The West Coast of Tasmania

Sometimes the universe listens and the magic of our age delivers what you need. In my case that was a book. The book Pubs and Publicans of Tasmania’s Old West by Patrick James Howard supplies many of the answers I was searching for and some I hadn’t discovered yet.

I’d fallen into researching the many hotels and restaurants the family has owned, discovering ever more regions our family supplied food and beverage. The west coast of Tasmania was one such place where it seemed everywhere I looked a new hotel was run by a relative. Having known about Michael Parer’s grand “New Empire Hotel” in Queenstown, I soon discovered eight other hotels the family had been involved in. What I hadn’t realised initially was just how important this region was to our family and how they initially ended up in the region.

Patrick Howard’s book is well researched and includes Parer’s, Higgin’s, Connolly’s and Carolin’s within it’s passages. Importantly it follows a consistent line with its examination of the hotels allowing easily to see who the licensee or owner was over the period of a hotels lifespan. Interesting events are detail as well as construction dates and sometimes when it demised.

This is not Patrick’s first book and his previous work included The Zeehan El Dorado. It’s from the region overviews that he displays his understanding of the history, motives and terrain of the times. This provides terrific background to understanding the “rush” of that times and why our family gravitated there – it was as always to make their fortune on the edges of civilised society, not through mining, but by catering for the miners needs. Even now the landscape in the region is a mixture of harsh, beauty landscape and violent man-altered mining. Patrick provides a birds-eye-view of the happenings across the west coast of Tasmania.


What struck me most though was the amount that was achieved over such a short span of time and how quickly the likes of Michael Parer bounced back from the bankruptcy and Hosie’s Hotel in Melbourne to manage hotels in Tasmania. The book does have some minor errors in Michael Parer’s biography, but I forgive them as the amount of work that has gone into the rest of it out weighs these minor indiscretions.


Thomas J Connolly in Tasmania’s Westcoast

Thomas J Connolly and his brother Denis had come out from Derrylin, Coolkill, County Fermanagh, Ireland to Tasmania and had started up the Miners Arm Hotel in 1891 in Dundas. Mike and Eleanor Phelan operate a small museum at the bush reclaimed town of Dundas. In 1892 Thomas was building the Comet Hotel when he ran into some financial difficulty, became bankrupt and had left Tasmania by mid-1893. Thomas went to Western Australia with the gold rush. There is the possibility that he meet some Parer’s out West – the children of Joseph (Josef) and Johnny (Juan) and of John Cabus y Parer as I’ve written about here.

Miners Arm's Hotel-EDIT.jpg
Miners Arms Hotel, Dundas run by Thomas and Denis Connolly.
The little Dundas History Room will soon be overflowing with newly-found relics of the once busy town. (ABC Northern Tasmania- Rick Eaves).jpg
The little Dundas History Room with its relics, which was near to Miners Arm Hotel. A photo of the Hotel is apparently on display where Mike and Eleanor Phelan live (ABC Northern Tasmania- Rick Eaves).

The next we hear about Thomas, he turns up in Bendigo where he marries Agnes Carolin in a hasty marriage due to Agnes illegitimate child Pearl. Maria Carolin, so family folklore tells it, wouldn’t allow Teresa to marry before Agnes as she was younger and propriety prohibited it. This is the famous double wedding with John Arthur Parer and Teresa Carolin. There were three Carolin sisters Maria, Teresa and Agnes who married to Michael Parer in 1885, John A Parer in 1885 and Thomas J Connolly  in 1895. So of course it is entirely logical that John and Michael’s good friend William Henry Higgins married another Carolin sister, Winifred in 1888.

The double marriage of Agnes Carolin to Thomas Connolly and Teresa Carolin to John Parer
The double marriage of Agnes Carolin to Thomas Connolly and Teresa Carolin to John Parer, 21 November 1895
“Normanstone”, Windsor, Kyneton, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
The men in the back row (L-R) : William Carolin (background), Frank Parer, Thomas Connolly, John A Parer and Francis Parer. Then the next row down left to right are Vera Carolin, Agnes Carolin, Teresa Carolin, Angeletta Parer. Elsie Hewitt is the young girl at the front, Winifred Corcoran’s daughter.

