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NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay with locals at the Royal Oak. NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay with locals at the Royal Oak. Featured
29 March 2020 Posted by 

LAST DRINKS AT THE ROYAL OAK

Regulars reflect on days gone by
GARY CARTER
THERE was much local uproar when the NSW Government announced the demolition of the historic Royal Oak hotel in Parramatta to make way for the controversial light rail project.

While the Cobb and Co stables at the rear of the hotel will be retained, locals feel that the government should have tried harder to re-route the light rail to save the “watering hole of the Eels”.
 
NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay joined angry locals for “last drinks” at the Royal Oak on Australia Day.
Demolition is due to start in a few months.
 
In an atmosphere of farewell tears and well-priced beers, the present-day patrons and ghosts with 189 years of history, bid adieu to the Royal Oak in Parramatta on Australia Day.
 
The Oak, or the Soak as it is affectionately called, has a site-history that dates to the early 1820s, when the son of a ‘First Fleeter’ named William Tunks built an early inn and named it the Shamrock, Rose and Thistle.
 
John Tunks was a very resourceful publican and he and his descendants went on to become important community members in the early days of Parramatta, the Cradle City of our Nation.
 
Lamenting the upcoming demolition of the pub to make way for the Parramatta Light Rail, several patrons made comments:
 
Mark Thompson who has frequented the hotel for several years said he would miss the old-world atmosphere and he hoped that the new hotel will get some of its history.
 
Chris Evans, said it’s a very sad day, its wrong that they couldn’t save the Oak.
 
John Booth a regular patron, expressed anger at the route of the Light Rail and why the people of Parramatta were not involved in the decision. He said he will drink at the new hotel but thinks the heritage building should be moved back towards the stables.
 
Several of the vast crowd of regulars, like ‘The Ho’, ‘Big Mike’ and “Duddo’ sat in their usual spots on the bar with glum faces.
 
The past patrons witnessed the nation’s growth. They viewed the wagons heading north and eventually the orchard produce heading south. They saw the Aboriginal displacement and the Chinese market gardeners. They ran off to the gold rush and spread through the nation.
 
They witnessed Federation, fought in wars, and those that returned helped remember the fallen with ‘Lest we Forget’.
 
They drank on through the days of Temperance and the Six O’clock swill.
 
They bet on the horses that were stabled in the Inn, they followed their sports with vibrant discussions and they occasionally had fights over disagreements and inebriation. They were in fact living the land’s history and standing in its heritage.
 
A new hotel will take the first two floors of a new development across the road, at 404 Church Street.
 
This site has some synergies with our Oak, in the 1840s an Inn called the Glasgow Arms was located here.
 
It was also the foundation site of the Manchester Order of Odd Fellows in Parramatta. It was possibly known as the Odd Fellows Arms at one stage, and then the Emu.
 
In 1845 William Livingstone moved the business across the road to the Tunks owned Shamrock, Rose and Thistle and renamed it the Glasgow Arms. This was for a few years, after which the Tunks family returned it to the original name.
 
The building itself was redeveloped in the 1830s and again in the 1860s, when it was renamed the Royal Oak, this is the same base structure that exists today.
 
The position of the hotel has never changed from the original site, and now juts out onto Church Street.
 
Despite many suggestions on options to retain the hotel, the light rail will see its demise. Unless there is a late reprieve and the structure is moved back ten metres towards the Stables.
 
The original stables from 1820s in Ross Street were, and will be spared destruction and hopefully retained, and secured by whatever development is placed on the reduced site.
 
In the last 60 years the Pub became part of the story of our local rugby league team, the Parramatta Eels. It was said: "That the game always starts and finishes at the Oak."
 
Gary Carter is a Parramatta local and enthusiastic pub historian.
 
 


editor

Publisher and editor, Michael Walls.
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More in this category: « UNLOCKING PARRAMATTA'S PAST
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