Thursday, 20 September 2012

Denmark Hill's Gooloowan: a site from which Ipswich's prosperity grew, & the new State of Queensland became a better place.

Gooloowan, c.1888 (State Library of Qld)

Perched on the southern slopes of Denmark Hill in Ipswich, an imposing house known as Gooloowan stands...clocking in at 148 years old, one can only imagine what information would come to light if the walls of this old house could talk!  Welcome to the third instalment of our "Haunted Ipswich" series, focusing on some of the greater & lesser-known haunted sites around the inner-Ipswich area.  For this week's article we'll be focusing on Gooloowan, a site that holds an amazing place in both the evolution of the current city of Ipswich, as well as that of the State of Queensland.  However, in order to understand Gooloowan, we first have to understand the Cribb family...& for that, we have to travel all the way back to 1849 & the fledgling colony of Brisbane Town & Ipswich...

As any fan of Brisbane's history would know, a very important turning point in the small town's history occurred in 1849.  In the year prior, three vessels left England as part of John Dunmore Lang's assisted immigration scheme.   Initially intended to land at Port Phillip, where each immigrant was to be granted a parcel of land on which to turn a living, Lang's first vessel the Fortitude hit a major snag...on arrival in New South Wales, the Colonial authorities reneged on the land deal they'd arranged with Lang, & the Fortitude was turned away.  Lang's hopes being dashed, & with a vessel carrying 270 immigrants, the Fortitude pulled back out to sea & tracked north to a small town that had only been opened for free settlement seven years previously - Brisbane.  A couple of months later, Lang's second & third vessels the Chaseley & Lima followed suite, & both landed in Brisbane where their human cargo was offloaded to begin a new life in what was little more than a frontier town.  Aboard the Chaseley, 42 year old Benjamin Cribb & his first wife Elizabeth held high hopes of a new life, with their three children in tow, & both intended to make the most of their skills in a new country.

Through his twenties & thirties, Benjamin Cribb built a solid business selling household goods in London - an occupation that would determine his future prosperity in Australia.  On boarding the Chaseley in England, Cribb paid to export a quantity of commercial goods with him on the voyage...once the Cribb family arrived in Moreton Bay, Benjamin made the decision to move further inland to the still fledgling town of Ipswich to seek his fortune.  Utilising the goods he had brought all the way from England, Cribb sought out a suitable site on which to start up a Grocers' store, & was in business only months after arrival.  Locating his venture in Bell Street, Cribb named his enterprise the London Stores, & soon the business was booming as his name became well-known amongst the residents of Ipswich.  Benjamin's reputation continued to grow as his business flourished, however tragedy struck the Cribb household on the 4th of March 1852, with the death of his wife Elizabeth.  After mourning her loss, including a short sojourn to Brisbane, Benjamin remarried on the 30th of March 1853 - this second marriage to Clarissa Kendal Foote would change Benjamin's life in ways he could not possibly imagine, & would consolidate his place in the history of Ipswich & in the fast approaching State of Queensland.

London Stores, c.1850's (Ipswich Library & Information Service)

Benjamin's second marriage brought him directly into contact with John Clarke Foote, Clarissa's brother.  Having left Plymouth aboard the fated ship Emigrant for Australia, John quickly found himself trapped on a vessel rampant with Typhoid Fever.  Helping out where he could, having trained as a Chemist prior to his departure in England, John was able to not only aid those onboard, but also managed to escape the fatal end many other passengers suffered as a result of the disease mid-voyage.    After landing at Moreton Bay, John resided in Brisbane for a couple of years before being offered a managerial role at the London Stores by his new brother-in-law Benjamin Cribb.  Within a year, John & Benjamin signed a partnership together & formed Cribb & Foote Merchant Bankers in 1854.  From that moment forward, the partnership grew...earning a reputation for aiding farmers in the area with security-exempt loans, the firm of Cribb & Foote eventually moved into retail above & beyond Benjamin Cribb's original London Stores, & also branched into the cotton trade as well as other varied business interests.  In time, the Cribb & Foote business would become a household name in Ipswich, providing countless jobs for those who resided in the area.

