Hidden in a quiet street (lower Fort) on a narrow corner, far from the maddening crowd, is the hotel known as the Hero of Waterloo. The hotel is so discrete that you hardly notice the locals sipping their ale or having a beer or two from just below street level. The locals are more than happy for you to pull up a barstool to hear their stories of this unique little pub (believed to be one of the oldest in Sydney). In fact, they are quite happy just to have a chat about practically anything.
Brief History of Hero of Waterloo
The original owner was the builder George Paton, who was also responsible for the building of the Garrison Church (1840) which can be found just up the road. A public house called the “Young Princess” was originally on the site.
Having purchased the land from Johnathon Clarke (Shipwrights Arms, 1831), Paton, a stonemason by trade, built ‘Hero of Waterloo’ from sandstone, which had been quarried by those poor convicts of the Argyle Cut and also nearby Kent Street. It wasn’t surprising that it became the favorite drinking hole for the Garrison troops.
In those days it wasn’t safe to get too drunk in this hotel. When the ships came into port, especially the whalers and sealers, there were wild nights at “The Rocks”. As the story goes, a tunnel under the ‘Hero’ was used as involuntary recruitment for sailors. Many a young man found himself on the high seas following a hard night of drinking at the ‘Hero’. Drunks would be dropped through a trap door into the cellar, dragged through the tunnel to awake the next morning at sea, shanghaied aboard a clipper.
If you ask the staff nicely they might let you have a little look down in the basement where a maze of tunnels suggests that the rumours and legends are true. The tunnels which lead to the wharves at Walsh Bay were also popular for rum smuggling (the currency of the day).
If you closely, on the walls of the hotel you will find initials carved into some of the sandstone blocks. These initials are said to be those of convicts who worked at the Argyle Cut.
The Ghost of Anne Kirkman
With such a checkered past it isn’t surprising that the Hero is haunted. The current owner of the Hero believes one of the ghosts is that of Anne Kirkman. In 1849 the convict landlady of the Hero, Anne kirkman, confronted her Irish husband, Thomas, about an affair. Apparently, he had got his young mistress pregnant and Anne was none too happy. During the heated argument, her husband threw her down the cellar steps, where she died.
Numerous patrons and workers have encountered an apparition believed to be Anne. A common area to encounter her is in the women’s toilets. She often appears in the mirror behind you!
The current owner also has heard the piano playing in the middle of the night. The piano now resides in the cellar.
More Than One Ghost
The ghost of Anne Kirkman is not the only inhabitant of the hotel, there are believed to be more than one ghost. Footsteps are often heard in the Duke Room. It’s also not uncommon to find the furniture moved around in the night, to be nearer the fireplace. Some staff members have refused to go into the room alone in fear of “something” touching or blowing on their necks.
George is believed to haunt the cellar, near the entrance to the tunnel. He apparently died after being stabbed in the chest whilst in the tunnel. Maybe he woke up from a drunken stupor and realised he was being shanghaied?