John o'Groat Hotel

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The John o'Groat Hotel was a hotel in Ballarat, Victoria, <1858>.




In 1860 a flood swept through Main road and the cellars of the John O'Groat Hotel were flooded.[1]


In 1859 it was situated in Main Road, Ballarat East.[2]

An Heritage Victoria listing gives the current address as 138 Main Road, Ballarat east.[3]


Community Involvement

Works Produced

Workplace Relations

The People

  • In 1858 the publican was John McIvor. He was fined 10s for having an unlicensed bagatelle table.[4]

In 1861 the licensee was William Irwin.[5]


See also

Hugh Gray


Burns Centenary Festival at the John O'Groat Hotel
About fifty Scottish and other gentlemen, admirers of the "inspired ploughman," whose hundredth birthday was thus being worthily kept, sat down at eight, p.m. last (Tuesday) evening to a well arranged and handsomely got-up dinner provided by hosts Roy and McIvor at the John o'Groat Hotel, Main road. Nothing could have exceeded the comfort of the occasion for every seat at the tables, which occupied the entire length of the long room, was occupied. Immediately over the chair the arms of Scotland stood prominent, in which were the standards of St. Andrew's Cross and the lion of Scotland, with the ever memorable motto of Nemo me impune la-cessit.
The chair was occupied by A. W. Semple Esq., at whose right hand sat Messrs M. P. Muir, and J. McIvor, and at whose left sat Messrs Graham (of Chalmers, Graham, & Co.] and Mr W. B. Boyd (of the Tannery Hotel). Mr Hugh Gray occupied the place of Vice-President. The table was laid in Scotch fashion, and sheep's bead kail, haggis and whisky, with other dainty edibles, successively shared the attention of the guests, and now and then Mr Rowan gave the company a little welcome Scotch pipe music The meal passed off with great success. At its conclusion, The Chairman commenced the "business" of the evening by giving the toast of the "Queen," which was drank with the honors befitting the occasion.
The Chairman then gave the health of "Prince Albert and the Royal Family." He did not-think their training had been any the worse from their acquaintance with the hills of Scotland in their Scottish home. It was drank with the customary honors.
The Chairman then gave the health of his Excellency the Governor, Sir Henry Barkly, who had, besides other merits, that of being a Scotchman. It would not be set against him that at that moment Sir Henry was in all probability proposing the health of "Scotland" in Melbourne. The company sang, "For he's a jolly good fellow" heartily.
Donald Bowan here piped the familiar air of " A man's a man for a' that."
The Chairman, then rose to give the ast of the evening. He said he 'was sure the company all knew the occasion of the present meeting, viz., to do honor to the Poet Burns. It was impossible for him to place the life of Burns in a fresh phase, or throw new light over his career. They were met to celebrate the memory of a man who was born in Scotland 100 years ago, but whose extraordinary faculties of mind were only now beginning to be fairly and properly appreciated. Of all the poets of Greece and Borne, not one had been so much honored as the hero of the present occasion. They had heard of a girdle round the earth, but Burns' songs had formed a chain of sympathy so strong that all round the world a similar festival to the present was being celebrated. The speaker deferred to a writer in the Geelong Daily News, who reckoned that the festival began three hours since in New Zealand, and would conclude at 8 a-m. the next morning at New York. This he considered the most extraordinary specimen of enthusiasm for a dead poet ever heard of. The privilege of holding a centenary festival was one very rarely enjoyed, and fell only to the lot of a few, who would transmit their memories future generations. Future festivals, would, he was sure, only tell of fresh appreciations and newly found admiration tor the poet Burns. It was hardly his place to enter into any exoráium on the genius of Burn?, as so many other men had exhausted eulogy, but it was just possible to profitably refer to Burns' life. He then reminded the company of a similar assembly taking place on Ballarat a year ago, when some