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"Lord Douglas"
by [?]

They hold him true, who’s true to one,
However false he be.
-The Rouseabout of Rouseabouts.

The Imperial Hotel was rather an unfortunate name for an out-back town pub, for out back is the stronghold of Australian democracy; it was the out-back vote and influence that brought about “One Man One Vote,” “Payment of Members,” and most of the democratic legislation of late years, and from out back came the overwhelming vote in favour of Australian as Imperial Federation.

The name Royal Hotel is as familiar as that of the Railway Hotel, and passes unnoticed and ungrowled at, even by bush republicans. The Royal Hotel at Bourke was kept by an Irishman, one O’Donohoo, who was Union to the backbone, loudly in favour of “Australia for the Australians,” and, of course, against even the democratic New South Wales Government of the time. He went round town all one St Patrick’s morning with a bunch of green ribbon fastened to his coat-tail with a large fish-hook, and wasn’t aware of the fact till he sat down on the point of it. But that’s got nothing to do with it.

The Imperial Hotel at Bourke was unpopular from the first. It was said that the very existence of the house was the result of a swindle. It had been built with money borrowed on certain allotments in the centre of the town and on the understanding that it should be built on the mortgaged land, whereas it was erected on a free allotment. Which fact was discovered, greatly to its surprise, by the building society when it came to foreclose on the allotments some years later. While the building was being erected the Bourke people understood, in a vague way, that it was to be a convent (perhaps the building society thought so, too), and when certain ornaments in brick and cement in the shape of a bishop’s mitre were placed over the corners of the walls the question seemed decided. But when the place was finished a bar was fitted up, and up went the sign, to the disgust of the other publicans, who didn’t know a licence had been taken out–for licensing didn’t go by local option in those days. It was rumoured that the place belonged to, and the whole business was engineered by, a priest. And priests are men of the world.

The Imperial Hotel was patronized by the pastoralists, the civil servants, the bank manager and clerks–all the scrub aristocracy; it was the headquarters of the Pastoralists’ Union in Bourke; a barracks for blacklegs brought up from Sydney to take the place of Union shearers on strike; and the new Governor, on his inevitable visit to Bourke, was banqueted at the Imperial Hotel. The editor of the local “capitalistic rag” stayed there; the pastoralists’ member was elected mostly by dark ways and means devised at the Imperial Hotel, and one of its managers had stood as a dummy candidate to split the Labour vote; the management of the hotel was his reward. In short, it was there that most of the plots were hatched to circumvent Freedom, and put away or deliver into the clutches of law and order certain sons of Light and Liberty who believed in converting blacklegs into jellies by force of fists when bribes, gentle persuasion and pure Australian language failed to convert them to clean Unionism. The Imperial Hotel was called the “Squatters’ Pub,” the “Scabbery,” and other and more expressive names.

The hotel became still more unpopular after Percy Douglas. had managed it for a while. He was an avowed enemy of Labour Unionists. He employed Chinese cooks, and that in the height of the anti-Chinese agitation in Australia, and he was known to have kindly feelings towards the Afghans who, with their camels, were running white carriers off the roads. If an excited Unionist called a man a “blackleg” or “scab” in the Imperial bar he was run out–sometimes with great difficulty, and occasionally as far as the lock-up.