Here’s cheers! Hoteliers’ Moree race-day steeped in history

IT seems fitting that Moree Race Club has in recent years resurrected the hoteliers’ race-day – horse-racing and pubs in the district have gone foot in stirrup for more than 150 years.

The club this Friday, October 30, hosts the Castlereagh-Barwon Hoteliers’ race-day, with sponsors including Namoi Hotel Narrabri, The Pally Pub, Victoria Hotel Moree, Amaroo Tavern, Tourist Hotel Narrabri, Jolly Swagman Hotel Mungindi and Royal Hotel Moree.

The Moree district in the mid- to late-1800s was big on area and sparse on inhabitants, but there was no shortage of hotels, shanties and roadside inns to quench the thirst.

Every pub had stables, and just about every one of them, at some stage, held race meetings.

In 1864, the year floodwaters swept through the region, there were only four buildings in Moree – and three of them were hotels.

The Bank Hotel was opened in 1861 by Mary Brand (also known as Mary Traynor and later Mary Sweetman).

In later years the watering hole was renamed the Moree Hotel and later still, the Moree Inn.

Alexander Walker’s Hotel and the Caberfae Hotel, owned by Bob McKenzie, were the other two established hostelries in Moree in the mid-1860s when the only private dwelling was owned by John Munro, who later purchased Mary Brand’s store.

Caberfae is a Gaelic word meaning stag’s head, of which one was mounted above the door to the hotel.

On September 12, 1865 Henry Chambers was granted a license for The Shepherd’s Home at Meroe, and exactly three months later Alexander McLaughlin was issued a license for the Gil Gil Hotel at Old Garah, about 12 miles north of Wallon.

Tattersall’s Hotel in the early 1900s (Image courtesy of Moree and District Historical Society).

Around this time Thomas Maloney established the Bumble Hotel at Little Bumble, about 28 miles from Moree, east of Gurley.

On July 30, 1868 Bob McKenzie sold the Caberfae Hotel to Jim Miller, a commercial traveller who, apparently, knew how to “tell a good story” – an ideal trait for a publican.

On December 2, 1873 Mat McCabe opened the Royal Hotel on the corner of Heber and Auburn Streets.

Moree’s newest publican, resplendent in coat and tails, hosted a public dinner and evening ball amid much to-do and fanfare.

“The dinner was served in excellent style, and is a foretaste of good things to come. The ball was largely attended,” reported the Maitland Mercury and Hunter River General Advertiser.

The same year an arson attempt was made on the Caberfae Hotel however the damage caused was minimal.

Owner Bob Dobbie, a Crimean War veteran from Inverness, Scotland, acquired the Caberfae in 1875. He offered a £50 reward for any information regarding the “dastardly, and with dire intent” attempt to torch the pub.

In the late 1870s John Cameron, later to become Moree’s first mayor, took over the Royal Hotel and in 1879 he and Criterion Hotel licensee Alf Kirkby organised a race meeting to coincide with the birthday of the Prince of Wales.

The Caberfae Hotel, where the Government Offices now stand on Frome street, was destroyed by fire and rebuilt and renamed Tattersall’s by new owner George Ezzy.

Moree’s Victoria Hotel circa 1920 (Image courtesy of Moree and District Historical Society).

In later years it would also be owned by Thomas Lovelee, John McGrath and later still by David Bedford, father of legendary Moree racehorse trainer Son Bedford.

By the 1880s the population of Moree was less than 300 inhabitants, with about 5000 residents across the vast Gwydir region, stretching from Moree to Warialda in the east, Narrabri to the south, Garah, Mungindi, Kunopia, Boomi, Boggabilla and Goondiwindi to the north and Collarenebri to the west.

But there seemed to be a pub on every corner – and plenty more planted in nooks and crannies across the district.

Hotels around this time in Moree included Mick McCabe’s Court House Hotel and John Reynolds’ Shamrock Hotel.

In East Moree the Sportsman’s Arms Hotel on Alice Street was licensed to Jim Carver who later sold the establishment to his son, David.

