Cock fighting at the Lakes Creek Hotel, North Rockhampton


Crowd watching cockfight

A cock fight came off a few days since [at the Lakes Creek Hotel] between – well, say North and South ‘Sintown’ – for £10 a-side. The arrangements were of the most complete character, no meddling blue-coat putting in an appearance. The South ‘Sintown’ birds proved victorious, winning the two first mains by driving the steel spurs through the heads of the opposition roosters. – Deerfoot.

-The Capricornian (Rockhampton) Saturday 3 September 1887

Australian Cock-fighting: Incidents of the Early Days

Contributors to the Sydney based newspaper, The World’s News related interesting reminiscences of cock-fighting witnessed in Australia. The World News reported on August 7 1920:

cock fighting Referee 17 October 1900“A.C.B.” tells of what happened at Botany: “Reading of the cock-fighting entertainments of the Continent brings me to the same sport nearer at hand. Cock-fighting was fairly common twenty years ago in Sydney, as men are the same here as elsewhere. The favorite spot for the fights was a secluded portion of the sand dunes at the back of Botany. Cock fights were also enjoyed on the spot where the Epping course is to-day; that is thirty years ago. These positions were selected, as the sport was illegal, and, with sentries posted at regular places, the approach of a ‘limb of the law* was readily noted and the birds bagged and hustled away in their owners’ arms. I have seen all classes and conditions of men deeply interested in a battle between two game birds on the Botany arena. The audience included bank clerks, brokers, racing men, “bottle-ohs” and the flotsam and jetsam of a city. Money passed hands freely, and books were kept; and, I believe, all debts honourably settled.

“The birds were trained by devotees of the sport in many suburbs. Often the poultry yards enclosed game birds who were being trained systematically for a great battle, often to the death. Steels were, of course, fitted to the birds, which makes the sport more disgusting from a humanitarian point of view, and many a fine young cockerel paid for the sport of man with its life. Often the suburban back yard, if in a secluded position, formed a convenient spot for the meeting and trying out of several birds, unknown to the general public, for like all other sports, cock-fighting gave room for a little deception and money making on the secret.

“Though there was no jockey to run dead, there were other ways of fixing a fight-a certain drug administered to a sure winner would make him groggy and uncertain in his lunges, with the result that he would lose the battle, and. incidentally, his backers’ money. I have many times noted a man with a suspicious bulge under his coat making in tho direction of Botany and known that under it reposed the makings of a fight.”


“WAY VERLEY PENN” gives this version: “I can relate a first-band account (having been particeps criminis) of very earnest and gory matches between English (and other) Game roosters in the yard of a certain hotel off Hannan Street, Kalgoorlie, in the pioneering days of the Golden Mile-late in 1897. Saturday afternoon was the great gala time for these cock-fighting contests, and it was no uncommon thing for the keenest enthusiasts at the game to pay non-interested miners to exchange shifts with them to allow the owners and followers of the game, who ordinarily would have had to go below on Saturday after noon shift, to be ‘in at the death,’ figuratively speaking. Only figuratively – for few owners of the fighting birds allowed their ‘pets’ to be completely outed, preferring to acknowledge defeat when one bird was obviously superior. Wagering was big on these matches – £20 a side being the usual stake between owners, while the onlooking miners bet even money in fivers and tenners. English gamecocks were the more often triumphant, although I well remember an Indian Game bird, jet black, with spurs of almost the solidity of steel, winning live matches on consecutive Saturdays. His owner allegedly won £100 over each success.”


“RUSSELL” :- “Early in December, 1847, on what was then known at the Brighton (Vic.) racecourse, a light took place between a gamecock owned by a convict named Harris, the Government hangman, and another, the property of a Melbourne publican. Many spectators assembled at 8am to witness the combat, which had created considerable interest in sporting circles. After a particularly sanguinary [bloodthirsty] battle, the convict’s bird scored a win in a little over ten minutes.”


