Manor House’s History

Dragon Peaks has been the home of the Tungay family for four generations, since its purchase by Ron and Gwen Tungay in 1955. Ron had been a successful Journalist and Gwen a much lauded primary school teacher in the busy port town of Durban.

Ron and Gwen Tungay at the Manor House with their grandsons, Brett and Glenn

For many years following the war they had driven with their three sons to the remote Cathkin Peak Hostel for their annual vacation. In those days, the valley was a distant cattle farming and lumber cutting area – an adventurous destination arrived at by dusty, or muddy, roads.

Brothers on holiday in 1951; (from left) Russell, Peter, and John

It was on one of their family holidays that Gwen and Ron found and purchased a farm one valley over from Cathkin Peak Hostel, hoping to make a quiet retirement in the mountains. This, however, was not to be . . .

Their youngest son started a basic camping/caravanning site in the early 60’s, which he ran in the school holidays; and their oldest son convinced them to help him start a residential choir school on their land in 1967.

Gwen Tungay on their new property in 1957

The Drakensberg Boys Choir School soon became a major financial drain on Ron and he called in his youngest son, Russell, to take over the school. Russell obliged in 1968, after finishing his MBA in America. For the next decade, Russell continued to pioneer and build the school into an internationally celebrated phenomenon, achieving world choir wins three times in the 1970’s.

During this time, Russell also built up Dragon Peaks Park, which would become his full time focus from the 1980’s, after selling the school to a non-profit trust and buying the surrounding land from his parents.

Russell pioneered many property developments in the area and had ongoing interests in the air force, as an Honorary Colonel; in politics, as a mayor of Champagne Valley and local councillor; and in tourism, as chairperson of several groups.

Russell met his wife, Lynn, in the early 70’s when she came up to Dragon Peaks as a riding instructor. For many years she managed the reception and housekeeping, and built up a herd of horses, which she still looks after to today. Russell passed away of cancer in 2007.

Russell and Lynn also had three sons who had the privilege of growing up in the midst of open spaces and amazing natural beauty. They were all roped in as youngsters to help out during the holidays, and all returned in time to manage the resort.

Russell and Lynn with their sons on a family holiday to Egypt; (sons from left) Scott, Brett and Glenn

Manor House was built in the early 1980’s as Ron and Gwen’s retirement home by their son Russell. Gwen died in 1986 and Ron in 1992. The Manor became staff housing for many years, until it eventually became occupied by Russell’s middle son, Glenn, and his wife, Shannon, in 2014. Glenn and Shannon repaired and renovated the house, separating it into three sections to allow the wings of the Manor to be let out to guests.

Looking across the hills to Orchard Manor in 1983
Manor House restorations

Glenn and Shannon now spend their time between Manor House and Durban, where they are involved in a church ministry.  Their first son, Russell Matthias, was born in early 2017.

Glenn, Shannon and Russell Matthias