979.


When did you first visit the house site? I first arrived in Airlie Beach in June 1975, and began working on the Chesapeake hill around 1978.


Frank Lee was the original owner of the hill that is now Chesapeake Estate, and he sold it to Donald McDonald in 1976/7 for $180,000. Fred Russell built your house and the large machinery shed further up the hill. Initially there was no mains water supply until Council extended the water pipe along Shute Harbour Road. Don McDonald approached the council at this time and then built the existing water tanks and pumphouse beside Shute Harbour Road. Ian Roebuck was the plumber in charge of this project.


What job/s did you do? A variety of jobs including construction of the road, sheds and drainage works and fencing.


Some of the other men who worked on the estate were Andy Theuws and his brother Burt Dykman. Bruno Pini was a stonemason who work included the stonework gates in around 1980/1. Last I heard Bruno was living at the aged care home in Proserpine. Fred Russell built the house with Tony Price and Harry Benjamin. Bob Thompson was the engineer, and the last I heard was still living in Mandalay Road.


When did you finish working there? In 1981, but I stayed in the local area.


Did you see the owner (Donald McDonald) on-site very much?


Yes I did, but he was short in stature and rather strange, spending most of his time looking and watching the work being undertaken, and rarely speaking. Donald would have been aged in his 60's even then. Donald apparently spent the war years (WW2) in England before moving to Saudi Arabia. He made a considerable amount of money from refrigeration and air-conditioning.


Donald's wife was American and seemed to be quite a nice person. Donald and his wife had apparently lived on a large boat for ten years in various parts of the world.


Donald was also very concerned about security and, for example, constructed a large fuel storage facility for which he predicted the eventual need for an armed guard.


Donald was a kiwi who spent six months each year in Australia and six months each year in New Zealand, where he had one or more other developments taking place - particularly in the Lake Taupo area.