The Fortune of War, and a haunted hotel


My regular Once-Upon-A-Friday blog was ready to go – honest – when something unexpected happened: a good friend of mine bought a pub and a haunted hotel. So? Well, to begin with, the pub isn’t just any pub. It’s the famous Fortune of War in the historic Rocks precinct right on Sydney harbour! Its Australia’s oldest pub; an icon.  And the hotel next door isn’t just a hotel either. It’s the Russell, another Sydney icon, and one of the top 10 haunted hotels of the world. Let me tell you a little about them:


The pub opened its doors in 1828. As you can imagine, Sydney was a very different place then; full of thirsty sailors, wild colonial boys, and buxom wenches. And they all enjoyed a drink, or two. And this is the very bar where they had fun. The drinking, the brawls, the gangs, the stories …


The Russell too has a colourful history. During the deadly outbreak of smallpox and the bubonic plague it was used as a hospital before it became a rooming house and hostel for sailors. Today, it is a popular boutique hotel oozing character and charm. Perhaps a little too much character some would say … Why? Room 8 is haunted! You don’t believe me? Then read all about it and watch the video…



Shortly after the colony’s formation in 1788, The Rocks became a notorious area frequented by visiting sailors, cutthroats, pickpockets and ladies of the night. The early buildings were constructed of sandstone which gave the precinct its name. Gangs, such as the Rocks Push, made sure it had a rough reputation which continued well into the 1870s. Today, The Rocks is a popular, gentrified tourist destination on the shores of Sydney’s spectacular harbour.


The splendid heritage bar of the Fortune of War still looks very much as it did in the days of old Sydney Town. Here, have a look.


Fortune of War; historic bar


Imagine, if only the creaking floorboards could talk, or the bar could tell us about the thousands of elbows that have polished its aged timbers over the years? Then again, who knows? Perhaps they can, and all you have to do is listen…

And the Russell? A haunted hotel? It’s a storyteller’s goldmine; trust me. I look forward to exploring the hotel and it’s colourful past and will write more about it another time.

There’s a good reason I’m telling you all this. I’ve been promised a seat at the bar at theFortune of War!  This will become my Writer’s Corner in The Rocks, and I’ll be sending you stories from this historic spot. Perhaps we’ll call them Pub talk from The Rocks, or Barstool Whispers or perhaps Tales of a Haunted Hotel? We’ll see. This is every writer’s dream: a seat at the bar in a historic pub frequented by fascinating characters from all over the world, next door to a haunted hotel?  Just imagine the stories … I can’t wait.

Who knows, in time the Fortune of War may become a meeting place for writers.  It would be a wonderful venue for a book launch or a book signing. It has it all; history, character, charm and a splendid location right on Sydney Harbour. And one more thing: the beer is always cold, and never runs out! Perhaps one day I’ll see you there?