October 19, 2021

Old Places

Where we study the past to define our future

Margaret with children in the car

Margaret with children in the car

Inverlochy Castle Hotel – The final chapter

In  Part I: Inverlochy Castle Hotel – Beginnings we learnt about the inception of the Inverlochy Castle Hotel and how it changed hands into the Laffan family and became a popular Hotel and stopping point for Cobb and Co. Coaches.

In  Part 2: Inverlochy Castle Hotel – Life at the Hotel we learnt about
what daily life was like at the hotel and some of the recreational activities that occured. 

Read on for further information about the Laffan family, their involvement with the Inverlochy Castle Hotel, how it became a house once the liquor license was revoked in the early 1900’s, and then it’s ultimate demise.

As the turn of the century edged closer the harmonic life at the Inverlochy Castle Hotel continued. So there was little forewarning of the turbulent storms on the horizon which were to be unfurled in the coming years.

In 1895 a request was made to place  John Francis Laffan on the electoral role as joint occupier of land in Wallan1, and it is reasonable to assume this land was part of the Inverlochy estate. At this time, his father John was 69 and his mother Esther was 66. For clarity, John Francis’ father John Laffan shall be referred to as John Laffan Senior for the remainder of this article.

In 1889, John Francis was elected Counciller of the Merriang Shire.2 The Merriang Shire was created on November 3rd, 1871 after the renaming of the Donnybrook and Wallan Wallan Road district. It included the towns of Beveridge, Darraweit Guim, Donnybrook and Wallan. The hall used by the Merriang Shire was the former Donnybrook and Wallan Wallan Road district office which was built in Beveridge 1865. It featured a distinct hexagonal chimney which is preserved on the former site after the hall was demolished in 1969 by the Victorian Country Roads Board for the creation of the Hume Highway.

Merriang Shire Hall Chimney
Merriang Shire Hall Chimney

In 1898 John married Margaret Theresa McCagh who was a cousin of John’s mother, Esther. They went on to have eight children (3 daughters and 5 sons) as follows and who are pictured below.

  • Esther (Essie) Mary born in 1898 (top row left)
  • Margaret (Claire) born in 1900 (top row right)
  • John Ambrose born in 1901 (middle row right)
  • Francis (Frank) Joseph born in 1902 (in front of Margaret on the right)
  • Dora Ellen born in 1904 (middle row middle)
  • James (Leo) born in 1905 (middle row left)
  • Bernard (Bernie) Vincent Daniel born in 1910 (to the left of Margaret)
  • Owen Patrick born in 1911 (baby in Margaret’s arms)
John Francis Laffan and his family
John Francis Laffan and his family

John and Margaret lived at the Inverlochy Castle Hotel all of their lives;  to care for John and Esther in their old age and to run the Hotel and farming business.

The following photo was taken in 1900. Standing out the front of the hotel from left to right is Bridget Theresa, (daughter of John Laffan Senior) and next to her standing behind the pram is John Francis’ wife, Margaret. John Francis is standing beside the veranda post and his father John Laffan Senior is seated in the chair. His wife Esther is standing next to him on the right. John Francis’ children at the time Esther/Essie and Margaret/Claire (in the pram) are also pictured.

John Francis with his parents
John Francis with his parents

Looking closely at the photo you may also observe that John Francis has a locket attached to a fob chain. The same locket with John’s initials of ‘JL’ is in the possession of the Laffan family today.

The operation of the Hotel continued and the farming of sheep which commenced in the late 1800’s now became more prevalent.

John Laffan Senior was now 75 years of age and for a number of years had ailed from heart disease. On the 16th May, 1901, after suffering from congestion of the lungs for 4 days John Laffan Senior, the Patriarch of the Laffan family passed away.

His obituary in the Kilmore Free Press on the 23rd May, 1901 states:

“Mr Laffan was assiduous in all matters relative to his religion, just in all his dealings, kind and charitable, and his many acts of private, unobtrusive charity, and good fellowship, will endear his memory to the hearts of many, and his demise will leave a space which it will be very difficult to fill.”

There were now important decisions to be made and questions to be answered by the remaining Laffan family to fill the gap that John’s passing had now created. Who would run the Hotel? Was anybody even qualified to run the Hotel? Or should the Hotel be closed? But the Laffan family had already proven over years that they were not ones to give into adversity and had always prevailed in times of hardship. Esther had been involved with the running of the hotel for over 30 years and the daily operations were second nature to her. It was only common sense for her to take over operations of the Hotel.