of the speakers took the liberty of speaking of the great poet in terms of apology. If those speakers did not think the good in Burns life transcended the evil they had no business to be present. Were every man's character stripped as bare as Burns' had been, how many would stand the scrutiny as well? Would there be five? or one ? If all one's little thoughts and feelings were so completely exposed, was there any one present who could bear the operation as poor Burns did. Burns' extraordinary grasp of mind and sympathy with the better part of human nature, made him full ready to join convivial parties,but when it was recollected that most of his convivialities took place while he was receiving £7 10s. per annum as wages, they could not have been carried to such a great extent. This was a sufficient answer to the sneers of those who tried to exhaust their bad nature upon an ill-deserving subject. He thought, however, he had said enough upon this topic. What we most admired Burns for, was the association of his poems with the most beautiful of Scottish airs, which he had married to words that would hand his name down to immortality. He had picked up airs he had heard sung by Scotch maids or the laborer at the plough, united to ribald words, and then, (with his own words) given them a world-wide fame. Burns had collected these in a volume comprising about 80 songs, and they formed a repertoire, which he believed was not to be equalled in any country. The speaker then proceeded to describe the origin of the Burns' Centenary Festival, which had been initiated in Scotland some 7 months ago, when a festival at Alloway had been planned, and now within a short time it would be celebrated equally in Edinburgh, Glasgow, London and Dublin, as well as in Alloway; and in Sydney, Melbourne and Ballarat. In Melbourne he could say provision has been made in the Exhibition Building for 600 gentlemen and 400 ladies, and the enthusiasm was so great that sufficient tickets could not be issued. In Geelong, though some slight misunderstanding had arisen with the High land Society, the birthday was being celebrated with due honors. At Bendigo, Castlemaine, Tarrengower, Heathcote, in fact every place with a newspaper similar festivals were being celebrated. He would not wish to have seen the room more crowded than it was now, and if another festival was being held it rather increased their enjoyment than lessened it. (Cheers.) He would say no more but call upon them in silence to drink to the memory of a man who, 100 years ago, had commenced his career, but who only now was being recognised in his true character. Burns' genius was an extraordinary one, for it took common materials, and from them wove beautiful descriptions, the admiration of which formed a common link among Scotchmen wherever situated. To Burns was due the praise-shared in some slight degree by Sir Walter Scott-of attaching an interest to Scotch scenes and Scotch views, possessed by no other nation or country. After a few more words the chair man called upon the meeting to drink to the memory of Robert Burns. (Applause.)
The memory of Burns was then drank with due honors. Song-" There was a lad was born in Kyle,"Mr M'Indoe. Encore song -" We're a' met the'gether owre a wee drappie o't."
Mr Hugh Gray (the Vice President) then gave the health of "Scotland" in a speech of great humor dashed with appropriate sentiment. He remarked that Scotland could not number such glorious names in the present day as in time past, but he would look to the future hopefully. There was no country in the world which could produce such a tremendous number of great names, who formed a sort of permanent milky way in history. He knew of no country at all like Scotland in her prolific production of great men, such as Buchanan, Allison, James Watt, Or Black, Dugald Stewart, and others. As for poets, their name was legion, and to mention any would be invidious, so excellent were they all. He would ask where Byron got his inspiration if not from Scotland? and among fighting men few could compare with those who had left their Scottish home with a spirit like that which filled Scotland's great son, Sir, John Moore. After alluding to the ubiquity of Scotchmen, the speaker concluded amid loud cheers. ... [6]

