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David Fitch, publican, mayor and sportsman: The Court House Hotel, Narromine

Fitchys Hotel Narromine Postcard front 1

Fitch’s Court House Hotel, Narromine, NSW 1908. Picture: Old Postcard

Court House Hotel Narromine NSW Google 2019

The grand-old Court House Hotel survives in Narromine to this day. Picture: Google 2019

For many years, during the early part of the 20th century, the Court House Hotel at Narromine, a town located about 40 kilometres west of Dubbo in the central west of New South Wales, was known simply as ‘Fitch’s’.

The Court House Hotel, located at 23 Burraway street, dates back to 1889, and continues to trade near the railway station.

David Fitch, was to say the least, a mover and shaker… A man who had his finger in just about every pie imaginable. He was a sportsman, a publican, a businessman, a politician and an avid community worker. It’s no wonder that following his death this detailed obituary was published in the Nepean Times on Thursday January 6 1944.

Death of Mr. David Fitch

OUTSTANDING PUBLIC MAN

MANY TIMES MAYOR OF PENRITH

David Fitch Court House Hotel Narromine NSW Nepean Times 1947

NO man figured more conspicuously in the public life of Penrith and district within the present century than did Mr. David Fitch (pictured right), who passed away in a private hospital at Haberflield on Tuesday evening, at the age of 74 years. His services to the community were legion, and will continue to be spoken of within the lifetime of those who knew him.

Three years ago the ill-health of Mr Fitch necessitated his retirement from public affairs, and to a man of his boundless energy and enthusiasm and flair for public life this was a hard blow. But age steals fire from the mind and vigour from the limb. It robed Mr Fitch of those elements of life that to a protagonist in the drama of the community are the fibre of his being, and under this galling experience his health deteriorated. So after life’s fitful fever he sleeps well, and numerous people far and wide honour his memory.

Mr Fitch was born at Emu Plains on March. 28, 1869, and was the son of David and Elizabeth Fitch, who some years previously had come out from England and lived for a time at Castlereagh and afterward at Emu Plains. He attended the school in the village when Mr Breyley was head master.

As a lad Mr Fitch was apprenticed to Mr Charles McDonald, a watch maker, of High Street, in later years a member of Parliament. Deceased, however, afterward relinquished that line of life and entered the railway service. He was employed at Penrith at the time when the late Mr Bell was stationmaster. Subsequently Mr Fitch did duties as relieving station master in the country. He resigned from the service at Dubbo. There he was married to Frances, eldest daughter of Thomas and Mary Ann Moston, of Dubbo, a very estimable lady, who passed away about 17 years ago.

Mr Fitch took over lease and licence of the Court House Hotel, Narromine, 47 years ago, and continued in business there for many years. He had a very honourable public career in that town, being an alderman for a number of years and Mayor for part of the time. On one occasion, in later years, Mr Fitch remarked, “I was baptised in Narromine as far as municipal matters are concerned in 1902, and when I left Narromine I was still in office.”

Mr Fitch was the leading figure in starting an Agricultural Society in Narromine. In those days the Government paid subsidies to such organisations, but there was a condition that if there was an existing society within 25 miles one could not start a society and get the Government subsidy, but the Government compromised by providing that if a new society obtained 200 members at one guinea it would get the subsidy. In 10 days Narromine obtained its 200 members and deceased was elected President.

Mr and Mrs Fitch and family came to Penrith In 1913, he having purchased 110 acres on the river, part of the old Rodley estate, from Mrs P. D. Woodriff. He did not buy the home-stead, but rented it for a time, finally purchasing the residence in Castlereagh Street, Penrith, that continued to be his home till recent years.

In this town his ability and vigour soon won him prominence as a public man, and during the ensuing years there was scarcely any phase of communal activity with which he was not associated as an executive officer.

Mr Pitch was first elected to Penrith Council at a by-election, on January 30, 1915, to fill a vacancy in South Ward, due to the resignation of Mr Clarrie Holler, his opponent being Mr M. G. Hughes. From then on he continued as an alderman of the municipality till the last triennial election in 1941, when his ill-health compelled his retirement. He always polled well at the municipal elections, both under the old wards and the present system.

Mr Fitch holds the record for the greatest number of mayoral terms in Penrith. He was first elected chief citizen of tho town in 1918 and also held office in 1917, 1920, 1923, 1924, and 1925. Then he was out of office till 1933, when he again went into the chair and continued there for eight consecutive years, doing 14 terms in all.