By 1855, Benjamin Cribb was a founding member of the Moreton Bay Immigration and Land Company, which purchased large tracts of available wasteland which in turn were split into small farms & sold to suitable immigrants - the company hoped that by doing so, skilled workers from the British Isles would be encouraged to migrate to Moreton Bay & aid in the expansion of the region.  Entering the New South Wales Legislative Assembly at the beginning of 1858, & also becoming the Member for Stanley Boroughs (the Southeast Queensland region comprising four separate towns of North Brisbane (current CBD), South Brisbane, Kangaroo Point & Ipswich), Benjamin also fought staunchly for the separation of the northern colony - a battle, with the aid of a handful of other men, which was won on the 6th of June 1859 when Queen Victoria signed the Letter Patent declaring the colony of Queensland a separate entity from New South Wales.  Throughout this turbulent separation period, Benjamin Cribb also fought alongside his brother Robert, who was also a Member of the Legislative Assembly, for the cessation of convictism in Australia & forced labour which utilised Kanaka slaves...both Robert & Benjamin Cribb were true visionaries, aiding not only in the creation of Queensland as a State, but also setting in place the foundations of both Brisbane & Ipswich.

His position being transferred to the Legislative Assembly of Queensland, Benjamin continued on in both his business & political life, representing the West Moreton region from 1861 to 1867 - he became one of the founding members of Ipswich Grammar School which opened in 1863 as the first of its kind in Queensland, he was heavily involved in the Ipswich School of Arts, & all the while took a very keen interest in aiding the less fortunate in the growing Ipswich community.  In 1864, construction began on the new Cribb household that would become Gooloowan - a magnificent house on the slopes of Denmark Hill that still stands to this day.  A beautiful mansion surrounded by manicured gardens, Gooloowan became one of the social & political hubs in early Ipswich - visited by both ambassadors & community members alike.  Many of Queensland's early political decisions were formulated & conducted within Gooloowan's rooms, alongside the many important decisions & business meetings affecting the growing Cribb & Foote business - amazingly, Benjamin Cribb balanced both his political & business career carefully, & seemed to manage both with complete prowess.

So...having parked ourselves in the 1860's, it's probably time we touched on the ghost stories of Gooloowan, right??  Well...having grown up in Ipswich, I can admit that Gooloowan always appeared as an imposing site when I was young...a large mansion, recessed behind bushy gardens and a border fence...the kind of place that was strictly out of bounds...the kind of private place where stories exist.  In later years, in the late 1990's, I finally started asking questions around Ipswich about Gooloowan, & came up with a number of stories that roughly matched what I had been told as a child...people who have resided within Gooloowan, or those who have visited, have seen young women dressed in maid's outfits walking the halls & the grounds on many occasions.  Very distinct presences can be felt in certain rooms of the house, as though a previous owner is present & is not all too happy that a stranger is intruding in their domain.  And, aside all others, one major story exists about Gooloowan...although we'll touch on that shortly after we expose the first tragic event to occur at the premises...

Gooloowan in its early years (John Oxley Library)

On the 11th of March 1874, Benjamin Cribb's success in business & politics was abruptly cut short.  Having recently returned re-energised from a trip to Melbourne after a bout of ill health, Benjamin walked the couple of hundred metres from Gooloowan to the nearby Congregational Church to sit in on the Wednesday night service...a trip he had made countless times before.  Throughout the day, he'd overseen his business interests with vigour, & had been commended on his unusually fresh appearance.  However, during the second hymn of the service, Benjamin put down his hymn book & sat, appearing to be in some pain.  It was initially thought that he was suffering from indigestion, & his daughter handed him a smelling-bottle (a bottle filled with either smelling salts or perfume as a restorative), however Benjamin's head lolled back onto the pew & those surrounding him jumped up in panic.  He was immediately carried into the vestry of the Church, where Dr Rowlands attended to him...however, a fairly grim verdict was given, & the decision was made to transport Benjamin back to Gooloowan via stretcher.  On literally being passed through the doorway of Gooloowan, Benjamin Cribb drew his last breath, & he was pronounced dead within the house.  In one tragic instant, Benjamin's death became the first within the stately mansion he'd commissioned only twelve years beforehand, & also ushered in a new age regarding the Cribb & Foote business.