The Sportsman’s Arms later became Gardner’s Boarding House.

Jim Carver then opened the Caledonian Hotel on Dover Street, which later became the Hollywood Boarding House.

David Buchan was Caledonian Hotel proprietor in 1900 and advertised his premises as “arranged for the special comfort of the citizens of Moree and the travelling public”.

The Caledonian offered the “most comfortable seat in the hotel for each gent; piano and telephone in each corner of the room; drinks every minute if required and consequently no time lost”.

Barkeepers were advertised as being carefully selected “as to please everybody”.

Imperial Hotel Moree circa early 1920s (Image courtesy of Moree and District Historical Society).

They were also available to play billiards if guests felt inclined to un-rack a cue and could always be relied upon as a “fourth” at euchre.

Staff could also waltz and “dance the German”.

The Prince of Wales Hotel was located on Gosport Street near the Moree Showground and the Commercial Hotel, run by George Ezzy, was in Warialda Street.

In 1891 Edwin Gilbert Everingham established the Imperial Hotel, a two-storey weatherboard structure on the corner of Balo and Heber Streets.

The imposing building was described as “a great improvement upon the existing houses of similar character in Moree”

After Everingham’s death in 1898, his widow Eliza ran the hotel. In 1913, while retaining the freehold, she transferred the license to John McMahon.

In 1899 a wine shop was built about one mile east of Garah.

The premises were leased from Midkin Station by Daniel Williams.

Pubs in the Pallamallawa district were aplenty in the 1800s.

James McHugh established the Pallamallawa Hotel in 1868 before passing on the license to Elizabeth Corrigan in 1874.

Charles Russell assumed the license in 1878 then closed the pub doors for good in 1883.

In 1879 a second hotel and store was built by Edward Gwydir Pearce about one mile west of the present site of Pallamallawa.

When the village’s present site was surveyed and land lots released in the early 1880s, a new hotel was built on Bingara Street and the name Pioneer Hotel was transferred to the new building.

The existing building still operated as a hotel, meaning there were two pubs within one mile of each other for several years.

Charles Boughton Senior was Pioneer Hotel licensee from 1883 until 1891 and was followed by a succession of owners.

On January 4, 1922 the Pioneer Hotel and several other buildings at Pallamallawa were destroyed by fire.

The licensee at the time was Ernest Charles Cavanagh.

Ellen Matthews acquired the site, and the license and a de-licensed hotel building at Ashley was dismantled and rebuilt at Pallamallawa.

The Matthews family operated the hotel for several years then the license was transferred to Matthew McLaughlin.

When the depression took its toll on the district, the Pioneer Hotel license was surrendered and the building was sold and re-erected on a district grazier’s property.

Just west of Pallamallawa near the Gum Flat turn-off, stood the Richmond Hotel, owned by cattleman William Carver who later sold to Tom Selkirk.

The Richmond, named after Carver’s hometown on the Hawkesbury, was also at one stage licensed to Alf Kirkby who took over the license from James Goodyer in 1899.

A little east of Pallamallawa at Yagobie stood The Travellers’ Rest, owned by Elijah Maidens.

The Greenbah Hotel on John Maloney’s selection was the closest hotel to the west of Moree and about 16 miles further west John Jurd kept The Watercourse Hotel, established in the early 1890s.

Teamsters travelling from Moree to Narrabri had a vast selection of inns to stop and rest, given 10 miles or so was the furthest a bullock team could travel in one day.

George Conlan had the Hall’s Creek Hotel and a few miles further south was Matt Clark’s Fairview Hotel.

John Shanahan had a wineshop at Holdfast, near Tycannah Station and there were another six hotels between Millie and Narrabri, including William Walford’s Sportsman’s Arms at Millie, established in 1865.

The license transferred to William Gordon in 1871 and in 1876 James Duff changed the name to the Millie Inn and later to the Royal Mail.