Many important local events characterised his mayoral years, including the visit of the Duke of Gloucester, Governor, Prime Minister, and others in high office, and always on import-ant social occasions Mr Fitch uphold the dignity of his office and did credit to the people whom it was his honour to represent. He was the possessor of medals and other souvenirs of important regal occasions issued to him as Mayor, such as the coronation in 1937, silver jubilee of George V., royal visit, etc.

Mr Fitch had a long association with hospital work, many years ago he and his late wife were made honorary members of Dubbo District Hospital for services rendered. The prominent part he played in the affairs of Nepean District Hospital is well known. He was on the committee about 30 years ago for a time, was out of the work for years, and then came into it again about twelve years ago as a member of the Board, continuing as such until ill-health necessitated his resignation. He was Chairman of the Board for several years, succeeding the late Mr Arthur Judges when he relinquished the position.

Mr Fitch was a member of Nepean A.H. and I. Society for about 30 years and was President for a time, but whether in that position or just as a committeeman he took an active part in the Show, particularly as ringmaster for the trotting. And mention of that sport recalls that Mr Fitch was for years a trotting enthusiast, being the owner of several very successful horses, including Derbyite, Plain Bill, Barlow, and others. On various occasions he was the successful driver in their races.

Deceased was president of Penrith Benevolent Society for many years, giving much of his time in the cause of charity. He served as secretary and president, in different periods, of Penrith branch of the National Party and U.A.P. In 1920 Mr Fitch was nominated for the State Parliament. Penrith at that time, under proportional representation, was in the far-spread Cumberland electorate, which returned three members, and Mr Fitch and Mr Barton Addison were candidates in the interests of the then Progressive Party. There were many candidates, however, and the National and Labour Parties carried too many guns for the others and the Progressive nominees were not successful.

During the last war Mr Fitch was very active in patriotic and recruiting movements, and was a local repatriation officer. His sympathetic interest in the returned soldiers was very pronounced and took practical form. Appreciation of his services in this regard was indicated by his election as a patron of Penrith branch of the R.S.S. A.I.L.A. some years ago, a position he retained till his death.

In September, 1938, Mr Fitch was entertained by people of Penrith and neighbouring districts at a largely attended function at the Log House, which was organised as a recognition of his many years of valued public service. He was acclaimed by many speakers in responsible positions in Penrith, St. Marys, Blacktown, Castlereagh, etc., and was presented with a solid silver server and a portrait of himself, which now hangs in Nepean District Hospital. It was a wonderful recognition in lifetime of a man’s public-spiritedness.

Mr Fitch was a keen Mason, and was Worshipful Master of the Narromine lodge in 1907. He was a foundation P.W.M. of Lodge Warragamba, and a few months ago was elected a life member of that lodge.

Deceased was for several years a member of Penrith Land Board, from which he retired a couple of years ago. Another office he held for some time was President Of Penrith Band. He was a good pigeon shot in the days when the sport was conducted in Penrith and won various trophies.

When living in the west, in his younger days, Mr Fitch refereed football matches.

Mr Fitch regularly attended St. Stephen’s Church, Penrith, for many years, being particularly anxious to be present at the morning service.

Two daughters and a son mourn the loss of their father, viz., Kathleen (Mrs B. K. Evans, Hemming St., Lemongrove, Penrith), Mansi (Mrs. L. R. Edwards, Manly), and Raymond (of Evans Street, Penrith, a returned soldier of the present war). Since the death of Mrs Fitch in 1920 the duties of Mayoress were carried out very efficiently by, first, Mansi (then Miss Fitch) and afterwards Mrs Evans. The latter has been a wonderful worker in the town both in the last war and the present one; she is doing yeoman service as President of Penrith W.V.S.

Mr Fitch leaves a brother, Mr Tom Fitch, and sister, Miss Caroline Fitch, both residing at Emu Plains. Brothers and sisters who predeceased him were: Mr William Fitch (Bathurst), Olive (Mrs Frank Wall, Emu Plains), Harriet (Mrs Charles Gosper, Windsor), Maud, and Elizabeth.

The funeral took place this morning and was very well attended. After service in St. Stephen’s Church the cortege proceeded to Penrith general cemetery.


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Categories: NSW hotels, Publicans

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