On Benjamin's death, his wife Clarissa took control of the family share in the Cribb & Foote business...a fairly ironic turn of events, as Clarissa now balanced the Cribb family fortune against the Foote family fortune held by her brother.  However, it was during this period of Gooloowan's history that its major ghost story originates.  For many decades, one paranormal story of Gooloowan has persisted above all others - it is said that at one stage, around the turn of the century, a maid killed her baby by throwing it down a well behind the mansion.  Supposedly, the maid in question had fallen pregnant to another worker at the house, & did what she felt was necessary to conceal her pregnancy.  Rumour had it that on quiet nights, a baby could be heard crying in the vicinity of the well, & anyone who crept into the grounds after dark could hear it for themselves.  Needless to say, I'm sure countless kids in Ipswich have stewed over this story when it's been relayed to them...& they've more than likely believed it, given that a multitude of stately houses around South-east Queensland hold similar legends about babies down wells.  However, whilst it's an easy undertaking to prove that other homes lack the slightest shred of evidence confirming deaths regarding their wells, or have no evidence of wells existing at all, Gooloowan's story stands out from the pack...because, believe it or not, the story's true...

On the 2nd of August 1889, a terrible event occurred at about 10am in the morning, James Dodds, who was employed as a groom & coachman at the house, approached the well located at the rear of the premises.  It had been noticed that the water in the well was slowly turning rancid, & James had been sent to investigate...lifting the cover from the well, James reeled back in shock at the sight of a little body floating below.  The Police were immediately sent for, & Senior Constable George Bain attended the well & removed the body.  A search of the staff rooms was immediately conducted, & within a short period of time a young maid by the name of Rose Dold was arrested & charged with wilful murder.  On being questioned, Rose admitted that the baby had actually been born on the 25th of July, a full week prior to the body being discovered in the well.  At the Police Court hearing on the 9th of August,  Dr Von Lossburg testified that, according to his examination of the body, the baby had been born alive.  However, P. A. O'Sullivan, who appeared in Rose's defence, argued that no clear evidence existed to definitively prove that the baby had been born this was the case, Rose could not be charged with wilful murder, & should therefore only face a far lesser charge of concealing the birth of a child - a contradiction in terms...

On the 25th of February, Rose was finally brought before the Ipswich Circuit Court on the charge of concealment of a birth - when asked how she wished to plead, Rose gave the answer of "guilty."  Much testimony was given throughout the trial, with all providing evidence stating that Rose was of excellent character.  She had been in the employ of the Cribbs for approximately five months, & throughout that time had been a conscientious worker.  Rose's defence requested that the provisions of the Offenders' Probation Act be applied to her case, which in essence requested a lesser sentence for offenders who could likely be reformed, however the Judge intimated that the limitations of the Act did not extend to a case such as this.  In sentencing, the Judge stated, "He felt it to be his duty - and it was a painful duty - to have to send her to gaol, but if any after application was made for her release he would not oppose it.  He would take into consideration the fact that she had a good character previously and had been five weeks in gaol [prior to the trial], and the sentence was that she should be imprisoned for nine months in Toowoomba Gaol with hard labour."   Thus ended one of the most tragic sagas in the life of Gooloowan, & the town of Ipswich in general.

Headline in The Brisbane Courier, on the 27th February 1890.

Over the following years, the ownership of Gooloowan changed hands a number of times as a result of a number of deaths, many of which occurred within the house.  On the 14th of December, Clarissa Cribb passed away at Gooloowan after having been house-bound for over a year due to her ailing health.  Having been a senior partner of Cribb & Foote since the death of her husband decades earlier, Clarissa Cribb was best known for her extensive charitable work throughout Ipswich, & her death was acutely felt throughout the town.  After her death, Gooloowan passed into the hands of her son, Thomas Bridson Cribb.  A Member of the Legislative Council just like his father Benjamin, Thomas was very well respected throughout Ipswich & Queensland.  In 1896, Thomas ran for the electorate of Ipswich in the State Government election, & due to his overwhelming popularity he gained the highest number of votes ever received by a candidate for Ipswich.  In later years, he would step into the role of Treasurer under Premier Robert Philp.  Unfortunately, after suffering from failing health in late 1913, Thomas & his wife Marian caught the train to their second house in Southport in the hope a few days rest would aid Thomas...a trip from which he would not return.  At 11pm on the 4th of September, Thomas sadly passed away, leaving his wife Marian to make the trip back to Ipswich & Gooloowan a widow.

