IN a confusing administrative error, two pubs in the fledging colliery town of Kurri Kurri NSW officially were known by the same name for a short time in 1904.
Robert Robertson, an experience hotelier, was 53 when he applied for a conditional license for a pub at the corner of Coronation Street and Victoria Street in February 1903.
Robertson was a native of Edinburgh, Scotland, and was 26 when he arrived in Newcastle with his wife and two children in 1876.
The Scotsman was no stranger to the pits, securing employment after leaving school in one of the Dalmeny collieries, of which his father was under-manager. As a consequence he had no problem gaining similar work when he arrived in Australia.
In 1881, at the age of 31 Robertson opened his first pub, the Victoria Hotel, in Wallsend; afterwards buying the Commercial Hotel at Minmi. After a short stay in Minmi, he returned to Wallsend, where he opened the Reserve Hotel.
When the South Maitland coalfields opened, he was present at the first sale of properties, and purchased the block on which he the Station Hotel currently trades, thus becoming Kurri Kurri’s pioneer hotelkeeper.
The Scotsman began building the Station Hotel in early 1903, when Kurri Kurri reeked of excitement and confidence.
Large sums were being spent on business places, including large pubs, apart altogether from the huge expenditure of the colliery companies.
Three hotels were under construction in September 1903, including Robertson’s, opposite the Kurri Kurri Railway Station, at a cost of about £3000.
The plans showed a two-storied building, with spacious balconies extending the full length of each frontage; 35 rooms, besides bathrooms, lavatories and a bar counter measuring 24 feet by 17 feet, and a large dining-room, 30ft by 18ft. It was an imposing pub, to say the least.
The architect was noted hotel designer, Mr, J. V. Scobie.
Robertson planned to open his pub for business on February 18 1904, but he was not aware that he had to apply to a special court for confirmation of his conditional license. A special court was held on February 18 enabling him to turn on his taps.
In an unusual twist to Robertson’s pub opening, he was forced to return to the courts again in April when he discovered that due to an administrative error his pub was licensed under the name of “The Kurri Kurri Hotel”.
This was discovered after John Jones was granted confirmation of the license if his nearby hotel under the same name.
The town had two pubs by the name of Kurri Kurri Hotel – now that could cause some confusion!
Robertson successfully applied for “the alteration of the name” of his pub from the Kurri Kurri Hotel to the Railway Hotel.
Jones’ nearby pub retained the name Kurri Kurri Hotel.
Robertson died from cirrhosis of the lungs in 1908. He left a widow and four sons, six daughters, the youngest of whom was 10 years of age, and eight grandchildren. He was buried in Kurri Kurri Cemetery.