The morning of the 11th January, 1861, will long be remembered as a sad epoch in the annals of Ballarat. Sixty buildings, including shops and stores, two theatres, &c, either burned down or gutted, and some forty others seriously damaged, and a loss of property estimated at £50,000, with scores of families houseless and pennyless, is sufficient to cast a gloom over the whole town, east and west, such as never before has been experienced, women and children flying in the dead of night, to wherever they could find temporary shelter-are all sufficient to awaken our best feelings and enlist our sympathies in favor of the unfortunate sufferers, and share in the general feeling of despondency and commiseration that obtains in all quarters of the town, especially for those who have lost their all by the devastating element. In the midst of these trials and sufferings it is refreshing to behold the feeling of self-reliance which animates some of the sufferers who have already taken steps to erect business premises on the sites of those just burned down; and foremost among these are Mr Smith, of the Montezuma, Dr Hobson, who has already contracted for a brick structure, and Mr Symons, of the ill-fated "old Charlie," who states that like a Phoenix, another building shall arise from the ashes of the former one. These men seem to bear their losses philosophically, and in thinking of the future seem to ignore the past.
With regard to the origin of the fire it yet appears to be enveloped in mystery, although Mr Smith states that he is positive the fire broke out in the property room of the Montezuma Theatre, and that it must have been the work of an incendiary, as when he beheld the fire it was confined to that part of the premises. Others assert that it broke out in the tobacconist shop at the corner of the block of buildings, but which of the stories is correct we are not in a position to decide. At all events, the fire reached the street first through the tobacconist's, and it was the first erection that gave way before the invader. All of the houses on the side of the street opposite to that on which the fire broke out have been more or less injured, especially the Golden Age Hotel, the Old House at Home, the Star Hotel, and the Royal Mail Hotel. The fire several times caught the two latter, but the indefatigable hose-men as often extinguished the blaze. The appearance of the street on Friday morning, and indeed the whole of the shops, stores, &c., on that side of the street, was proof positive of the narrow escape which they had from destruction. The plate glass windows in the Star Hotel were completely destroyed; the windows of the Royal Mail were also broken, as indeed were the whole of the windows of the shops in their vicinity. In some instances we have heard of the rabble, who are always to be found when the work of destruction is going on, forcing their way into premises where they had no business, such as the United States Hotel, and helping themselves despite the barman, at the taps, &c. Some person stole a gold watch and chain from the chimney piece of Raphael Brothers, and the police apprehended some fellows with boots &c. in their possession. Conduct such as this deserves the reprobation of every person in the community. The Eastern Fire Brigade continued to pour a sheet of water on the burning debris up to 10 o'clock yesterday morning, while the houseless sufferers were engaged in collecting together, whatever little property might be found in the ruins of their former homes. Horses and carts were flying in all directions with the remnant that had escaped the flames, and many of the untenanted houses on the Main Road, in the vicinity of the Rock of Cashel, found ready occupants. As we remarked in our previous issue, nearly a quarter of a mile of ground in length was occupied by the houses burned down, and in all that extent of ground there was but one brick building, namely, the Shakspeare Hotel, which very recently was occupied by some Chinamen as a restaurant, and the back buildings of this were even composed of wood. Under these circumstances it is not to be wondered at that the fire spread with such velocity, and that building after building fell a prey to the devastating element in the short space of one hour and a half. In fact the flames licked up one tenement after the other as if they had been stubble, and ceased not in their destructive career until checked by the brick wall of Mr Jones' Criterion Store, on one end, and the pulling down of a building, and a copious supply of water from buckets and hose, on the other. What was once a busy mart of trade and industry is now a charred mass of rubbish, and brick chimneys, like so many monuments of the devastation that has been made, spring upwards, looking down upon the sad and sorrowful scene below. Many of the sufferers were uninsured, although they have made repeated applications to some of the insurance offices, the agents of which evince a decided repugnance to insure house property on the "Flat." Among these is Mr Simmons, who has lost everything he possessed. We hear that the policy of insurance on the Union Jack store arrived from Melbourne on the morning of the fire, and others we hear had only just completed their insurance. One or two persons received slight bruises during the fire, but happily no injury of a serious nature occurred. Several dogs were burned, and a horse that was in some back premises left by a gentleman in the care of Mr Bell, Clerk of Petty Sessions, is missing. Fowls innumerable were destroyed, independent of a variety of pet animals and some goats. A patrol of mounted and foot police were on duty on the Main road on Friday for the protection of property. The telegraph wires which had been melted down near the Montezuma Hotel were repaired early on Friday morning, and the telegraph master issued a notice stating that communication with all parts of the colony was uninterrupted. The insurance offices that are sufferers by the fire are the Melbourne, the Australasian, the Colonial, the Victoria, and the Queen, the latter to a very, trifling extent, and the first considerably.