On November 9th, 1901 Esther applied for the licence of the Inverlochy Castle Hotel and it was granted soon after this. The sign on the verandah roof stating John as Licensee of the Hotel was now changed to show Esther.

By this time, James Michael and Bridget were married and had moved away from the area. The Electoral Roll from 1903 lists the following people living at Inverlochy Castle  Hotel:

  • Esther Laffan – Hotelkeeper
  • John Francis Laffan – Grazier
  • Margaret Theresa Laffan – Home Duties

In 1903, whilst visiting Bridget in Bendigo, Esther passed away. She was remembed as

“...an old and very estimable resident of the district much esteemed by her neighbors and all who knew her.”3

With both of his parents now deceased and his siblings no longer in the area, the future of the Inverlochy Castle Hotel lay with John Francis. But with 4 children, a busy and demanding career as a Counciller combined with farming activites at the Hotel, would the additional burden be too much for him to bear? Apparantly not, because in May 1904 the license of the Inverlochy Castle Hotel was transferred into his name.

License transferred to John Francis
License transferred to John Francis

Life moved on. People continued to visit, stay and drink at the Hotel and John Francis utilised the sparse farmland surrounding the Hotel to plant crops, including corn:

“Mr J. F. Laffan of “Inverlochy” Wallan has sent some samples of maize grown on his property this season. Without any attempt at irrigation, the stalks sent to us are over 9ft. in height, and bear splendid pods of maize. Mr Laffan is to be congratulated upon growing such a fine crop. We hear that next season he intends irrigating a portion of his land from sprints, when he anticipates a much better grown.”4

Owen McPhillips on plow. John Francis Laffan standing at horse. Bernard (barely visible) is standing to the left of James (Leo)
Owen McPhillips on plow. John Francis Laffan standing at horse. Bernard (barely visible) is standing to the left of James (Leo)

John Francis’ family grew further and by 1907 he and Margaret had 6 children. As they were all living at the Hotel, improvements were made for the comfort of his family and visitors, and included the addition of a kitchen. Previous to this, cooking was prepared in a kitchen whch was part of a seperate bluestone building – one half kitchen and one half laundry.

“The well-known house of call, the Inverlochy Castle Hotel, for many years, and in the good old coaching days, conducted by the late Mr John Laffan has recently undergone a thorough overhaul under authority of the present spirited proprietor, Mr John F. Laffan. The hotel named was erected by the late Mr Angus Cameron in 1850, and purchased by the present owner’s late father in 1858. The old established hotel was one of the changing stages for Cobb and Co.’s coaches for many years. It has undergone a thorough overhaul. Mr John F. Laffan has had new foundations put in, and in some places the building was lifted several inches, whilst new groundplates have been inserted throughout. The timber originally used was all softwood, and it is surprising how well it survived the ravages of time. Decay was most noticeable in the blocks, and in many places not a vestige of them could be seen-only round holes in the ground where they once had been and had melted away; others were in a powder. Some of the weather boards were affected with dry rot, and were replaced by new ones. The studs, which are 4½in. by 3½in, have been renewed where any-sign of decay was noticeable; new verandahs take the place of old ones; and an additional kitchen attached to the house, fitted with an Geelong patent range.”5

In 1909 the Inverlochy Castle Hotel came under the spotlight of the Licenses Reduction Board. The Licences Reduction Board was empowered to make a general survey of all hotels licensed before 1886 and to oversee the systematic and orderly reduction of hotel licences in Victoria. Hearings were held within each licensing district to determine which hotels were to be deprived of their license, after which sittings were held to determine compensation. In these proceedings the Board had the powers of a court; it could summon witnesses, demand documents and hear evidence under oath. However there was no right of appeal, the determinations of the Board being final and conclusive.6

On June 1st, 1909, the Board sat to take evidence and begin proceedings towards the removal of the Inverlochy Castle Hotel license. On the 10th June, 1909 Mr Sinclair represented John Francis Laffan and gave testimony as to why the Hotel should keep it’s license.



[1] Kilmore Free Press. Page 2. August 1st, 1895

[2] Kilmore Free Press. August 10th, 1889

[3] Kilmore Free Press. December 3rd, 1903

[4] The Kilmore Advertiser. April 7th, 1906

[5] Kilmore Free Press. September 26th, 1907

[6] http://www.access.prov.vic.gov.au/public/component/daPublicBaseContainer?component=daViewAgency&entityId=2906