WRITES “Xaxamus” from Queensland: “Cock-fighting, illegal now for many years, was much practised in Toowoomba (Qld.) and surrounding towns, more than thirty years ago. It was a favorite pastime on Sundays. A draughts board was always kept in readiness in case the police should happen along.”

A history of the Lakes Creek Hotel, North Rockhampton

lakes creek hotel rockhampton

The third hotel on the site of the original single storey inn at Lakes Creek 2002. Photo: Environment Queensland.

The third hotel on the site, the current public house was constructed in 1895 by builder T Moir, to a design by prominent Rockhampton architectural firm Eaton and Bates.

The first hotel, known as The Star, was constructed opposite a meatworks in 1871 and was considered by The Morning Bulletin as an unusually large and commodius hotel. It was described as 60 feet by 40 feet, and had seven or eight fairly furnished rooms.

The first licencee was James Cadden. In 1876, the Star Hotel was renamed the Quarry’s Arms Hotel. By 1879 the Quarry’s Arms was under ownership of James Fenzi, with Martin Zimmerman holding the barman’s licence. At three o’clock in the morning of January 6, 1880, the Quarry’s Arms burnt to the ground. Reports at the time suggested that the fire was started by rats gnawing through shelving in the bar, causing bottles of liquor to fall and somehow ignite. The single story timber building was consumed within 10 minutes of the start of the blaze. It appears probable that Martin Zimmerman purchased the site from James Fenzi and constructed a new hotel, presumably another single story house built also of timber, and named it the Lake’s Creek Hotel.

Martin Zimmerman was an interesting character, who hosted his first pub, the Live and Let Live, in the gold mining settlement of Nashville, now known as Gympie in northern Queensland, during 1867. Nashville was named after James Nash, who discovered gold in the area in 1867. The name of the town was changed to Gympie in 1868.

Zimmerman was running the Nil Desperandum Hotel, with two sitting rooms and 13 bedrooms, in Gympie’s main street in 1868, before taking up the license of the European Hotel in East Street Rockhampton, with four sitting rooms, and six bedrooms, in 1871.

Zimmerman’s next pub was the Rockhampton Hotel at the corner of East and Derby Streets in August 1874. The Rockhampton Bulletin reported on Monday February 22 1875 that Zimmerman was committed the lunatic asylum:

