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Melbourne’s Acting Publican

The Dramatic Club Hotel, Melbourne

royal princess theatre melbourne

The Royal Princess Theatre, Melbourne, where publican George Ireland appeared on stage in 1879.

The Irony of Circumstances.

On the same day that Mr. G. R. Ireland the well-known actor commenced to play the part of the reformed drunkard in “Ten nights in a bar-room,” he became the licensee of an hotel in Melbourne. We expect that our old friend G.R.I. will be pestered with teetotallers trying to convince him of the errors of his ways.

– Melbourne Punch Thursday 10 April 1879.

George Richard Ireland

George Richard Ireland, actor & publican.

George Richard Ireland was an actor, who was 45 when he appeared in the play, Ten Nights in a Bar Room” at Melbourne’s Royal Princess Theatre.

‘Ten Nights in a Bar Room and What I Saw There’ was adapted from an 1854 novel written by American author, Timothy Shay Arthur.

The play tells the story of an alcoholic, who spends most of his time at the Sickle and Sheaf bar. One day, his daughter begs him to return to his family. He initially ignored her, until she is hit in the head by a flying bottle.

On her death bed, she begs her father to abandon alcohol, to which he agrees. Ten Nights in a Bar-room was a financial success for Arthur and became the second most popular book of the Victorian Era, following Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

The novel was easily transferred to play format, so it was frequently used to promote liquor prohibition and temperance to large audiences.

While the popular actor appeared on stage, he ironically became host of a pub in Swanston Street, Melbourne, opposite St Paul’s School. The acting publican was granted the transfer of the license of the Freemasons Hotel from James Mitchell on March 25 1879, and he immediately changed its name to the Dramatic Club Hotel.

The Melbourne entertainment newspaper, Lorgnette reported on Monday April 14 1879:

We have great pleasure in drawing attention to an advertisement on our front page, notifying that the popular and favourite Australian actor, Mr G. R. Ireland, has become lessee of premises to be known as Ireland’s Dramatic Club Hotel, Swanston street. We feel assured the estimation in which is held by the public will bring him success in his new career. It is gratifying to us to know that we are not to lose him, from our metropolitan stage, as his new business will be under the direction of his no less esteemed wife.

Ireland appeared in ‘Ten Nights’ for a short season of six nights at Melbourne’s Royal Princess Theatre, during April 1879.

Like his stint at the Princess Theatre in ‘Ten Nights’, Ireland’s hotel venture in Melbourne was also short. He became a publican in April 1879, and five months later he was declared insolvent. He remained at the Dramatic Club Hotel until December 1880.

dramatic club hotel advert 1879

An 1879 advertisement for Ireland’s Dramatic Club Hotel, Melbourne

Like his career as a hotelier, the new sign of the Dramatic Club Hotel was short lived. The name of the hotel reverted to the Freemasons in 1880 after Ireland’s departure.

Ireland’s acting career though was much more successful. He first appeared on stage in 1859, and retired as an actor in 1897. Ireland died in St Kilda in 1913 aged 79.

LATE G. R. IRELAND.

Mr George Richard Ireland, one of the oldest actors in the Commonwealth, and a colonist of 60 years’ standing, died on June 24 at his residence, “Addiscombe,” Canterbury road, St. Kilda. Born in London, in 1834, the late Mr Ireland attained the age of 79 years. He was a son of Mr George Ireland, a prominent businessman and alderman of the city of London. The late Mr George Ireland was one of the fathers of the stage in Australia.


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