Love story of Dovercourt’s ghost

A ghostly love story was recently revealed in an historic home in the heart of Brisbane. It’s a tale of a wife and husband’s mutual devotion, and refusal to let death keep them apart. I told a version of this story live on West Bremer Radio.

Dovercourt is an historic home that was built in 1865 in Toowong, in the geographic centre of Brisbane, Queensland. I’ve written a book on Dovercourt and previous residents have been families of Queensland premiers and supreme court and high court judges. Stories there included conspiracy, sex scandal, assault, murder, disappearance, and more.

The present owner of Dovercourt found that her nine-year-old daughter Harriet is being visited in her room by a ghost. Harriet says that it’s a lady who talks to her from the end of her bed. The appearances are friendly but prevent her from going to sleep.

There have been two deaths at Dovercourt, one was seventeen-month-old girl in 1903. The other was her father in 1911. But the ghost is a lady, and so we believe that the presence is actually Minnie Lightoller.

Minnie Palmer nee Lightoller

Minnie was born in Ipswich, Queensland, in 1886 and was one of six children born in seven years to Ipswich doctor Harry Lightoller. Dr Lightoller’s premises were in East Street in Ipswich where he practiced from the 1870s to 1897. Two of Minnie’s siblings died as infants the enduring love for which would have permeated the family memory including Minnie herself.

In 1910, Minnie married Carl Palmer who was the son of the fifth premier of Queensland, Sir Arthur Palmer. Minnie was one of the acknowledged beauties of Brisbane. The new couple spent an idyllic year touring England and Europe together.

Upon their return to Queensland, sadly Minnie died giving birth to their first and only child.

That wasn’t in Dovercourt – it was in their home Auchenflower which they had received as a wedding present, and after which the Brisbane suburb takes its name. Minnie’s husband Carl was so heartbroken that he left and never returned to the house again. Their surviving daughter went to live with spinster aunts.

Carl Palmer at Dovercourt

Nine years later, Minnie’s husband and his second wife moved into Dovercourt. It seems that Minnie followed him and moved in too – and she’s still there.

The reason we think that is because the ghost only appears to nine-year-old Harriet who lives there today.

Minnie’s surviving daughter when her husband moved into Dovercourt, she was also nine-years-old at the time.

And the daughter’s name… it was also Harriet.

What’s more, the modern-day Harriet has provided a description of the ghost, and it matches the photograph of Minnie with her high Edwardian hairstyle.

So it seems that Ipswich’s Minnie is at Dovercourt because of her undying love for her husband, and is talking to a daughter Harriet that she never got to raise herself.

Minnie’s ghost might have kept following her husband. She may also be walking the floors of Nephello, which is the house that Carl built in 1930 after he left Dovercourt, because there have been similar ghost stories there as well.

Minnie Palmer’s memorial at Toowong Cemetery

Today Minnie lays with the Palmer family at Toowong cemetery, surrounded by governors and premiers, but her heart and ghost remain just a stone’s throw away in the Toowong homes of her husband.


Photo credits:
Dovercourt 2012 – Ross Monks
Minnie Palmer nee Lightoller – Murray-Prior History Wiki
Carl Beaufort Palmer at Dovercourt 1925 – Arthur Beaufort Palmer
Palmer memorials at Toowong Cemetery 2022 – my own

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