In the 1880s Harry Harvey ran the Boggy Creek Hotel and closer to Narrabri stood the Galathera Hotel, licensed to Dick Ashmore; Bill Morrish’s Travellers’ Rest; and Jack Eather’s Two-Mile Hotel, just north of Narrabri.

Mary Brand’s Moree Inn (Image courtesy of Moree and District Historical Society).

In 1888 George McNamara held the licence of the Exchange Hotel at Little Bumble.

North-west of Moree on the Mungindi Road was Algernon Wilde’s Yarraman View Hotel, near the Gwydir River Bridge.

It was here in the late 1800s a foot-race over 100 yards with a £100 sweepstake took place between four runners – Moree’s Arthur Farlow and Arthur O’Neil, Jack Mitchell from Bogamildi and Billy Murphy, a butcher from Victoria.

“It was a splendid race,” local historian Kath Mahaffey wrote in Yilaalu No.13, as recorded by James Cummings’ Days that are Gone in the North West Champion in 1922.

“At 75 yards there was not a foot dividing them and it was not until the tape was reached that the winner could be picked. O’Neil was first, Murphy second and Mitchell third.”

Another footrace over 100 yards was decided between Charley Cameron and George Mahaffey at £10 apiece.

“This was also a splendid race and was won on the tape by Mahaffey,” penned Cummings.

Leopold Girard, one-time manager of Tareelaroi Station, was judge.

“Creeper” Davis, from Newcastle, trained race winners O’Neil and Mahaffey.

Margaret Hassall, the wife of future member of parliament Thomas Hassall and a daughter of Mary Brand, ran the Commercial Hotel, known as the Bogree, at Ashley in the 1880s.

After her death in 1896 her brother John Bruce managed the hotel and later that year the license was transferred to John Hollingworth.

Thomas Hassall, who also owned a mail contract between Moree and Goondiwindi as well as 2300 acres on the Wallon Parish, was elected member for Gwydir and became Minister for Lands until 1902.

Hollingworth also established the Half Way Hotel at Tulloona in 1896, about 22 miles north of Wallon.

The Dolgelly Hotel, owned by Robert Layton, was operating around the turn of the 19th century and became a focal point for horse-racing and cricket.

Because there was no lock-up at Dolgelly, police officers often chained felons to the hotel verandah until suitable accommodation could be arranged.

Layton’s daughter, Nellie, perished in a fire at the hotel and her grave is located at the site.

The hotel license was surrendered in 1919.

The Wallon Creek Junction Hotel at Moppin, built by George Urial Ledingham in 1886, consisted of a bar, parlour, large dining room, kitchen and 14 bedrooms, about half of which were kept for hotel guests.

Descendent Cliff Ledingham penned in Moree and District Historical Society’s Yilaalu No.4:

“As a hotel keeper, George Ledingham was a very strict disciplinarian, and the Junction Hotel became renowned as a well-kept hotel.

“Bad behaviour, drunkenness and fighting were not tolerated within the hotel.

“Every evening, dinner was a very formal affair in the dining room; the hotel-keeper wearing a dinner suit and all children dined in a separate room, probably part of the large kitchen.

“The hotel was a stopping place for coaches travelling to Mungindi, the coach horses being changed there. Many people travelling by coach to Mungindi and also on the back road to Goondiwindi stopped at the hotel for refreshment and lodgings.

“There were ample stables and facilities for accommodating horses for travellers who wished to stay overnight at the hotel,” Cliff wrote.

On Boxing Day for several years a race meeting was held on a bush track carved out of the scrub north of the hotel.

Visitors travelled great distances to attend the annual races, and afterwards the hotel’s dining room was transformed into a dance hall.

When George passed away in 1924 his wife Elizabeth transferred the license to James Percival Tattam for a newly-built hotel at Weemelah.

Remains of the old Junction Hotel are still visible across the creek not far from Moppin Siding. George Urial and Elizabeth Ledingham are buried at the site.

George Morrison ran the Miltonville Hotel near Mungindi, and James Allison was mine host at the Kunopia Hotel on the road from Mungindi to Goondiwindi about 50 miles from each township and 61 miles from Moree.