Marian continued to hold ownership of Gooloowan for a further twenty years, unfortunately spending the majority of this time as an invalid.  On the 29th of December 1932, Marian passed away at the age of 78, within the walls of Gooloowan, after having lived her entire life in Ipswich.  On her death, ownership of Gooloowan was transferred to her daughter Vera & son-in-law James Ernest Walker.  The Managing Director of the Ipswich Woollen Company, James had originally studied law, however gave up his plans to become a barrister due to being hard of hearing. As a result, he spent much of his life working as a solicitor, spent some time as a Nationalist candidate in Ipswich, & focused all the while on the Ipswich Woollen Company.  On his death in 1939, ownership of  Gooloowan passed to his wife Vera, who continued to live at the premises with her spinster sister Estelle Cribb.  Estelle held the distinguished honour of being one of the first Queensland women to receive a University degree, graduating with a Masters of Arts in Sydney.  Returning to Ipswich, she took up a teaching position at Ipswich Girls Grammar School, where she worked the majority of her adult life.  On the 5th of November 1949, Estelle too would pass away within the walls of Gooloowan, leaving a lasting legacy through her many years spent educating many of Ipswich's young women.

In more recent years, Gooloowan has had a number of owners.  However, the bulk of the house's amazing history comes from its first 90 years up until the 1950's. Gooloowan really haunted, or do the stories of ghosts walking the halls & the grounds simply result from years of speculation by those who have passed its amazing fascade off Quarry Street?  Ultimately, that's for each of you to decide.  However, one very important fact cannot be denied - the economic & social prosperity of Ipswich, & in turn Queensland, was due largely in part to the amazing men & women who lived & died at Gooloowan.  Surely, the essence of the myriad dreams, aspirations & accomplishments of those who called Goloowan home, must still linger within the halls of this grand old mansion...&, if the time & conditions are right, I wouldn't be at all surprised if they replayed themselves from time to time...

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

A Publican's tale of two ghostly girls & a spectral pup: a day in the life of the Hotel Metropole

Hotel Metropole c.1976 (State Library of Qld)

All the way back in 1999, I was given an opportunity to interview the Publican of the Hotel Metropole in regard to the ghosts that were said to wander the building.  Whilst the facade of the Hotel may seem misleading, clearly displaying the year of 1906 in which the current building was constructed, the history of the venue dates back far, far earlier towards the establishment of Ipswich itself.  Located on the corner of Brisbane & Waghorn Street, the newly refurbished Hotel Metropole features "a modern bistro, outdoor cafe and beer garden, a lounge bar, and nightclub."  However, the early years of the Hotel, under the name of the Harp of Erin, is somewhat confusing.

Harp of Erin advert (published in The Moreton Bay Courier on the 26th June 1847)

On the 26th of June 1847, Martin Byrne ran an advert in The Moreton Bay Courier stating that he would soon open a new establishment in Ipswich, under the sign of the Harp of Erin, on the 1st of July - he'd been granted a new license to do so at the annual Licensing Board meeting on the 20th of April 1847.  At this stage, the address given for the venue was Nichols Street...however, an application for a Publican's License was granted to John Perry for the Harp of Erin, at the Licensing Board meeting on the 15th of April 1851, finally giving the address as Brisbane Street.  As a very interesting aside, eight months later on the 3rd of January 1852, Martin Byrne ran another advert in The Moreton Bay Courier under the banner of the Harp of the advert, it stated that he'd recently returned from the Turon, which gives a very important insight into the history of Australia at the time.

