Thursday 27 June 2013

Mungana's Shit and Scatter Hotel

The group of tried friends sat about the campfire to unwind after a hard day spent out in the Chillagoe heat and dust exploring the long abandon site of the old Girofla village.  Little is left now, with more then one hundred years having past since the township disappeared into history.  Its residence having moved the few hundred metres down the railway line into the new town of Mungana when that mining town boomed during the early years of the twentieth century leaving only a little rusting metal and broken glass to mark the site of the old village.  As the light of the campfire dimmed and the cold beer eased the discomfort of sore feet and sun burnt faces, Chillagokid spoke of the old days when the great Girofla mine and its nearby smelter promised bright days ahead for the little community.  All gone now like the eccentrically named 'Shit and Scatter Hotel' at whose bar none alive today would be able to recall having quenched their thirst.  Yankee Dove looked up from the flames, 'What a strange name for a hotel'.  'Oh there, I can fill you in on that' said Farnortherner, 'a tragic tale, that one'.

The shanty hotel was originally named the Cosmopolitan Hotel and was owned by one, Mr McGillicuddy but its unofficial name stuck after the events of the evening of the 6th November 1901.  About 11 o'clock that night, a shy servant girl named Hannah Tracey was gunned down by the morose coward, Richard Henderson.  It appeared to be a miserable case of revenge on part of Henderson because the girl refused to comply with a request he had made of her.  The twenty year old Hannah, known as Annie, had come out to Australia from County Killkenny, Ireland and was working at the hotel as a domestic servant.  A couple of evening earlier, Herderson had asked for a crib but she knew he wasn't going on the night shift and she told him he did not require it.  The six foot tall Henderson, who was known to be prone to take offence without cause became adusive, so much so that he hurt her feelings and she retired to her room weeping and another servant girl finished cutting the men's lunches.  Henderson was turned away by Mr Atherton and nothing more was thought of the incident.

Then on the Wednesday night, he again approached the girl while she was filling the tea cans of the men going on shift and asked for a crib.  Annie said 'you don't want to go to work'.  A young fellow named Evenden took his can from the girl and move to leave, at the same time Annie turned away, when Henderson stepped in front of her and at point blank range, fired a revolver hitting her in the right breast.  Evenden was in the passage and seeing what occurred, went for Henderson and hitting him on the jaw staggered him but recovering himself, Henderson covered Evenden with the revolver.  Fortunately the weapon misfired and Evenden got out of danger.  A group of men from the dining-room carried Annie inside and Constable Hoy quickly appeared and asked the Chinese cook where Henderson was.  The constable and a man named Myers went after him but Henderson was pointing his gun at the two and told them to keep back.  Hoy left to fetch his firearms and Myers watched Henderson but lost him about Lindsay's building.  A party of six men then went along the rail line for a mile searching the camps but could not find him.

When Henderson next appeared he was about fifty metres from the hotel and walking straight up to the front clicking his revolver.  Someone called upon him to put up his hands.  He replied, 'I am going to do it now', and lifted up the gun and shot himself in the head.  Simultaneously another shot rang out from the opposite side of the street hit him in the thigh, fire by a man named Bert Roberts who thought Henderson was going to fire at him when he put up the revolver to shoot himself.  Henderson fell and the crowd rushed him.  He died twenty minutes later where he fell while all round him, leaning on rifles, stood his pursuers, watching him.  The following day, his body was encased in a rough board coffin and buried without ceremony.  As for the poor victim, Annie suffered for six days before passing away in the presence of her brother who had rushed up from the Mulgrave railway where he had been working as a navvy on its construction.  She was engaged to be married to a miner named Thomas Stewart and the men of the town raised 60 pounds for them but after her death they refused to have her buried in the same cemetery as Henderson.  They used the money to organize a train to take Annie and 120 of the towns' folk into Chillagoe to bury her there and paid for a headstone.  And the name of the hotel, that night it was said everyone in the corrugated-iron walled hotel when the shot was fired 'shit themselves and scattered into the darkness'.  So eventually became the name of the establishment, the Shit and Scatter Hotel of old Girofla.
The site of the old hotel today           Hannah Tracey's grave          The Shit and Scatter Hotel