Micky the parrot worked for charity at Clifton’s Imperial Hotel

Imperial Hotel, Clifton, 1949. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

BUSINESS identities, Rube and Jack Hargrave took over the management of the Imperial Hotel at Clifton, north of Wollongong, in 1956.

The husband and wife team operated the cliff side pub in the Illawarra region of NSW for 17 years before their retirement.

While at the pub, the Hargraves had a cheeky parrot by the name of Micky, which became famous for his charitable antics. Micky was a 43-year-old corella parrot in 1962, which collected pennies in his beak from his cage placed on the front verandah of the pub on the Hargraves’ busiest trading day – Sunday, when tourist from Sydney packed the Imperial to enjoy a drink and lunch. The parrot collected hundreds of pounds for the Cripple Children’s Charity over his career.

Micky originally belonged to the Rev. Arthur Taylor, who lived near a tram terminus in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra. The cocky learned to imitate the old tram whistles and became so adept at it that no one could distinguish between the real whistles and Mick’s imitations. This caused great confusion among tram crews, and the Rev Taylor gave him to the Hargraves.

Old Mick died after the Hargrave retirement from the pub, and was buried in the yard of their home in Thirroul.

The Australian Women’s Weekly visited the Imperial Hotel in 1962, and reporter Trevor Murrell gave a fantastic account of Micky and his charitable antics:

Parrot works for charity

Rube Hargrave with Micky the parrot at the Imperial Hotel, Clifton.
Rube Hargrave with Micky the parrot at the Imperial Hotel, Clifton.

MICK the parrot takes a penny from Mrs. J. Hargrave for his collection box. He has raised £450 for the Crippled Children’s Society.

Every seven weeks a blue tin collection box containing £10 is delivered to the Wollongong Branch of the Crippled Children’s Society – sent by an ardent collector.

Yet this indefatigable charity worker, who single-handed has raised more than £450, never moves outside the Imperial Hotel at Scarborough, near Wollongong.

He is Mick, a 43-year-old corella parrot, who is the hotel’s star boarder.

When we went to see him we met the hotel licensee, veteran surf club member Mr. Jack Hargrave, and his wife, “Rube,” the only woman alderman on Wollongong City Council.

Mrs. Hargrave led us down the hall, stopped, and knocked on a door.

“Come in, come in,” a voice called.

Mick tilted his head to one side and eyed us up and down as we entered his room.

Then, deciding that we didn’t look too bad, he burst into a loud and tuneful whistle-and dance routine.

Periodically he broke off to urge us to join in with cries of “Come on, come on.”

Each Sunday and public holiday Mick sits in his cage on the hotel verandah, collecting patrons’ loose change.

Mick originally belonged to the Rev. Arthur Taylor, who lived near a tram terminus in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra.

Mick learned to imitate the old tram whistles and became so adept at it that no one could distinguish between the real whistles and Mick’s imitations.

This caused great confusion among tram crews.

Finally transport officials approached Mr. Taylor: Mick would have to go.

So Mr. Taylor gave him to Mr. and Mrs. Hargrave.

When women walk past, Mick can emit a wolf-whistle which any all-Australian red blooded male would envy.

The wolf-whistle caused quite a stir several years ago when the Hargraves had a kiosk at Sublime Point.

Mrs. Hargrave’s father, then 88, was washing up by the kitchen window. Mick was nearby out of sight.

As two women walked past the window Mick let out a lusty wolf-whistle.

Indignantly the women gave the innocent old man a dressing-down.

“One of them wanted to slap his face,” Mrs. Hargrave said.

Mick has been barred from the Sunday night entertainment at the hotel, because he once stole the show from a performer.

He can mimic a woman’s laugh perfectly, and when a woman wearing tight slacks or matador pants enters the hotel, Mick says: “Ooh . . .  Look at her!”

Telephone conversations at the Imperial Hotel are impossible if Mick is near.

Although he sings out,  “Jack! Phone!” whenever the telephone rings he insists on joining in the conversation.

The caller usually hangs up in confusion.

Mick started collecting for charity at Sublime Point when visitors gave him coins.

He learned to say, “Thank you,” and drop the coin into his water-tin.

Six years ago Mr. and Mrs. Hargrave set Mick up in “business” for the Crippled Children.

Each Sunday Mick says to Mrs. Hargrave, “You all right? You ready?” and goes out to the verandah to take pennies in his beak.

Imperial Hotel, Clifton, 1949. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.


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Categories: Illawarra Hotels, NSW hotels, Publicans

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