 Martin Byrne's trip (published in The Moreton Bay Courier, 3rd Jan 1852)

In mid-1851, gold was discovered on the Turon River outside Ballarat on the central plains of New South Wales - through the later months of 1851, men flocked to the area in the hopes of making their fortunes...many went in pursuit of gold, however a few shrewd entrepreneurs realised that an exploding population of miners with gold burning holes in their pockets would mean for ready pickings.  Makeshift Hotels & General Stores, most being no more than tents, sprung up all over the goldfields & very quickly turned massive's highly likely that Martin Byrne had tapped into this ready market.  Within two months of his return, Martin Byrne's health began to fail & he put the Harp of Erin up for lease...a move that would see a number of Licensees & owners over the coming years.  The life of the original Harp of Erin was coming to a close by 1890, however, when the Licensing Board met to renew licenses on the 3rd of April 1890.  When the Hotel's license came up for renewal, Sub-Inspector Graham suggested that in his opinion, the license should not be renewed as the Harp of Erin was no longer fit for business.

According to his testimony, he "found the hotel building in a dilapidated condition, and, in his opinion, it was no longer fit to be licensed.  The boarding on the veranda had, to some extent given way, some of the bedrooms were not ceiled, and, as far as he could judge, the roof was not in a very safe condition.  Most of the bedrooms were very small, and were not of the standard required by the 25th section of the Licensing Act of 1885.  Witness brought the matter under the notice of the licensee, especially the small room behind the bar, in which room one could almost touch the roof with one's hand, and it was not ceiled.  The licensee said he knew the hotel was in a very bad state, but that he could not help it."  After much argument between the Licensing Board, the Publican Robert McGrory & the owner Alexander Andrews, the Hotel was given a reprieve on the grounds that improvements be made immediately.  This charade continued for over a decade, with the Licensing Board putting the Hotel on notice & threatening to revoke the license, & the owner & publican promising to make immediate improvements that were never to come.  By 1906, the game was finally up...the old wooden hulk affectionately known as the Harp of Erin Hotel was torn down, & a new brick establishment under the sign of the Hotel Metropole was built in its place - the very same establishment that exists to this day.

So...after taking a slight detour down memory lane, what do we know about the ghosts of the Hotel??  Well...harping back to 1999 & my discussion with the then Publican, we know a little about the supernatural goings-on at the venue.  It seems that prior to the Hotel's most recent renovations in 2004, the site suffered from a number of paranormal events, so much so that the Publican & his wife began to double guess themselves regarding events within the building.  On numerous occasions, televisions within locked & vacant rooms would turn themselves on at full volume for no apparent reason, at ungodly hours late at night & in the early morning.  Similarly, beds in locked rooms would be made up by housekeeping only to be found in a shambles a day or two later, when it was certain that no one had entered the specific lodgings.  The Publican even took the time to point out a specific floorboard on the top level of the Hotel that let out a very noticeable creak when weight was placed on various times throughout the night, when the Publican & his wife were alone in the Hotel, the floorboard would let out a tell-tale creak, signalling a footstep they knew couldn't have resulted from a flesh-&-blood patron.

With so many unusual events at the Hotel during the time said Publican was in control of the venue, I couldn't help but ask the million dollar question - "Why do you think your Hotel is haunted?"  Without a second's thought, I was given an answer regarding the supposed ghosts who walked the halls of the Hotel!  According to the Publican, based on information that he'd received, the unusual occurrences within the building were due to the ghosts of two young girls.  "Extensive research" had unearthed information that a fire had torn through the venue many years beforehand, & as a result of the fire two young girls had been trapped in a front room on the top floor of the Hotel.  In a vain yet futile attempt to escape the flames, they had huddled beneath a bed in the room in question...unfortunately, their attempt at survival was for naught.  When the fire damaged sections of the Hotel were eventually accessed, it was confirmed that the girls had perished as a result, & it was supposed that their spirits continued to walk the current establishment creating mischief where they could.  As an extra aside, the Publican added an extra aspect to the story...on multiple occasions when his 3 year old grandaughter visited the Hotel, she'd consistently mention seeing a spectral black dog running about the premises, supposedly linked to the two ghost girls.

With this information in mind, let's get to the bottom of the Hotel's history...what can we find that lends credence to the Publican's stories & the two girls that died in a hotel fire??  Looking at deaths at the Hotel, we'll jump back & forward from the aspect of "not due to fire" to "due to fire"...bear with us...

