Melbourne's Early Taverns
Some Curious Names
JOHN PASCOE FAWKNER
established Melbourne's first hotel. Built of wattle and wood, it boasted six rooms, and its tariff was two guineas a
week, for which was returned the usual service of a boarding house and
hotel and "mental recreation of a high order." Twelve newspapers, seven magazines,
and a choice collection of fiction and
poetry were provided
by Fawkner's Royal Hotel.
Inns were fairly plentiful in Melbourne in the 'thirties. In Collins street there was the Lamb Inn, a roystering house for stock- men, as was Michael Carr's Governor Bourke Hotel close by. Queen street had its Royal Highlander, kept by James Con- nell. It was a rude structure, but an im-
provement on the sod built hut kept by Michael Pender, whose wife served the drinks across the rickety counter, while her husband kept his bullock team busy on the roads. These and several other taverns were situated right in the heart of early Melbourne. By the end of 1839 eighteen hotels were catering for the settlers.
It was some few years later before the really picturesque hotel appeared. Once adopted, however, the idea of giving to taverns distinct airs of personality was soon being generally exploited. Probably the most picturesque of the period was the Glas- gow Arms, near the old General Post-office, in Elizabeth street. It made a feature of a house sign, which illustrated a gilded tree of many branches and a profusion of foliage, to which was added a bird, bell, and a fish, and beneath was versed the legend: -
"This is the tree that never grew,
This is the bird that never flew, This is the bell that never rang,
And this is the fish that never swam."
Another novel advertising design was adopted by the Labour In Vain Hotel in Fitzroy. It exhibited a signboard depicting a black baby in a tub being scrubbed by an old woman. It was intended to suggest that the labour of washing a "nigger" white was a Labour in vain. Later another hotel was erected on the opposite corner and for its advertising- mark a similar signboard was employed, but with this difference, that the old woman had washed a part of the dusky infant's back white. Appropriately the hotel was named the Perseverance. For many years the two houses carried on trade; then the signboards disappeared . . . . As a conse- quence a later generation resident in Fitz- roy wondered why the two rival hotels were so named. To-day, strangely enough, the Perseverance is, as a new building, one of the finest in the district. On the other hand, the Labour In Vain was delicensed and wrecked about five years ago - a triumph for optimism.
Stolen Lime for Flour.
Perhaps the most oddly named tavern was the No Good Damper, a little roadside building about seven miles on the Mel- bourne side of Dandenong. It came by its name in a curious manner. A settler, jour- neying with his waggon well loaded into the bush, had pitched camp for the night at a spot adjacent to the Dandenong road. Dur- ing the night a tribe of aborigines visited the camp, and stole off with a quantity of lime. In the morning when inquiries were made, the settler, shown a fricasse of dough- like composition, was informed by the head tribesman that the stuff was "No good, damper," which was not to be wondered at since lime had been used for flour. The story went the rounds, to finally settle as a name on the little roadside inn.
Many hotels of the early day assumed distinct characteristics to the young com-
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munity of Melbourne. Men, not neces- sarily drinkers, spoke of their favourite taverns as they would of old friends. "Gurney's o' Flemmerton" was a popular rendezvous for devotees of sport, princi- pally horse racing, foot running, and box- ing. Cock-fighting, a now almost dead sport, was frequently held there, and skittles, an old game popular at most of the early public-houses, was another
Of the many coaching hostels, the Ivan- hoe Hotel, the first stopping-place for the Wood's Point coaches, was one of the best patronised, attracting as it did the elite of Port Phillip colony. Gay indeed were the carnival-like celebrations that were held there. The cries of "Tally Ho," voiced by the best people of the period, were commonplace sounds in the woods surrounding. The tavern was also a favourite house for artists and sketching parties. The place was demolished only about two years ago. Though there may
be one or two picturesque hotels left, in
name if nothing else, most have long since disappeared, leaving no trace. The site of one old coaching inn, however, is marked by a memorial stone built into the foundation of a modern warehouse in Flinders lane. The inscription tells us that the Prime Minister of England, who was then Robert Cecil, resided there
while on a visit in 1852. Many old pictures- que titles remain associated with hotels in Greater Melbourne, such as the Bull and Mouth, Yorkshire Stingo, Marquis o' Lorne, Tankerville Arms, London Tavern, and others closely related. They will fade out eventually, it seems, and plain names, such as of "Brown's," will take their place. There are cases, however, in which progress marches backward.