Connor’s Bunyip Hotel, North Gippsland

bunnyip-hotel-north-gippsland-victoria

The passenger coach arrives at Connor’s New Bunyip Hotel, North Gippsland, Victoria

By MICK ROBERTS ©

A QUAINT inn, named after a mythical Aboriginal swamp creature, is a fine example of how changing transport routes can make or break a publican.

The New Bunyip Hotel traded about 80km south east of Melbourne, along what would later become the Prince’s Highway.

The pub was opened in 1867 by Irishman, David Connor on the banks of the Bunyip River to take advantage of traffic travelling along a newly opened coach road between Melbourne and Sale. But Connor’s pub didn’t always operate from that location. He was forced to move his business when the original coach road was re-routed about three kilometres to the south of his inn.

Connor’s first pub was located along the original main coaching road between Melbourne and Sale.

Although it’s difficult to determine the “Old” Bunyip hotel’s exact location, there are newspaper reports of the day stating it was located on the banks of the Labertouche Creek.

At the age of 33, in April 1855, Connor was granted a publicans license for the inn, and with his wife, Honora, and their children, they established the “Old Buneep Inn”.

The inn was named after the mythical Aboriginal creature, which was said to have inhabited the nearby ‘Koo Wee Rup’ swamp-lands, which have now been drained.

The area was known as Buneep or Bunyip as early as 1847 when a route was surveyed from Dandenong into Gippsland.

During the mid 1850s Connor purchased several blocks of land in the recently established township of Buneep, before opening his inn to take advantage of the expected coaching traffic.

At first Connor’s inn was a hive of activity with the Royal mail coach leaving it for Melbourne three days a week. This was not to last though. Within 12 years, a new coach road was opened further south, sounding the death knell for ‘Old Buneep’.

In response Connor built and licensed a new pub, about three kilometres down stream on the Bunyip River, along the new coach road.

The ‘New Bunyip Hotel’ was on the western bank of the river, a little north of the Princes Freeway, on the now closed original highway.

After Connor opened his new hotel, the ‘Old Buneep Inn’ continued trading in what was destined to become a ghost town. The inn was leased to Connor’s son-in-law, John Rhoden for a number of years.

The single storey timber inn eventually closed for business, and become abandoned. The building remained at Old Buneep to least to 1928.

Meanwhile the ‘New Bunyip Hotel’ did a roaring trade, until a change in transport habits again dealt Connor a business blow.

The railway came to Gippsland in 1877, with the station constructed 2.5 km south of Connor’s New Bunyip Hotel. As a result business drifted southward towards the station.

The Connors persevered and the family’s large land holdings were probably their saving grace. Connor owned at least three pubs in the area, the Old Buneep Inn, The New Bunyip Hotel, and the Halfway House at nearby Nar-Nar-Goon.

In his later years Connor was a farmer at Mount Shannon, Prahan, before his death on December 12 1887 at the age of 64. His widow, Honora, at the grand age of 82 became the licensee of the Halfway House at Nar-Nar-Goon in 1897. She died at the age of 84 on July 31 1899.

Connor’s son David junior took over the license of the ‘New Bunyip Hotel’ during the 1870s. He went on to become a well-known and respected citizen, and was elected president of the Warragul Shire Council prior to his death in 1914.

The New Bunyip Hotel was taken over by David and Eleanor Devaney in 1887. The husband and wife team ran the pub up until their tragic deaths in 1909. The West Gippsland Gazette reported on Tuesday 30 November 1909:

Mrs Eleanor Devenay, of the New Bunyip Hotel, who was severely burnt on Saturday night, succumbed to her injuries on Monday afternoon. It seems that Mrs Devenay on Saturday evening last moved some fire on a shovel from one room to another and knelt down in front of the fire place to make up the fire. This occupied a few minutes and when she got up the whole of her clothing at the back was in flames. Unfortunately she had dropped a few live coals on the floor and her clothing coming in contact with them and was quickly in flames. Mrs Devenay was dreadfully burnt before her daughters managed to subdue the flames, which they did at great personal risk and some painful burns. No hope of recovery was held from the first, and as above stated Mrs Devenay died on Monday afternoon. The funeral took place on Tuesday at the Drouin West cemetery, and was very largely attended. The funeral arrangements being in Mr P. Faragher’s hands, were as usual well carried out. Fathers Goldspink and Sterling read the service at the grave. On Wednesday evening at 7.30, the death of Mr David Devenay took place at his residence, the New Bunyip Hotel. Deceased was 80 years of age, and had been in indifferent health for some time, and the sad blow of the death of his wife had no doubt, accelerated his death, the cause of which was general break-up and heart failure. The funeral of the deceased will leave his late residence today (Friday) at 2.30pm for the Drouin West cemetery. Both deceased were very old residents of the Bunyip district, and were highly respected by all sections of the community. The deepest sympathy is expressed for the sorrow-stricken family in the loss they have sustained by the death of their parents in so short a space.

F. W. Cock was granted the license of the New Bunyip Hotel in 1911, and he operated the pub until its forced closure in 1917. I have been unable to determine when the pub was demolished.

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2016

 

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