The first & last early death that occurred at the Hotel not due to fire was that of Alexander Fairley, on the 5th of June 1894.  Having immigrated to Australian in 1852, Alexander also tried his hand on the goldfields of Victoria, similarly to the Harp of Erin's original owner Martin Byrne...having likely earned a small payout in gold, Fairley moved north to Queensland in 1864 where he worked a number of properties before settling at Ipswich.  He took control of the Ulster Hotel with his wife for a couple of years before moving on to the Harp of Erin during its declining days in the early 1890's...ultimately, in 1894, Alexander Fairley would drop dead in his new Hotel from apoplexy, an early term that indicated a cardiovascular incident or likely stroke.

Our second death involves the most destructive fire at the Hotel Metropole, although not in the way that you'd likely think.  On the 17th of September 1940 at 2am, Hotel boarder George May ran out into the hallway screaming "fire!"  Within seconds, eight other boarders & the Publican's family were grasping for their valuables & heading for the exits...however, two borders by the name of Mr & Mrs Nightingale failed to run from their rooms, as their usual route was blocked by the flames.  Taking stock of their situation, the elderly couple ran out onto a balcony & managed to skirt around the flames & escape down the main stairs to the street...just before the roof collapsed in on the top floor where they'd all been sleeping.  All in all, the damage bill was estimated at £2000, which came as a crushing blow to the licensee Orlando Andresen.  Six months later, Orlando would be found dead by his wife, after having shot himself in the head at their residence in Kangaroo Point.  A veteran of WWI, having fought on the Western Front, Andresen had shouldered the brunt of the damages inflicted on the Hotel Metropole, a repair bill he was likely unable to cover.  Fortunately, the only destructive fire to rip through the Hotel site during its long life failed to claim a single soul directly...although its aftermath claimed the soul of the Hotel's owner, who was likely unable to live with the loss.

However, the site saw one other fire during its lifespan, all the way back in 1885 when it was still known as the Harp of Erin.  On the 24th of September 1885, in the middle of the night, a fire took hold in Webb's old cordial factory on Brisbane Street.  Before long, the fire spread to the stables behind Saunders' Grocers Store, which were full of hay...& then leapt the remaining gap to the back of the Harp of Erin where more hay in the stables provided a happy breeding ground for the ensuing sparks.  The Fire Department were soon on the scene & laid their hoses out as best they could.  Saunders' stables were soon cut away from the back of the Grocer's Store & extinguished, however the stable behind the Harp of Erin posed a more dangerous threat.  Fortunately, the backyard blaze was extinguished before it reached the skirting of the Hotel itself...everyone involved breathed a sigh of relief when it was confirmed that all lives at the Hotel had been spared...although this soon proved to be incorrect.  Margaret Bourke, the 70 year old mother of the Publican's wife Maria McGrory, resided in the rooms above the Hotel...on hearing the shouts & cries around her in the middle of the night, the excitement was clearly too much for her aging heart.  By the time the flames had subsided & the threat to the Hotel had been abated, Margaret was found dead in her bed, & her death was attributed to the shock she had endured as a result of the fire.

So...records of little girls & a dog we have not - if I were able to go back in time & ask the Publican which "historian" he'd received his information from I would!  However, whilst we're able to discount the tale of the two young girls who died beneath a bed in a tragic fire, we've managed to uncover a number of deaths at the Hotel & linked with the Hotel.  Does Margaret Bourke still wander the building in a panic that a long since extinguished fire might engulf the building?  Does Alexander Fairley still preside over the Hotel that he ran for a number of years after dropping dead from a stroke within its walls?  Has Orlando Andresen returned to the Metropole after losing his life savings as a result of the 1940 fire & subsequently taking his life?  Or...has Martin Byrne returned to his original 1840's Hotel site, with a pocket full of gold dust & a gleam in his eye??  Either way, whoever you deem the ghosts to be at the Hotel Metropole, the Hotel & its predecessors deserve respect in the early evolution of the now expanding city we know as Ipswich.

Monday, 3 September 2012

The day the Shamrock's luck ran out: an evolutionary tale of the Settler's Inn, & its supposed resident ghost.

