One of Williamstown’s oldest hotels with a colourful past, Rose of Australia, is this week celebrating its 150th anniversary.
The hotel in Ferguson Street was established in 1867 by John Morgan who was a member of the borough council, according to the Pubs of Williamstown guide by late local historian Bruce Tait.
Councillors often served as magistrates at the local courthouse, and relations became strained after Mr Morgan was fined five pounds by his colleagues for illegal Sunday trading after a police raid on his pub.
One of the most eccentric publicans of the hotel was New Zealander Denis Irwin, who took over in 1987 and is thought to have been the first to introduce topless barmaids to Williamstown.
He had the hotel’s rose insignia tattooed on his rear, a decision that Mr Tait speculated he must have regretted: “It would always be a permanent reminder of his days at the ‘Broken Nose’, as he now called it. A hotel he labelled as the toughest, roughest pub in Melbourne.”
Current publican, former roof tiler Darren Green, took over at the end of 2014.
He said the old upstairs residents’ quarters, which used to house some nefarious characters, was rarely used for lodgings these days.
Mr Green also changed the hotel’s 7am licence, saying it was no longer necessary to open so early.
“The reason why the early opener was on was because when all the factories were running here years ago there was plenty of night shifts,” he said.
“You had the Tenix dockyards down here, employed 4000 to 5000 people, so every night there was 1000-odd people knocking off in the morning. By 7am, you’d have 50 people in here – just the boys having a knock-off beer.
“You had the abattoir down the road and the railway yard. It was a massive working town but all the industry’s gone now so there’s no need for that anymore.
“No one wants their beer at eight in the morning.”
One thing Mr Green loves about the Rose is that it’s an old-style hotel with character.
“I’ve always liked the old pub,” he said.
“I walk past the pokies pub to go to the other pub. I hate that banging in the background and Keno on TV and all that rubbish.”
Rose of Australia will celebrate its anniversary on Friday, October 13 with veteran Melbourne rock singer Jimmy Cupples – a finalist on The Voice Australia – performing from 8pm.