Otago Daily Times  |  Saturday, 6 April 2019

Gantley Name Etched in History

Having served in the British Army, then as a jailer in Arrowtown, Irishman Patrick Gantley bought a Queenstown pub at the height of the gold rush. Writer Jim Sullivan picks up his tale. 

Patrick Gantley was born in County Mayo, Ireland, in 1817 and served in China and India in the 1840s and was then detailed to escort prisoners to Hobart, Australia.

He joined the 81st Regiment and returned to India in charge of 150 cavalry horses. He was in Burma at the taking of Rangoon in 1852 and he later lamented he was slow off the mark - missing out on a share of the vast amount of loot taken.

He was in India during the mutiny in 1857 and, having served his 21 years, came to New Zealand in 1865 to be the jailer in Queenstown.

His recollections are rich with tales of policing the licensing laws and a dramatic gold robbery at Clyde in 1870, when he was acting as jailer there.

He resigned in 1873, to the regret of the Lake Wakatip Mail: "the department loses a man never frightened of work and who all the while, in carrying out his unpleasant duties, has rendered himself as little unpopular as possible".

"The resignation is a voluntary one, but this old officer seems to see no hope of any change in police management for the good."

His disparaging of the police management probably told against him when he petitioned the Otago Provincial Council for "favourable consideration of his past services as a police constable" in April 1874.

The petition stated that Mr Gantley "left the Police Force because he was physically unable to carry out his duties".

"On more than one occasion your Petitioner has been attacked and very severely handled whilst in the discharge of his duties. On these occasions your Petitioner came off second-best solely because he was weak and unable to cope with his assailants."

Unmoved, the council declined to award a gratuity or pension, on the grounds that "the Petitioner left the police service some eighteen months ago, and that he made no application through the proper channels for a retiring allowance. Your committee are of the opinion that the Petitioner has no grievance to be remedied by this Provincial Council".

Ducks cross the road outside Gantleys before it was restored in the 1950s.
Ducks cross the road outside Gantleys before it was restored in the 1950s.

Undeterred, Mr Gantley sold his six Queenstown sections and bought 200 acres (80ha) at Arthurs Point, which included the Pack Horse Hotel, which he refurbished for an opening on 12th June 1874.

He pitched it as a grand occasion with music and nibbles - when his wife would "promote the comfort of lady visitors".

Retelling his memories of pub life goes something like this:

"Running a pub, now there's a job for you. Bill McHardy was a hard case. He had the store here, stone building just along from this pub. Not that he wasn't a good man early on. Of course, in the '60s there was hundreds of miners up the Shotover.

"Bill and his mates started a store up the river there, past Maori Point, just where the Skippers Creek meets the Shotover.

"There were four of them. Bill minded the store and Ted Fisher did all the accounts work. Egbert Sainsbury packed the stores in from Queenstown or the Arrow. You brought in all you could then."

A Scotsman, Ewan Duncan, took the provisions to the miners who were shacked up along the river.

"Down the winding track to the river he would go, across the tree plank, up that steep hillside, to Skippers Point, and then up through that rough bed of Skippers Creek, dropping stuff off at each camp, carrying just half a sack of flour to each spot in the steep parts.

"When the last was delivered he would come down for more. Usually two trips a day, from daylight till well on to midnight if there was a moon to light his path. Narrow and dangerous it was.

"About 1875 Bill McHardy had a go at mining himself on a few acres up at Stapleton's Terrace way up the river but then came down here to start a store.

"It had a garden and orchard - but things were tough and he went bankrupt in '79.

"That was a bad time for Bill and he got on the bottle a bit.

"In fact, he caused me some bother in that year. He was in my Pack Horse Hotel and decided to drop his trousers. `Wilfully and obscenely exposing his person' was the charge.

"I knew all this from from my police days. Tom Webster from Arthurs Point and Scheinder who had a butchery and wool scour at Arrowtown were in the bar so I lined them up as witnesses."

Mr Hardy's three acres, store and house were sold off about eight years later and he died in Dunedin Hospital in 1899, aged 70.

"In 1883 I spent 400 [$72,000 today] adding more bedrooms and a parlour, hoping for more tourist trade but by 1885 I had to ask for a reduced licence fee as daily profit was as low as three shillings [$39].

"All my family were good quoits players and I organised sports events on the adjoining flat land, which led me to change to pub name to The Sportsman's Arms."

Mr Gantley could add the role of postman to his CV and he carried the mail into Skippers until he was nearly 70 years old.

As he came close to retirement in 1894, the paper wrote this about him and his wife, "The aged couple are enjoying a well-earned rest after having borne the heat and burden of the day, and where the old veteran, still hale and hearty, delights in fighting his battles o'er again."

Patrick and his wife Bridget raised a family of eight. Patrick died at the age of 80 in 1895 and his son Francis held the licence but when Bridget died in 1897, at the age of 60, the property was put on the market.- "A well-known, Comfortable, and Popular HOSTELRY, the SPORTSMANS ARMS HOTEL, WITH 187 ACRES OF LAND is near the junction of Skippers, Queenstown and Arrow roads, and to persons with moderate means this is an opportunity of securing a very nice FARM with Hotel business combined."

Francis Gantley took over the pub and named it Gantley's, but by 1920 the business ceased trading and Francis worked on the Dunedin trams.

The farm was taken over by James McMullen and the old pub was used as a hay barn until it was restored as a restaurant called the Packer's Arms in 1970. In 1993, new owners changed the name to Gantley's and ran a very popular fine dining restaurant, but now it's about to become quite a different sort of eatery and the name Gantley's has gone.

If Patrick Gantley was alive today he would turn in his grave.

The Cafe

Our little Cafe is the perfect area for a small gathering by the wood burner. Holding 18 guests seated and 20 standing it is great for work social functions, baby showers and just a place to catch up with friends.

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Dining Room

This is our largest room in the building, with a high wooden beam ceiling, open fire and private entrance this space is both beautiful and versatile. A capacity of 50 guests seated or 60 standing it can be utilised for dinners, parties and conferences!

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The SRV Room

The newest addition Gantley's Tavern, offering a plethora of sunlight making it the perfect place for a group brunch or lunch for groups up to 30 seated or 40 standing. High wooden beam ceilings have been incorporated in to this space as well to give it a true Gantley's Tavern feel.

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