The Settler's Inn, just prior to 2012 (courtesy of Computer World)

Welcome one & all to our first instalment of "Haunted Ipswich" - a five-part series over the month of September, focusing on a few more of the ghosts & haunted sites within my childhood home town.  For anyone who lives (or has ever lived) in Ipswich, you'll likely be aware of the city's history - an amazing region that dates back almost as far as Brisbane, with a heritage that is by no means any less important to the early evolution of Queensland.  Haunted sites in Ipswich date back virtually to the original settlement of Limestone (as Ipswich was called in its early years), & the subsequent ghost stories have been passed down through the generations to the current day.

One of these stories relates to the old Settler's Inn at the "top of town" on Brisbane Street.  Rumours persist of a mischievous spirit that would make its way around the pub during opening hours.  Whilst this spirit would never be seen, his exploits were definitely noticed by regulars & staff alike...objects being moved when no one was around, strange presences being felt in the bar when no one was in the vicinity, & doors inexplicably being opened & closed by unseen hands.  According to folk legend passed between locals at the Hotel, the spirit was said to originate from an earlier era of the site...popular belief had it that the ghost was that of a poor fellow who'd lost his life in a major fire at the Hotel many years previously.  So, what can we dig up about this unfortunate chap & the fire in which he perished so many years ago??

Shamrock Hotel Advert (The Moreton Bay Courier, 11th Oct 1851)

The existence of the Shamrock Hotel (or Inn) in Brisbane Street dates back to about 1850 - the earliest mention of the establishment is located in The Moreton Bay Courier on the 22nd of March 1851, at which time the proprietor Henry Savary placed an employment advert for "a first-rate cook."  According to the advert, in less than perfect English, "None need apply who does not perfectly understand his business."  By late 1851, Savary ran a number of adverts in The Moreton Bay Courier, thanking his patrons for their support & promising extensive improvements to the Shamrock undertaking it appears he completed over the next six months.  In the years leading up to his foray into the Publican's life, Henry Savary had earned a living in North Brisbane as a baker - a slightly unusual change of profession, although it seems to have been a very profitable one.  It's likely that Savary kept a hand in the baking profession to a lesser extent whilst trading at the Hotel, & saw it as a necessary adjunct to the sale of liquor - in March 1853, Alexander Noble took occupancy in part of the Shamrock Hotel, likely set up as a baker's shop, in order to produce "fancy bread & biscuits."  In the years that followed, the Hotel would change hands a number of times.  In April 1857, the Shamrock's license passed into the hands of Edmund Egglestone, by 1861 it had passed to Michael O'Malley, & by 1871 it had again been passed on to Alexander McLean.

For the first three decades of the Shamrock Hotel's life in Brisbane Street, trade appears to have been quite placid...either that, or any major indecent dealings were craftily hushed from the authorities.  However, on the 31st of January 1885, the Shamrock's peaceful existence was about to come to a calamitous end, the specific event from which the building's ghost is said to have arisen.  At 1am in the morning, the shrill din of a fire bell rang out along Brisbane Street, immediately raising nearby residents & traders from their slumber.  The initial fire took hold in an empty building recently leased by a Chinese shop-keeper, however before any of the nearby residents were able to act, the flames spread rapidly to the neighbouring building - the Shamrock Hotel.  Given the Shamrock was by that stage an aging wooden building, it immediately went up like a tinderbox...reports of the disaster stated that the fire took hold so quickly that occupants within the building barely managed to escape with more than a handful of clothing, which they'd scooped up on their way out of the building.  The fire would continue through two more buildings to the west of the Hotel, & the roof would collapse in a building two doors to the east.  All in all, four buildings along Brisbane Street would be completely lost, & one more would be so badly damaged it could no longer be utilised as a business place. 

By sheer virtue, a vacant allotment to the west of the blaze aided in breaking the spread of fire through further incredibly lucky break given that the main fire hose being used by the Fire Brigade burst early into the battle.  Fears were also held for buildings on the opposite side of Brisbane Street given the massive heat emanating from the blaze, however a public bucket brigade managed to cool the exposed timbers of the buildings at risk.  At the time the blaze took ahold of the Shamrock Hotel, a number of horses were stabled in the back yard of the premises...through very quick thinking, the stable doors were sprung as the Hotel erupted, & the horses ran clear of the blaze.  However...the same could not be said for two victims trapped within the Hotel as the fire took hold & raced through the corridors...two victims that would perish as a result of the flames. On the night of the fire, Dr Long was staying at the Hotel on an extended trip to Ipswich.  In the confusion that occurred at 1am in the morning through the Hotel's halls, not only was he unable to grab his surgical equipment, he was also unsuccessful in rounding up his two poodles which were travelling with him.  Both of the poor canines perished within the blaze, & were the only two living things that perished that night...not a single human soul was lost in the 1885 fire.

