MAGGIE Hume is more widely known around Toowoomba as the Ascot House ghost.

The housemaid is believed to have committed suicide at the Newtown house on July 24, 1891, aged 23, and the legend goes she's haunted the building ever since.

At the time of Maggie's death, Ascot House was owned by state politician Frederick Holberton.

For Jillian Lean, the story of her great aunt Maggie and sister Catherine, who died because of a stomach ulcer three days later on July 27 aged 21, was a deep and dark family secret for more than 100 years, a story which she said the final chapter had now been written.

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Just before noon yesterday, Jillian and Ascot House owner Lois Jackman gathered at the Toowoomba Cemetery to unveil a headstone for the sisters, and held a small service in their honour.

"Twenty years ago I began researching my grandmother Edith's ancestors," Ms Lean said.

 

Maggie Hume died in 1891.
Maggie Hume died in 1891. David Martinelli

"Her birth certificate said she had two older half sisters, but they were never spoken about. My grandmother was 10 years old when her sisters died.

"It's been a long time coming to this point, it's a story in a family that was never told. My father never talked about them, my mother didn't even know if he even knew."

"It was just so tragic."

Ms Lean said Maggie was three and Catherine 15 months old when they lost their mother to cancer.

"Their father brought them to live with their aunt in Toowoomba, where they both worked as housemaids from a young age," she said.

CAUSE OF DEATH

FOR years rumours had spread around Toowoomba about whether Maggie, who died from ingesting four strychnine capsules, committed suicide or whether she was murdered.

Ms Lean said from her research into Maggie's life, she was certain it was suicide.

"Maggie was not able to defend her actions or give evidence to the inquiry, so her real unhappiness was a secret she took to her grave," Ms Lean said.

 

ASCOT GHOST: Jillian Lean remembers her great aunt Maggie and Catherine Hume. Their joint grave stone was unveiled yesterday.
ASCOT GHOST: Jillian Lean remembers her great aunt Maggie and Catherine Hume. Their joint grave stone was unveiled yesterday. Nev Madsen

"She had a very strict stepmother and father, and her aunt Jane was a church lady, well respected in the town actually. She wrote these letters, and while they didn't say why she was unhappy, she said she felt she couldn't go on with her life.

"As she was working for the local politician it was quite a scandal. Lots of people made up superstitions about her life."

Ms Lean said it was quite possible Maggie was pregnant at the time of her death, and as an unmarried woman in the 1800s, that would have made her a social outcast.

"Three gentlemen each gave their stories at the inquest and all blamed each other for Maggie's situation, that's all we can go on," Ms Lean said.

"What we know apart from she had taken strychnine, was she was found deceased one morning when she didn't get up to light the fire. The owners were away at the time."

The Ghost

ASCOT House owner Lois Jackman started researching Maggie soon after she bought Ascot House.

"I was told by many people about the suicide, that's what started my interest," she said.

 

Ascot House.
Ascot House.

Ms Jackman said she was eventually connected with Ms Lean, and then for 20 years they worked together to find where Maggie and Catherine were buried and to learn more about their story.

"At my age now, having been haunted in that house for over 35 years, it's almost like tying off all the knots," she said.

She said she did not know if the house remained haunted.

"There is always a question when you hear a little bit of a thump in the night, is it Maggie?" she said.

"Or will the possums remain jumping in their boots on the roof of Ascot."

Jillian Lean and Lois Jackman at the grave of Maggie Hume, the ghost of Ascot House. Wednesday, 16th May, 2018.
Jillian Lean and Lois Jackman at the grave of Maggie Hume, the ghost of Ascot House. Wednesday, 16th May, 2018. Nev Madsen


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