The hotel was established around 1870 and at some stage the license was held by Ted Bruen and later Fred Theissen.

The Kunopia Hotel closed about 1900 and the building was relocated to Boomi to become the Pioneer Hotel, by this time owned by Barton “Bill” Jakins.

A hotel on Bingerang, near Garah, was owned by Charles Booth and several race meetings were held there in the 1890s and early 1900s.

In 1896 the Beefwood Hotel was opened about 30 miles north of Moree on the new road to Boggabilla.

The Beefwood was owned by Richard Garvey, father of legendary Pallamallawa bush bard Keith Garvey.

The Beefwood license was passed on to Hugh McPherson of Collarenenbri in 1900 and the following year to Augustus Rose, of Warialda.

In June, 1888 Moree’s Post Office Hotel opened, with Edwin Delander the first licensee, and construction commenced on the Victoria Hotel in Moree in 1897.

Established by James Lillyman, the Vic was severely damaged by fire 20 years later and rebuilt in 1918.

Hotel Gwydir in Moree in 1903 (Image courtesy of Moree and District Historical Society).

In early December, 1895, the Bumble Hotel, at the time owned by Thomas Moloney’s brother-in-law William Fingleton, was broken into and £50 in cash and cheques stolen.

 Three men were arrested but the cash and cheques were never recovered.

The robbery occurred just three months after a group of railway workers – known as navvies – “seized” the hotel.

“There was a disturbance yesterday (Sunday, August 11) amongst the navvies at Bumble. The men took entire possession of the Bumble Hotel, and eight of them were arrested. The police left Moree for Bumble late last night,”  reported the Daily Telegraph.

In April, 1902, the Hotel Gwydir on Frome Street near where now stands the TAFE College was opened to the public for the first time by Alf Kirkby, former mine host of the Criterion and Richmond Hotels.

“The opening of the Hotel Gwydir during the week marks another step – and a very important one, too – in the progress of Moree, and lends another ornament of an attractive nature to that portion of town to which it is situated. Mr Kirkby has gone to considerable trouble and expense to furnishing the building throughout, and the hotel should not fail to receive a large amount of patronage,” reported the Moree Gwydir Examiner and General Advertiser reported.

In July, 1903 races were held at Terry Hie Hie to celebrate the opening of the village’s new hotel, the Welcome Inn, owned by Walter and Rose Wilson.

A racetrack adjacent to the hotel was created for the occasion and race meetings were held regularly.

Sadly, on March 17, 1917 jockey Edward Burgess was killed at the track.

The jockey’s horse bolted, ran off the course, and threw Burgess against a tree.

A police officer, Constable Doolan, saw the riderless horse and located Burgess in the scrub.

Burgess was taken back to the Welcome Inn, where the yard was being used as a saddling enclosure for the unregistered race meeting.

Burgess, a cab-driver from Moree, suffered concussion and never recovered.

A coronial inquest held five days after the fatal accident found Burgess died from “violent contact with a tree” and was buried at Terry Hie Hie Cemetery the following day.

Stable facilities were an all-important part of wayside inns and hotels and innkeepers could be fined if stabling was inadequate or poorly maintained.

Moree historian Kath Mahaffey noted: “Grooms were very important to the efficient running of hotels, especially if they were used as changing stations for coaches.

“Each groom was responsible for at least one team in the case of coaches. Horses had to be fed, and groomed and harness oiled and maintained.

“In some cases, the stable was also a bedroom for the groom with perhaps a horse rug for a blanket.

“These old country hotels or inns were very important to the social life of the district. They were generally the largest building in the area so provided a suitable gathering place. They were the scene of race meetings, sports meetings, balls and community gatherings of all kinds.

“Often an inn, with sometimes a store, post office and even a pound was the nucleus for a settlement, particularly if close to a river (and) from this nucleus these settlements began to grow and blossom into a township,” she wrote.

Words: Bill Poulos

Images: Moree and District Historical Society