On Tuesday 10 May 2022, thirty-three members of our club enjoyed a visit to the Hero of Waterloo pub in Millers Point, one of Sydney’s oldest pubs with a rich history from colonial times, its first license dating back to 1843.
It looked like the weather would be against us, but despite predictions, the sun finally broke through to make our day very pleasant.
A morning rivercat journey to Circular Quay, where some grabbed a quick coffee, was followed by an invigorating walk past the Museum of Contemporary Art, up Argyle Street to The Garrison Church, and along Lower Fort Street to the Hero of Waterloo. Some were lucky to catch a very short history lecture from Ali Barnsley, at the Argyle Cut and Argyle Steps, along the way.
Once we all arrived at the pub, a first drink, accompanied by lively conversation, took place at the downstairs bar.
Once we had quenched our thirst, we embarked on the historical/ghost tour, conducted in the streets of The Rocks and in the pub’s original cellar. In colonial times there were many pubs throughout The Rocks, and three other old pubs, now residences, were pointed out to us in Windmill Street alone (all strangely were called The Whaler’s Arms, being the popular name of the times).
Through an old door down a side street, we made our way into the historical cellar of the pub, where we saw the sandstone steps leading down from a trap door in the floor of the bar above. This led to the notorious iron gaol gates, shackles, chains and tunnel entrances which we were invited to investigate. Our guide told the story of how the tunnel reportedly once coursed from the cellar and under the road, and how young tipsy wayward seafarers would be drugged in the bar and pushed through the trapdoor into the basement cell. There they would be bundled on a wheelbarrow and taken through the tunnel by press gangs, to later wake up a sailor out to sea on board a navy or merchant ship.
We also heard the story of how in 1849, Thomas Kirkman, landlord of the pub, reputedly bashed his wife Anne in the rooms above the bar, and pushed her down the stairs to her death. Anne Kirkman’s ghost now plays late night piano music on the old piano in the cellar, moves chairs about in the upstairs function rooms, and causes glasses to spontaneously explode in the bar.
Following our tour we made our way upstairs to the Duke Room, where our pre-ordered lunches had been prepared by the chef and were waiting for us. All agreed the food was excellent, and was accompanied by more drinks from the bar (of course), lots of noisy conversation, but no ghostly visitors.