The following are the names of the persons whose houses were destroyed: Raphael Brothers, clothiers, pulled down. The insurance on this building expired on the 7th inst, and Mr Farley, the landlord, declined to renew it.
Charles Franz, tin shop, ironmongery, partially down, not insured, family in a very bad state of health.
Margaret Oxford, confectionery, not insured.
Lucas & Co., general store, not insured.
Turner & Hoey, drapery, &c, insured in the Melbourne Office for £700.
George Heath, stationer, post office, Sec., insured in the Victoria for £450, and in the Australasian for £250.
Michael Levi, pawnbroker and jeweller, uninsured.
Henry Farley, greengrocery.
John Gellatly, saddler and harness maker, not insured.
B. Payne, North British Hotel, insured in the Colonial Office for £350.
O'Farrell & Son, sales yard, not insured.
Anne Plummer, Greenock Hotel, stock insured in the Colonial Office for £200, and the building by D. Jones, owner, in the Melbourne Office for £700.
Grimlett & Hambly, boot and shoe establishment, not insured.
James Service & Co., old police court, unoccupied, insured for £600 in the Melbourne Office.
T. B. Smith, Montezuma Hotel and Theatre, (owners Sweeney Brothers) uninsured.
Frederick Luhning, tobacconist; not insured.
Mr Evans, Shakspeare Hotel; building insured in the Colonial for £500.
Quong Hoi Loo, Chinese general store; not insured
Thomas Pope, fancy bazaar; not insured. Wm. A. Blair, hatter, &c.
Mr Whitten, boot and shoe shop; insured in the Victoria for £150 on stock, and £500 on the building.
B. Grove, unoccupied.
John Skardon, boot and shoe shop; said not to be insured. (The above three buildings were insured in the Melbourne office for £400.)
Simon Cohen, pawn office and jeweller; insured for £500 in the Colonial office on building and stock.
Hop Cheong Chinese store; not insured.
Holdsworth, fruiterer; not insured.
Thomas Carrick, boot and shoe store; not insured.
Abraham Morwitch, Great Britain Hotel; not insured.
Jane Clayton, fruit store; not insured.
John & Thomas Anwyl, drapery, &c. establishment; insured in the Colonial office for £400 on building, and £300 on stock, and in the Queen Life and Fire office for £600, and in the Melbourne office for £1000.
Frederick Price, Cornwall Arms; uninsured.
George Woodgate, dining rooms, owner Mr Banker of Melbourne; building insured for £200.
Bruce Speed, bakery and general store;
insured in the Colonial for £300.
Mr Ward, fruiterer's shop; not insured.
A. B. Simmons, general store, uninsured.
R. Jones Hobson, chemist's shop, &c. ; insured for £300 in the Colonial office, and £400 in the Australasian.
Palmer Brothers, Sebastopol Brewery; insured in the Melbourne office for £500 on building.
Alexander Hill, Eastern Dining Rooms; not insured.
Goodman (Meanowski) tobacconist; insured for £250 in the Melbourne office.
Martin Bade, tobacconist, &c; not insured.
Robertson & Graham, billiard rooms; not insured.
Edward Cantor, butcher; not insured.
Sydney Abraham, building insured for £200 in the Colonial office.
Daniel Symons, Charlie Napier Hotel, theatre, and cafe; insured in the Colonial for £300, and the building by Messrs Lazarus & Levinger in the Melbourne Insurance office for £500.
David Jones, Criterion Store; insured in the Victorian office for £1000, Colonial £2000, Australasian £2000, and Melbourne office £1000. Premises partly destroyed and partly gutted. There was a large amount of salvage.
George Hathorn, United States Hotel; partial damage, destruction of liquors, &c.
Bernstein & Co., Little Wonder Store; verandah and front partly pulled down: insured in the Colonial office, stock £300, building £150.
Mr Hayden, fruiterer; verandah pulled down.
Lister & Angel, fruit shop, and two others adjoining, partly pulled down.
Henry Lyte, Thos. Cox, Miss Brown, milliner; Samuel Isaacs, upholsterer; Messrs Lazarus, auctioneers ; and Mr M'Ivor, of the John o'Groat HotelLink title, also suffered damage by some of their windows being pulled down, &c.
We are assured by Mr A. P. Bowes, that were it not for the exertions of Messrs Rees, Boyd, and Allen, his premises, known as the Horse Bazaar, and nearly opposite O'Farrell's Saleyards, would have been completely destroyed. Exertions such as were made by the persons alluded to were the rule, and not the exception, during the fire, as the firemen generally appeared to have a total disregard for their own safety. They mounted burning roofs with alacrity, passed buckets of water from one to the other, and did everything they could to stay the progress of the fire. Nor were the members of one Brigade alone conspicuous for their deeds of daring, as the members of both seemed to vie with each other as to who would be the most useful. There was an absence of arrangement, however, among the members, which was apparent to every one present; but no doubt this laxity of discipline will be remedied in future. There was an unusually excellent supply of water-thanks to the Municipal Councils for the catch water drains which they got cut round the Swamp. The Gas Company are severe losers by the unfortunate occurrence, as nearly all of the houses destroyed were supplied with meters, which were rendered all but useless by the action of the fire.
A meeting of the local insurance agents was held in the office of Messrs R. & S. Gibbs, at half-past twelve o'clock on Friday and steps taken to secure and take charge of the salvage property which will be considerable, especially at the Criterion Store. They also inspected the various partially burned premises, and the outhouses where goods were piled, and an inventory of all that was saved was to have been taken during the day.[7]


  1. Ballarat Star, 11 December 1860
  2. Ballarat Star, 26 January 1859.
  3., accessed 03/02/2015.
  4. 1858 'EASTERN POLICE COURT.', The Star (Ballarat, Vic. : 1855 - 1864), 13 December, p. 4, viewed 25 October, 2014,
  5. Ballarat Star, 25 July 1861.
  6. Ballarat Star, 26 January 1859.
  7. Ballarat Star, 12 January 1861.

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--Clare K.Gervasoni 20:37, 3 February 2015 (AEDT)

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