Shenton Park Hotel’s publican met a nasty death

shenton park hotel 1985
The Shenton Park Hotel, Shenton Park 1985. Picture: Western Australia State Library.

THE publican of the Shenton Park Hotel met a painful death in 1928, after accidentally swallowing poison from a cup, left in the bathroom by his daughter for cleaning purposes.

Veteran goldfields publican Jim Durkin drank the liquid version of Formaldehyde, used to preserve animal specimens, just a week after becoming licensee.

The Shenton Park Hotel was built in 1907 on the corner of Nicholson and Derby Roads, Shenton Park, a suburb of Perth, Western Australia.

Last drinks were called at the pub in 1999, and the building is now used for residential purposes.

Former Shenton Park Hotel, Shenton Park. Picture: Google.

The Shenton Park was the third hotel built in the City of Subiaco, after the Subiaco (1898) and the Victoria (1900).

The future looked promising for the new pub, with the Subiaco Football Club based in the area, and an assumption that the Shenton Park Lake recreation area would be developed as the municipality’s main sporting facility. However, the football club relocated to Mueller Park in 1908 and the hotel struggled financially, until licensee, Joseph Davis, built a stage with seating on the adjacent lot and provided concerts for customers.

After 1910, the area developed as a residential area and business boomed. Alterations were carried out in 1928 when experienced hoteliers Jim and Edith Durkin took over as hosts.

A career publican, James William Durkin married Edith Lucy Phillips in 1902 before the pair went on to host a number of hotels in the gold mining centre of Kalgoorlie.

The Durkins were at the helm of the Piccadilly, Union Club and Tattersall’s Hotels at Kalgoorlie between 1902 and 1907, before making the move to Fremantle where they hosted the Davilak Hotel from 1907 to 1920, and later the Plympton Hotel from 1920 to 1928.

A bus crashes into the Shenton Park Hotel 1942. Picture: The Perth Daily News Wednesday 21 January 1942.

Jim Durkin’s death in 1928 while licensee of the Shenton Park Hotel is arguably one of the most tragic events in the history of the heritage listed former hotel.

Jim and his wife Edith had only been at the helm of the pub for a week when the accident happened.

Jim reportedly had been enthusiastic about his new hotel venture at Shenton Park. The experienced publican, along with his wife and children, had been working hard most of the day in their efforts to bring the hotel up to scratch.

Exhausted after a long day, Jim hit the sack, before waking in the early hours of the morning, dry and thirsty. In the semi-darkness he made his way to the bathroom for a drink of water. Filling a cup with water, he swigged-down its contents and immediately felt his throat burning.

Jean his daughter had been cleaning the bathroom earlier in the day. When she was called for lunch, she left a cup about half full of formalin, a liquid version of Formaldehyde, on the window ledge of the bathroom. She later told an inquiry she had forgotten about the cup, until the following morning about 5am, when awakened by her father’s groans.

Jim’s wife, Edith gave him an emetic of salt and water before calling a doctor, who ordered the publican’s removal to Perth Hospital. Jim was rushed to the hospital where he died at the age of 48 the following day.

An inquest found that the publican died from formalin poisoning on January 7 1928, accidentally taken by himself, and that there were no suspicious circumstances.

Formalin, a liquid solution of Formaldehyde used to preserve animal specimens, was commonly used as a cleaning product in the 1920s and 30s. 

In 1999 the Shenton Park Hotel closed for business, and the building was converted into ‘Shenton Village’, residential apartments for retirees.

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Categories: Perth Hotels, Western Australia hotels

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