AT the police station on Saturday evening, before Messrs. S. B. Davis and C. Harden, Justices, Martin Zimmerman, landlord of the Rockhampton Hotel, East street, was committed to the Lunatic Reception House for one month, upon the testimony of Dr. Robertson. The evidence adduced proved that the accused had been drinking lately, and was suffering from a slight attack of mental excitement. He is expected to be quite recovered in a few days.
Zimmerman never returned to the Rockhampton Hotel, which was taken over by James Fenzi, and he was declared insolvent after mounting debts. When Fenzi re-opened the Star Hotel on Cowarral Road at Lakes Creek in August 1876 as the Quarry Arms, he employed Zimmerman as a barman. Zimmerman’s bad luck followed him to the Quarry Arms, with the pub burning to the ground. The Morning Bulletin (Rockhampton) reported on Wednesday January 7 1880:
YESTERDAY morning, at three o’clock, the hotel, known as the Quarry Arms, Lake’s Creek, Owned by Mr. Fenzi, was burned to the ground. Mr. Fenzi was in Rockhampton at the time, and the only persons on the premises were Mrs. Fitzpatrick, general servant, and Martin Zimmerman, barman. Mrs. Fitzpatrick heard the clock strike three, and was on the point of going to sleep again when she heard a bottle fall in bar, and in a few minutes afterwards she was alarmed by the loud crackling of fire. Hastily, dressing herself, she aroused Zimmerman, who was sleeping in a bedroom not far from the bar ; but by this time the fire had got so fierce a hold of the building that it was utterly useless for the two persons to do anything with the hope of extinguishing it. The only thing they could do was to try to save their own personal effects from the bed-rooms, and Zimmerman succeeded in getting out three boxes and a few other things. Mrs. Fitzpatrick also managed to get a few things out of the building, but so rapid was the progress of the flames that ten minutes had not elapsed from the time the fire was first seen until the whole of the roof fell in. With these exceptions, the house, and every-thing in it was completely consumed,. The hotel, furniture, and stock were insured in the City Mutual Office for £400, but as the house was sixty feet by forty, containing seven or eight rooms, and fairly furnished, this sum does not represent the loss incurred by Mr. Fenzi. The cause of the fire is unknown, but it is surmised that the gnawing of rats damaged the shelf through which the bottle of spirits fell on some matches which, igniting, found ample fuel in the surrounding alcohol. Constable Glackin and Mr. Alexander, agent of the Insurance Company, visited the scene of the fire yesterday, and ascertained the above particulars.
The license of the Quarry Arms was transferred from Fenzi to Zimmerman in March 1880. Zimmerman rebuilt the pub, giving it the name of the Lake’s Creek Hotel. Controversy continued to follow the publican when in August 1881 Zimmerman fronted the courts for “abandoning his licensed house”. He had been in strife for selling liquor outside of lawful hours, and by the end of the year he was struggling financially. He was declared insolvent for a second time early in 1882, and seems to have hit the bottle.
Information was brought to town on Thursday by constable Hogan, who is stationed at Lake’s Creek, that a man named Martin Zimmerman had died somewhat suddenly at his residence, Lake’s Creek Hotel. The deceased had been drinking off and on for some months, and was advised to leave the hotel, and go with a friend into the country. On Thursday morning this friend, whose name we have not ascertained, returned to Lake’s Creek, bringing deceased back in a spring-cart. He was then very ill, and shortly after died. The hot weather of the previous day, it is thought, had caused serous apoplexy. Zimmerman was an old Rocknamptonite, having arrived here as far back as 1863. He followed the occupation of a miner, and was at one time proprietor of the European Hotel. From his knowledge of the deceased, the Police Magistrate does not deem it necessary to hold an inquiry.
The Capricornian (Rockhampton) Saturday 18 March 1882

After Zimmerman’s death, his wife Mary took over the pub for a few weeks before the single storey weatherboard building was sold to Fred Comley. Comley promoted various sports over the many years he owned and operated the pub. During Comley’s time, a large black cockatoo was kept as a pet at the pub.

This second pub, built by Zimmerman, continued to serve local patrons and travellers along the Cawarral Road and was purchased in 1890 by Thomas McLaughlin (Senior), the founder of Rockhampton’s famous ‘Mac Beer’ and owner of the Fitzroy Brewery in Quay Street during the 1880s and early 1890s, until his death at sea in 1892 whilst travelling to New Zealand.

His company, Thomas McLaughlin & Co., was managed by his sons Joseph and Daniel who continued to run the Lake’s Creek Hotel. Ownership of the hotel stayed in the family until its sale in 1971 to the Victorian company, Carlton United Brewery. During the 1980’s, the hotel once more passed into local ownership, being purchased first by the McClymont family, then to Leigh Wanless, before being sold to the current owners in 1994.

It was not long before the demands of the growing village of Lake’s Creek, local settlers and travellers to the communities along the Cawarral Road and the township of Emu Park, caused the owners of the hotel to consider expanding their establishment to supply the needs of an increasing patronage.

The current heritage listed hotel on the site was built in 1895. On April 2, 1895, The Morning Bulletin advertised for tenders for the erection and completion of extensive hotel premises, Lakes Creek, for D. McLaughlin, Esq., under the direction of Messrs. Eaton and Bates, newly established architects for Rockhampton and surrounding districts who offered to provide designs with all the latest improvements.

– Courtesy of Environment Queensland:


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Categories: Publicans, Queensland hotels

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