Hermitage Hill’s new owners Nigel and Lynette Logue have managed some of the most prestigious hotels around the world. Now it’s time for “retirement”, they’re giving a new lease of life to an old and worthy treasure in Wellington.
It seems appropriately in keeping that Nigel Logue, owner and overseer of Wellington’s prestigious Hermitage Hill Resort, is the great nephew of famous speech therapist Lionel Logue.
Logue (the elder) became a household name when Australian actor Geoffrey Rush portrayed him in the four-time academy award winning historical drama, The King’s Speech, which told the story of King George VI’s battle with chronic stuttering.
Colin Firth played the King of the film’s title, who visits the Australian speech therapist for help. Over time, the two become friends and the King relies on Logue to help him deliver his first wartime radio broadcast on Britain’s declaration of war on Germany in 1939.
Seated in his office with wife Lynette, Nigel Logue says his family had often discussed their famous relative around the dinner table.
“It all started to get exciting when Mark Logue was going to do the movie and he later found his great grandfather’s diary in the attic, so a lot of the information in the film was taken from that,” Lynette recalls.
Lionel Logue’s grandson, Mark, wrote the book with Peter Conradi about his grandfather’s relationship with the Duke of York, who went on to became King George VI. The book’s title is The King’s Speech: How One Man Saved the British Monarchy.
The couple says the whole family was delighted when the movie hit the big screen.
“It was such a lovely film, so well done and our son said it was the first time he’d ever been to a movie where people stood up and clapped after it had finished,” Lynette says.
The Logues moved to Wellington last year after purchasing Hermitage Hill Resort at the top of the hill in Maxwell Street. The stunning main building and its surrounding accommodation was built in 1903. It was the first hospital built in the township and a perfect example of the lavish federation/Queen Anne architectural style of the time.
The couple moved to the central western town after deciding they’d “semi-retire” and “slow down a bit” after a life spent travelling around the world managing a variety of high end hotels.
They considered quite a few properties around NSW before discovering what would become their new home and next adventure.
“We looked everywhere; on the coast and around the Blue Mountains. We were looking for a small B&B – maybe three or four rooms – and then the broker suggested we look at Hermitage Hill and straight away we saw the potential of what this place has to offer,” Logue says.
Lyn interrupts: “We just loved it as soon as we got to the top of the driveway!”
The pair envisaged the resort could become a hub for conferencing and team building visits given its size and layout. Upgrades to the existing accommodation make hosting groups of people for themed events a much needed and viable option within the area.
“We think the location of Wellington is ideal, it’s really central to a lot of places around the state.”
Logue’s career in hospitality began with an apprenticeship with the Australian Hotel Association (AHA) soon after school. He met Lynette in 1973 and advised her early on in their courtship that they would “probably marry so she’d better start learning about the hospitality industry”.
Lynette laughs at the “romantic” memory. In 1975 they tied the knot, eventually having a family.
Logue’s career was inspired by a man named Eric Leatherbarrow, an Englishman who was trained at the Savoy Hotel in London and worked in five star deluxe properties around the English city. Eventually Leatherbarrow moved to South Africa where he became the manager of The President Hotel in Johannesburg.
Logue has fond memories of the man he refers to as his (now deceased) mentor, who crossed paths with him when he moved to Australia in 1972.
“He so impressed me with his professionalism, he lived and breathed hospitality and that is reflected in the way Lyn and I are living now,” he says.
With some experience under his belt and soon after the couple married, Logue and Lynette moved to London where he took up a position at The Dorchester Hotel where he worked until he was offered a position in New Guinea.
“We initially considered a position in Aruba, in the Dutch Antilles in the Caribbean, but the opportunity came up in Bougainville in New Guinea in the late 1970s and we took it.
“New Guinea is a beautiful place with people who are so friendly, we have great memories of our time there, we came away with a great respect for their culture,” Lynette says.
“Every time there was an opportunity to see cultural performances we would go, the plumes and paint they’d use for a ‘singing’ were incredible.”
After returning and managing motels around the country, Logue says the proudest moment in his career was kicking a personal goal by becoming a general manager of a “high-rise” by the age of 30 – at Noah’s Northside Gardens Hotel in North Sydney.
From there the couple took up positions at the Sheridan Hotel in Perth, Alan Bond’s hotel – Observation City – built for the defence of the Americas Cup back in the early 1980s. Logue then worked with the Signature Corporation in Coffs Harbour and the Gold Coast.
“All up I’ve opened eight Signature and Pacific International hotels as well as Observation City and also I worked with P&O catering who provided up to 2500 meals per day at the army barracks and jail at Moorebank,” he says.
At the stage of their life where they had become grandparents, the couple decided to spread their wings, seeking a sea- or tree-change and again considering two offers outside Australia.
“We could have gone to Fiji or back to New Guinea but we took the latter option which I don’t regret in the slightest. It was a fascinating five years spent up there,” Logue recalls.
“We spent more than $15 million renovating and updating the property and I was able to draw on the skills I’d learned, again.”
Fast forward and the decision to retire presented itself after a long and satisfying life in the hospitality world, which had taken them around the globe.
After wanting to “just have a look at something little to run,” they drove up Maxwell Street, Wellington and their plans went out the window.
“We just loved Hermitage Hill at first sight and here we are, not retired, but very content,” Lynette says.
And they couldn’t be more pleased with their decision.
Hermitage Hill Resort is located at 135 Maxwell St, Wellington, NSW.