The Carolin girl’s father John Paul Carolin frequented the Parer Crystal Café when he journeyed to Melbourne from his home town of Bendigo and he would often take his wife and children. Whether it was serendipity or JP Carolin nous one can’t tell now, but all his girls became involved in the hotel business.

Thomas Connolly returned to Tasmania in Rosebery with his new wife Agnes to start up the Rosebery Hotel and Michael Parer came down and worked in the hotel for a couple of months before seeing an opportunity in Queenstown with the rush on and enlisted his great friend William Henry Higgins and brother John A Parer through their company vehicle Parer & Higgins and his uncle Francis Parer for finance and aid.

The Rosebery Hotel, Rosebery, Tasmania, c1923 when Denis Connolly was the licensee.

On the 19th of March 1901, Thomas left his hotel and family at the Rosebery Hotel to check on his mining investments at Barn Bluff. This wasn’t a trivial journey, but Thomas was a seasoned bushman and well aware of the terrain. That was the last the family saw of him as he died off the track and his body was discovered much later. Agnes carried on and maintained the Rosebery Hotel and bought more property in Rosebery, even after she left a decade later to move to Malvern in Melbourne, her name redeemed and independently wealthy.

Thomas’ brother Denis eventually rented the hotel off Agnes and remained in Rosebery with his wife, where he had nine children, until his death in 9 March 1930 at the age of 57. The 102 year old Rosebery Hotel, built of the wood Oregon, Cedar and King Billy, was burnt to the ground on the 29th Jun 1999 in a fiery inferno with no casualties.

1901-Empire Hotel-Queenstown, Tasmania built by Miguel Parer 1901
The Empire Hotel, on Driffield Street, Queenstown. Photo taken by John G Parer on his trip with his father Stan Parer in 1973.

Parer & Higgins and the Queenstown rush

Parer & Higgins, the partnership of John Arthur Parer and William Henry Higgins, had made their money by operating the bar and light refreshments at the Melbourne Centennial Exhibition in 1888 to celebrate a century of European settlement in Australia – you can read about that here. With those profits they bought the Melbourne hotels the Exchange (25 May 1889) and the Gippsland Hotel both on Swanston Street. The partnership was eventually dissolved on 16 July 1896. Somehow though a new partnership of Parer & Higgins was formed, perhaps not officially and operated in the west of Tasmania.

Parer and Higgins Imperial Hotel in foreground-closeup.jpg
Parer and Higgins Imperial Hotel, c1898, corners of Driffields and Stricht Streets, Queenstown, Tasmania, Australia

Michael Parer managed the Imperial Hotel in Queenstown from October 1897, though it is labeled Parer and Higgins and his brother Francis was the licensee of Smelters Hotel which was owned by Cascade Brewery. Francis didn’t last a year however before he transferred the license to his uncle Stephen. At the turn of the century the Smelters Hotel became known as the Exchange Hotel and in May 1900 Stephen transferred the license to Henry Forrester.

Exchange Hotel-Queenstown-Tasmania-Formerly the Imperial Hotel run by the Francis and Stephen Parer's.jpg
The Exchange Hotel which was formerly the Imperial Hotel run by the Francis Parer, then his uncle Stephen Parer on Orr Street, Queenstown, Tasmania.

Parer & Higgins built and opened the New Empire Hotel in May 1901, after eleven months of preparation and construction, in classic Parer fashion at a cost that is said to have exceeded £10,000 for premises and fittings. Michael Parer was the manager of the hotel from it’s grand opening to a little over a year later and as such it was sometimes advertised at this time as Parer’s Empire Hotel. The staircases with the raw Tasmanian Blackwood shipped to England carved and shipped back are typical of the opulence that was the families trademark in the industry. John A Parer owned the Empire Hotel until April 1925 when he sold it to Mr Thomas Cook who was the licensee at the time and had been for the previous nine years, for a sum of £4,000.

It has been suggested that Michael had a grand plan to open Empire Hotels across Australia. Which is why later that year in December he acquired the lease on the Rock Hotel (once the Rock Tavern) on the eastern side of Elizabeth Street, Hobart, not without some legal disputes and relabelled it the Empire Hotel in 1903. The Empire Hotel shut in 1920, but the building is still standing on the eastern side of Elizabeth Street near Liverpool Street.

