Cave Arms Hotel
How many readers remember this old pub? It certainly doesn’t seem like twenty-five or thirty years since this old Cave Arms Hotel (as it was known) was demolished.
This was not the first hotel to be built at Cave, however; the first was located about one kilometre east of the township, on land owned by Adam McIntosh. It was opened in 1869 or thereabouts by James Walley, who I believe had owned the hotel at Burkes Pass.
This venture of Walley’s never succeeded and the hotel was eventually closed. Later it was reopened by Donald McLennan and seemed to have quite a chequered career from then on. It has been recorded that Judge Ward noted the place was, by universal consent, disreputable. The pub was in the news once more during the 1890’s, it was unfortunately destroyed by fire.
During 1878, John Wildermuth from Washdyke was granted a transfer licence and he chose a site to erect this second hotel unwittingly where it would eventually stand opposite the Cave Railway Station.
Various licensees passed through the Cave Hotel over the next few years. W. C. Morgan, Griffith Roberts and Richard Kidwell.
During 1883 it was sold to Lachlan McCormack, a Waitohi farmer, who leased the business to George Finch. George was born near
London Bridge and educated in Kent, England. Here he had been a blacksmith’s apprentice before he chose to immigrate to New Zealand arriving aboard the vessel ‘Isles of the South’ in 1872. When he became proprietor of the Cave Arms Hotel, it was his first association with the township and a position he held for the next thirty or more years.
With the Railway Station close at hand, the pub stables were a convenient place to leave the horse and gig for those travelling public boarding the morning train.
Disaster struck in 1885 however, the pub was completely destroyed by fire where George is reputed to have lost all his personal possessions.
George Finch passed away in early 1915, his brother-in-law, Tom Dixon, known as ‘Jum’, took up the lease in March of that same year.
Les Hanna, Tom’s son-in-law took up the reins in 1920 and was reputed to have enjoyed a good life for the next five years.
William McDonald was next to take up the reins, then Frederick Seal, known to the locals as the Walrus and then Bob Thistleton followed in quick succession until 1929, when George Hodgson arrived on the scene.
Ben Winter is said to have tried his luck behind the bar in 1930, but he soon decided it was much easier on the other side.
Mary Gibson, a name I came to know well, was taught the bar trade at the Cave Arms when she took over in 1931. I believe during the war years Tom Wilson, Glen Barclay and Dane McColl all had their turn behind the bar.
In 1945, Edgar (Ted) Finnie tried his luck, but Ted was canny, he tried it for a period of three years, having the right to purchase should he like it. That was the beginning of a twenty-two-year experience for Ted.
In a 1901 census, this old Cave Arms pub was described as having well-furnished bedrooms for eight guests the well-ventilated dining room had a seating capacity for twenty-five guests. There were several sitting rooms and as well as having ample stabling and loose boxes for guests horses there was well-grassed paddocks adjacent.
It was during 1968 Ted decided to construct a new hotel alongside, yet it was to be another twenty years before this old landmark in Cave was finally demolished and completely removing it from the village scene.
Incidentally, during the early part of the century, beer kegs were delivered to the Cave by rail, usually in the guards-van. The train would stop so that the guards-van drew alongside the loading platform. With plenty of eager volunteers, each beer barrel was rolled out onto a couple of planks and with willing hands, each barrel was rolled across the road and into the beer cellar under the pub.
It must have been during the 1950s and 60s when ‘Tug-o-War contests were regular sporting events between groups of young and not so young men from around the districts.
The Cave Arms Hotel was located just across the road from the Railway Good shed, where the event was held on a Friday or Saturday evening. With a smile, Ted rubbed his hands together once more as the takings grew. Time to order another couple of barrels, he thinks.