So what of our ghost story, I hear you ask - nobody died in the fire that destroyed the Shamrock Hotel??  Well...let's continue along the evolutionary path of the site...

After the destruction of the original Shamrock Hotel, a new establishment was slowly rebuilt on the same site under the new moniker of the Club Hotel.  Trade seems to have travelled well until 1892, when the license of the venue came up for renewal.  In July 1892, Mrs Nolan applied for the licence of the Club Hotel, an application that would be refused by the Police on the grounds that a married woman with husband could not hold a licence.  A Melbourne Supreme Court ruling was put forward in Mrs Nolan's defence, & the Licensing Board allowed the application to pass & receipted the necessary fee from the woman...however, the State Treasury refused to accept the money from the Licensing Board, & demanded the Police Commissioner close the establishment at once.  As such, the Club Hotel was closed indefinitely by the Police on the 4th of July, despite the Licensing Board's ruling.  Mrs Nolan was forced to contest the decision of the Treasury on the grounds of the Married Womens' Property Act, a new piece of legislation that would, in turn, allow her to hold a licence for the Club Hotel.  What seems a ridiculous & highly sexist notion now, was quite a bone of contention just over 100 years ago...

And thus, after having been reopened, the Club Hotel rolled on for almost 14 years without major incident or concern...until another disaster threatened its well-being.  In the Ipswich City Council's "Rubbidy-dubs to Pubs Then & Now" brochure, which can be downloaded from their website here, it's stated that the Club Hotel was, "also damaged by fire in 1916 but was repaired" - could this possibly be the fire that gave rise to the building's haunting??  Unfortunately, for both our ghost story & accurate history, this statement is not entirely correct...On the 4th of December 1915, at approximately 2am on a Saturday morning, a fire broke out in a row of buildings adjoining the Club Hotel.  The fire ripped through 3 shops containing a fruiterer, a bootmaker & some tea rooms - all three shops were grossly under-insured for such a disaster, & were completely enveloped.  However, before the fire could progress to the Club Hotel next door, the Fire Brigade managed to contain the blaze & the Hotel was spared by a hair's breadth.  Apart from a slight scorching & some minor water damage, the Club Hotel escaped unscathed...hence, in contradiction of common belief, the Hotel was not in essence damaged by fire & repaired, & nor did the event occur in 1916...furthermore, not a soul was lost in the blaze that claimed the adjoining three premises.

For the next 90 years, the Club Hotel plied its trade, watching patrons come & go without injury or death.  In the 1990's, the venue underwent a further name change for the third time in its life - it would become known as the Settler's Inn.  It would continue under this new name up until a couple of years ago, at which time the building was purchased by an investment conglomerate for redevelopment.  Finally, about two months ago, this beautiful old building at the "top of town" saw a gala reopening, as the Stumps Hotel & Tapas Tree Restaurant - a very ritzy establishment in comparison to the site's humble beginnings.  Does the Settler's Inn ghost still inhabit the building after the extensive renovations & reopening??  Only time will tell...however, what do we make of this ghost story & the apparent resident haunting of the building??  We know that no deaths occurred during the 1885 blaze & near-miss fire in incidents occurred in or around the Hotel with a direct link to the site that might give rise to a haunting...after having pulled the site's history apart, not a single death could be located...except one...

 Death Notice (The Moreton Bay Courier, 24th July 1852)

On the 5th of July 1852, after having fallen ill & suffering from deteriorating health over a three day period, the original proprietor of the Shamrock Hotel passed away within his original Hotel.  After having invested his heart & soul in the premises, only six months after undertaking extensive renovations, Henry Savary passed away at the age of 40.  Could the ghost of the Settler's Inn be the spirit of Henry returning from time to time to watch over the evolution of his pub?  It may just be a long-shot...but how wonderful a notion it is to imagine one of Ipswich's earliest residents might still be keeping an eye on the place!