The Great Western Hotel (now the Brass Monkey) was designed in 1896 by Michael Cavanagh, who had arrived in Perth from Adelaide only the year before. He is mostly famous for his numerous buildings constructed for the Catholic Church.
His work includes Mercedes Colleges, St. Brigid’s Convent and the Redemptorist Monastery. However, he doesn’t appear to have put a lot of work into the Great Western, simply recycling his plans for the Barrier Hotel in Port Pirie, SA, which he designed in 1892.
In November 1913, William Urquhart was enjoying a drink in the Great Western with a friend. It was Urquhart’s shout, so he pulled out a purse. As he did so, a number of coins fell to the floor.
But others had entered the bar: William Proleta, McGaskiell and William Williams, locally known as ‘The Peanut King’. As Urquhart picked up the cash, Proleta said “That’s my half-sovereign, mate.” Then he grabbed the purse and punched Urquhart in the face.
Urquhart fell, but recovered in a few seconds. Rising from the floor, he ran to summon the police. Strangely, Proleta kept calmly drinking in the bar.
When Constable Molloy accused Proleta of robbery, the young labourer replied, “I —– didn’t rob him; I don’t know him.” He was searched, but only small change was found in his pocket.
While being arrested, Proleta struggled and was thrown to the ground. His hat fell off, and a sovereign and two half-sovereigns tumbled out. The Peanut King also turned out to have unexplained cash on him.
As a strange footnote, in another court case featuring The Peanut King, he denied his wife was known as The Cocoanut Queen. Nicknames were certainly different in the 1910s.