1860-The rock tavern - Hobart history from Here's Cheers book.jpg
The Rock Tavern, Hobart on the right originally opened in 1848 as the Belvedere Wine Vaults. Leased by Michael Parer in December 1901 with the name changing in 1903 to the Empire Hotel.

Of course, no look at western Tasmanian hotels would be complete without discovering (for me) a new family hotel. Patrick Howard didn’t disappoint. We can add the two-storey Railway Hotel Regatta Point to the list of hotels built by Parer & Higgins. Patrick lists H. Higgins (not William Henry Higgins) as either the owner or licensee from 6th November 1899 to 1st December 1901.

Parer & Higgins successfully tendered, in May 1898, for the publican’s permanent booth for five years on the Queenstown Recreation Reserve and built a 46ft by 16ft building with bar and shelter from the weather with football and cricket dressing rooms with provision for fire, showers and baths.

Parer & Higgins bought land at North Lyell around this time for £2000 with the intention of building a hotel upon it, though no hotel was ever built.

In 1903, to the amazement of the family at the logistics Michael had the hotel he bought in Crotty shipped to Currie, King Island and so the Parer Hotel was built.

The Imperial Hotel in Queenstown licensed by Parer & Higgins is now the Gallery Museum.

Brother-in-laws draw knives and pistols on each other

There is one other hotel in this area with a family connection, the Linda Valley Hotel in Linda, Gormanston. Parer and Higgins built it and it opened on the 1st December 1899. It was at some stage bought by Michael’s Uncle Johnny (Juan) Parer and his son Paul Francis Parer managed it for him from 11 January 1911 to 21 January 1920. Paul was in the Linda Valley Hotel with his new wife Amy from August 1910. Their only child, a son, Paul was born at the hotel on the 29th October 1915.

Before then though, on the night of 28 July, 1913 as described by their employee Mr Cruickshank of the fight between Paul Parer and his brother-in-law Ben Allentorn, “The men do not get on well together. Mr Allentorn used words to Mr Parer of such a nature that Mr Parer, or any man, could do nothing else but strike him. Mr Parer did strike Mr Allentorn. Mr Allentorn seized a quart pot, and smashed it to atoms on Mr Parer’s head. Mr Parer overpowered Allentorn, and eventually they were separated. Mr Allentorn went to his room, and returned armed with a carving knife, and Mr Parer had to draw his revolver to defend himself. He afterwards sent for a constable, and acquainted him with what had taken place.”

Mr Cruickshank pointed out that it was out of the question to expect Mr Parer to run for the police to stop the altercation. It was well known that that was impossible. Anyhow, the man was not a coward. Paul was fined £2, and 14s costs by the court.

It should be noted that Patrick’s book says Paul managed the hotel until 21 January 1921 when another family connection A. Barbeta took over the licence until 23 January 1921. Which Barbeta this was I don’t know.

The hotel was built mainly of pine. Patrick goes on to say that : “On Monday 20 March 1922, the hotel was burned down. The fire that destroyed the hotel awakened the licensee Mr O’Dwyer and two of his boarders at about 3.30am by which time the fire had such a hold they only escaped with the money from the safe… The building was owned by Mr John Parer of Melbourne…” So Johnny Parer owned it until it’s fiery demise.

Linda is now a ghost town with a population of one.

What of the fifth Carolin sister, Vera?

The youngest Carolin sister, Catherine or “Vera” as she was better known, married  George Shannon “Shav’ Luttrell on the 21 November 1901. It’s not implausible that Vera became aquatinted with Shav because of the work that he had done for the family. I suspect Vera met Shav when she came down to support her sister Agnes when her husband Thomas went missing in March 1901. Shav was an architect and his elder brothers Edgar and Sydney were well known in Launceston and the west of Tasmania working as the firm A & S Luttrell. The firm was incredibly well respected in architect and building circles. It’s been written that the Luttrell firm designed most of Strahan, Zeehan and Queenstown.

