Opinion | Yesterday Today with Alan McRae

Nice Drop: Beer drinkers catered for in George Street. Hogarth’s Park Hotel and halfway down the street is Michael Meaney’s Metropolitan Hotel in the early 1900s.
Nice Drop: Beer drinkers catered for in George Street. Hogarth’s Park Hotel and halfway down the street is Michael Meaney’s Metropolitan Hotel in the early 1900s.

The Police Magistrates were often critical of the number of hotels as compared to the number of citizens that lived in the town. 

They were right, Bathurst has always been able to boast plenty of hotels and this week there are two of the George Street hotels opposite Machattie Park. Hogarth’s Park Hotel and halfway down the street is Michael Meaney’s Metropolitan Hotel beside Webb and Company in the early 1900s. Daniel Howgarth was licensee of the ‘first’ Park Hotel from 1904 to 1911 having taken over from John Foster.

The two storey Park Hotel, complete with its locally made lacework verandah, was constructed in 1887 for Mr. Thomas Cashman who operated the hotel until 1898. Local citizen Mr. Joseph Mills was a builder and draftsman and received the contract to build the ‘first class hotel’ for Mr. Cashman. Thomas Cashman had experience as a hotelier as he had previously operated the Morning Star Hotel which was located further up the street on the corner of George and Piper Street.

The two storey Metropolitan Hotel had originally been built as the Elephant and Castle Inn in 1849 and opened in 1850 by licensee Dominique Popilarie.

The building had been built for Nicholas Reid to rent out. After Mr. Popilarie left the premises James Budge took up the lease in 1852 and stayed for 20 years. When Henry Hughes took over in 1875 he decided to change the business’s name to the Court House Hotel as it was near the Court House in Russell Street.

Sarah Lewis decided to call it the Metropolitan Hotel when she became the licensee in 1876 and the name was continued to be used up until 1958.

Both of these hotels relied on the horsedrawn cabs to collect patrons and deliver them to and from the railway or other appointments. On 1st June, 1907, a serious cab accident occurred that shocked many of the hoteliers as they all knew the driver.   

The driver was Mr. George O’Keefe, a well-known Bathurst cabman, who had met with an accident. As a result, he was lying in a serious condition in the Bathurst District Hospital. The unfortunate young man was driving his cab and was turning from Keppel Street into William Street when the horses suddenly took fright and bolted.

Careering wildly down the street, the animal got completely beyond the control of him. Mr O’Keefe vainly endeavoured to turn the horse into Durham Street, but continuing along William Street towards the river. It dashed for the opening leading to the rubbish tip and collided with one of the posts.

The unfortunate cabman was hurled with considerable force to the ground. As a result of the impact, and when picked up, he was found to be suffering from concussion of the brain, but no bones were broken. Dr. Brooke Moore, who witnessed the runaway, was speedily on the scene and ordered his removal to the hospital. Mr O’Keefe had not regained consciousness up to midnight it was reported.

The cab was badly damaged and would necessitate the expenditure of about £10 to repair it. The horse, which escaped unhurt, had been driven many times previously by Mr O’Keefe but one the day was somewhat fresh.

Three days later it was reported in the National Advocate, “that Mr George O’Keefe, who sustained concussion of the brain after being thrown from a cab on Friday still continues to improve. He has now regained consciousness.”

Then on June 10 a meeting was called at Mr. Meaney’s Metropolitan Hotel, at a quarter to eight that evening, for the purpose of initiating arrangements for a benefit entertainment for Mr George O’Keefe, the victim of the recent cab accident, that should ensure a large attendance. It was felt that there was not the slightest doubt whatever form the function might take, it would be very liberally patronised.

- Alan McRae is with the Bathurst District Historical Society