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A lament for The Corkman, the illegally demolished 159-year-old pub

Rose Johnstone

Last weekend, Melbourne lost a part of its history. The Corkman Irish Pub, which has lived on the corner of Leicester and Pelham streets for the last 159 years, was demolished, despite there being no permits in place for the demolition to occur. 

Unsurprisingly, Melburnians are furious. “This is a very, very serious matter – that building was protected by a heritage overlay,” Lord Mayor Robert Doyle told The AgeThe demolition has re-ignited the call to enforce larger penalties for illegal commercial demolition, which, at a maximum of $200,000, is nothing compared to how lucrative a multi-million dollar commercial development could be for those who demolished the pub. The building, which was regarded as an important heritage site, had been purchased by development company 160 Leicester Pty Ltd back in August for $4.76 million. 

Time will tell whether new laws will be put into place. Right now, we’re still in mourning for one of the city’s oldest and noblest pubs. Time Out Melbourne's pubs and bars writer Fred Siggins felt the loss keenly – and in the spirit of the pub’s Irish heritage, he was moved to put his feelings into verse. So grab your mates, raise a glass, and send off the old girl with a song. 


'Lament for The Corkman', by Fred Siggins

In eighteen five nine your foundation was laid,
For the workers of Carlton all hot meals were made,
The beds up your stairs were welcome and warm,
As the story of Melbourne from that day rolled on.
But now the old girl she lies crumbled and torn,
A lost memory from when Melbourne was born,
For the greed of a few men, the Corkman’s no more.
For the broken heart of Carlton, the Corkman’s no more. 
For a hundred and sixty your taps they did flow,
Making merry for all as our city did grow,
Students and trav’lers and lawyers alike,
Did sit by your fire and laugh over a pint.
The music was rousing, the chorus joined in,
As voices were raised to sing over the din,
For a true Irish heart in the Corkman did lie,
And she struggled to keep that fair music alive.
But last week a fire did tear through her halls,
And the flames were suspicious to any and all,
But before the policemen could investigate,
Your destruction was ordered and sealed your sad fate.
We watched with dismay as they tore your walls down,
And a cry of lament echoed all across town,
Your old bricks they crumbled like the heart in our breast,
For the warmth of the Corkman no more we’ll be blessed.

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