Ann McEwan in the Dictionary of New Zealand wrote, “Alfred maintained the office in Launceston while Sidney ran branch offices in the west coast townships of Strahan, Zeehan and Queenstown. Henceforth the two men gradually assumed different responsibilities within the firm; Alfred acted as the principal designer and engineer while Sidney supervised major construction projects and liaised with clients and the public. This division of labour was undoubtedly less rigid in practice.” It should also be noted that Alfred operated out of Launceston while Sidney and later Shav out on the west coast of Tassie.

Shav was working for his brothers firm in Western Tasmania. The firm of A & S Luttrell certainly worked on the Linda Valley Hotel and designed and oversaw construction of the Empire Hotel.

The A & S Lutterell architect fim moved to New Zealand in about October 1902 and this included Shav and Vera where they had their first daughter Gwen in 1904. Soon after Gwen’s birth they returned to Australia to live close to the Carolin families in Malvern, Victoria. A & S Lutterell built remained in New Zealand where they did the main body of their work. Many of their buildings are now Heritage New Zealand listed. The Luttrells’ most notable works in Christchurch, between 1904-1912, included the King Edward Barracks, the Royal Exchange building (now the Regent Theatre), the New Zealand Express Company building, the Theatre Royal, and the chapel for the Sisters of the Good Shepherd at Mount Magdala. Most of their New Zealand buildings survive today.

As an aside, Shav’s brother was well known for his interest in horse-racing. It resulted in his part-ownership of Sasanof, the winner of the 1916 Melbourne Cup. Nicknamed ‘Luttrell the Limit’.

Family Hotels in Tasmania

I have set up a google map with the locations of the family hotels in Tasmania and you are welcome to view it here.

The following is a table of information on the hotels in Tasmania:

Hotel Name Town Street Owner Licensee From To Comments
Comet Hotel Dundas Thomas Connolly 1892 1892 Thomas went bankrupt before it opened
Miners Arms Hotel Dundas Thomas & Denis Connolly 1891 1892
Denis Connolly 1892
The Empire Hotel Hobart Michael Parer 12/1901
The Parer Hotel King Island Michael Parer Michael Parer 1903 10/11/1911
John A Parer John A Parer 10/11/1911
Linda Valley Hotel Linda, Gormanston Parer & Higgins 1/12/1899 3/8/1910
Juan “Johnny” Parer Paul Parer 3/8/1910
Imperial Hotel Queenstown Driffield & Stricht Streets Parer & Higgins (John A Parer & William H Higgins) 11/1897 Lease at £15 per month. Board at front says Parer & Higgins
The Empire Hotel Queenstown Driffield Street Parer & Higgins (John A Parer & William H Higgins) 5/1901 Built for Parer & Higgins
Smelters Hotel Queenstown Orr Street Francis Parer 11/1897 13/7/1898
Queenstown Stephen Parer 13/7/1897 5/1900
Rosebery Hotel Rosebery Thomas Connolly Thomas Connolly 8/1897 21/3/1898
Rosebery Agnes Connolly nee Carolin Agnes Connolly 13/7/1898 1907
Agnes Connolly nee Carolin Denis Connolly 1907 1930
Railway Hotel Regatta Point Strahan Regatta Point, Esplanade Parer & Higgins (John A Parer & William H Higgins)

During this Period Parer & Higgins Co was the company of John A Parer & William H Higgins. Read about it here.

Hotels around Australia

So if Patrick Howard has helped me out with his extensive research and publication into Tasmania’s West, I wonder if the universe can provide a book on the hotels of Western Australia and Melbourne.

So there you have it a tale of our family, the west coast of Tasmania, a lot of hotels and a very short space of time. Patrick Howards book helps us understand our family a bit more deeply with his excellent research.

If you’re interested in Patrick Howard’s book you can order it online here


Story: Luttrell, Alfred Edgar and Luttrell, Edward Sidney


2 thoughts on “The West Coast of Tasmania

  1. Thanks Ben. today I will begin my careful study of all you have sent me and soon hopefully I will be vale to send you my comments. Also I have some interesting questions for you. One thing to understand in those days they had some wonderful carpenters as many hotels were shifted elsewhere. Anyway I will list these for you later.
    Regards Patrick

    Liked by 1 person

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