Roast beef, crisp brown spuds and a few ‘long-uns’ at the Cecil Inn

The Tyers River Inn, with a coach and a wagon outside, situated on the Moe to Walhalla coach road C1890. This is before the large dining room was added. Picture: Museums Victoria


IN a secluded, heavily timbered valley in the Victorian Highlands, about 20 km north-east of Morwell, once traded a small timber inn, famous for serving-up to its guests mouth-watering roast beef, crisp brown potatoes, and ‘long-uns’ of beer.

Host of the Cecil Inn, William Savige Gould would not allow a roast of beef to be cooked until it had hung for at least two weeks in his underground cellar. He was said to have had many other “old-world tricks”, beside “a most courtly manner – even when aroused for a ‘long ‘un’ at midnight”.

A “long ‘un’”, for those uninitiated, is slang for a long or tall glass of beer.

The Cecil Inn sat on the banks of the Tyers River, on a site now submerged beneath the waters of the Moondarra Reservoir, about 160km east of Melbourne in the Baw Baw Ranges.

William and Martha Gould’s inn became famous for feeding coach travellers, who stopped at their inn, huge portions of delicious sirloin steak, cooked to perfection.

The Goulds established their inn, where the old Walhalla coach road crossed the Tyers River, 10 miles from Moe, in December 1889. However, William had been in the region much longer.

William Gould left London in 1856 at the conclusion of the Crimean War, and on landing in the colony of Victoria went direct to the north-west goldfields in search of wealth. He was said to have discovered the first gold at Boggy Creek, 29km north of Bairnsdale in East Gippsland, in 1857. Gould’s gold claims were reportedly the first of the precious metal sold to the bank at Sale.

Gould left Gippsland in 1860 for New Zealand and three years later returned to Victoria where he again went prospecting for gold. In 1868, he again visited New Zealand, before returning to Victoria the following year.

With his wife, Martha, and 11-year-old son, William Jnr, they settled on 13 acres of land at Tyers River in 1878.

There’s little doubt the Goulds were operating an unlicensed inn at the river crossing when William, at the age of 57, first applied for a roadside victuallers license for the Tyers Valley on December 4 1889.

Less than 10 months after the inn was officially licensed, the newspaper, Gippsland Farmers’ Journal reported in August 1890: “About 10 miles from Moe the road descends abruptly to the valley of the Tyers, where a solitary shanty, the Tyers Inn, is the only sign of human occupation. Beyond that again are even steeper hills and even denser forests”.

The Goulds’ inn was undoubtedly a welcome sight for coach travellers between Moe and the gold mining village of Walhalla. In 1892, a large dining room was added to Tyers River Inn and its name was changed to the Cecil Inn.

The Cecil Inn, Tyers Valley, C1895. The “bar” is the small building near the gate, with the larger dining room to the right, behind the coach. Picture: Museums Victoria
The Cecil Inn, C1905, showing an enlarged bar. Picture: Museums Victoria

Gould was a great admirer of Lord Robert Cecil, a British statesman, who served as England’s prime minister three times over 13 years.

Gould was said to have been born on the prime minister’s estate. Photographs of the English prime minister, and members of his family, reportedly hung in prominent places on the walls of Gould’s inn.

The inn also boasted “a splendid dining-room capable of seating 40 persons” and where travellers by the coaches between Walhalla and Moe were “always sure of a welcome and good lunch”. At the back of the inn were “commodious stables” in which were stalls for 10 horses.

The pioneer publican had lobbied long and hard for the Moe to Walhalla railway. Although plagued by ill-health he watched in anticipation as the construction of the line got underway in 1904. However he was not see its completion and he died a year before the project was completed in 1910.

The pioneering innkeeper’s health had been failing for a few years when finally in 1909, 31-year-old William took his father by coach into Melbourne’s St Vincent’s Hospital. There was little doctors could do for the old publican and he was sent home. Gould died at his pub on March 4 1909 aged 77.

cecil inn gould andrew sestokas
Cecil Inn on the “old coach road” in the Tyers Valley, C1900. Picture supplied: Andrew Sestokas

The Narracan Shire Advocate reported on Wednesday March 17 1909: “It was coincident that deceased should have almost outlasted the traffic which it is expected the railway will soon monopolise from the road on which he had so long resided. He was always a very strong advocate of the… railway. Deceased leaves a widow and one son, Mr Wm. Gould. The remains were interred in the Moe cemetery on Friday, 5th inst.”

A railway station was opened near the Cecil Inn a year after Gould’s death, and named in his honour.

The railway was expected to be a boon for Walhalla, which was in decline due to gold mining operations becoming increasingly uneconomical. But the arrival of the railway did not save the town and the last gold mining company closed in 1914. The rail line eventually closed in sections from 1944 to 1954.

Meanwhile Martha and her son, William continued hosting the Cecil Inn at “Gould”. Although the town name of Gould was never officially gazetted, a small village did develop around the station. The Melbourne Argus reported on December 20 1920:

Walhalla is now a declining mining settlement, shut in a deep mountain gorge, but still full of interest, and as a restful yet romantic resort should command the attention of the tourist. The narrow-gauge railway leaves the main Gippsland line at Moe, 80 miles from Melbourne. From Moe, at an elevation of a little more than 200 ft. above sea level, it runs for the first few miles through completely uninteresting country, with here and there fertile flats near the crossings of the streams, but it is chiefly the profusion of wildflowers that claims notice. At Gould, 10 miles out, and near the Tyers River crossing on the old coach road, marked by the Cecil Inn of coaching days, the first evidence of activity is seen in the timber traffic, and thence onward timber sidings, timber tramways, and timber stacks prevail. As the higher levels are gained, the trees become larger, and Moondarra station, 15 miles from Moe, marks a complete change of country. The Moondarra plateau, 1,200ft. to 1,300ft. above sea level, is an area, several thousand acres in extent, of a volcanic capping.

Martha Gould retired as publican of the Cecil Inn at the age of 70 in 1923. She died in Collingwood aged 88 in 1941.

cecil inn gould 1950s Gippsland Water
The Cecil Inn Hotel, C1950 shortly before its closure. Picture: Gippsland Water

The Cecil Inn continued trading until it was resumed by the Victorian Government to construct the Moondarra Reservoir in 1958.

The old inn was demolished in the 1960s and its bar room saved and relocated on higher ground in nearby picnic grounds. The restored ‘bar’ remains a fitting tribute to a pioneer know for his sirloin steaks and ‘long-uns’ of beer.

Can anyone tell us the year the Cecil Inn shut for business?

Known licensees of the Cecil Inn, Gould

1889-1909: William Savige Gould

1909-1923: Ethel Gould

1923-1924: Dorothy Guy

1924-1925: Ethel Hamilton

1925-1927: Alice Stott

1927- 1928: Charles J. Gould

1928- ? Emma Gould

1930- Alice Stott

1930-1934: Laura L Morgan

1934- 1937: Edward Patrick Walsh

1937-1940: Harold Canny

1940-1951: William Bogan

1951- 1952: J.E. Flynn

1952-1955: Elizabeth Stella Chapman

1955 –  Jack Alexander Oliver and Audrey Jean Oliver

© Copyright Mick Roberts 2020

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