An old bloke immortalised by an iconic Carlton and United Breweries advertising poster is being remembered by the hotel that bears his name. 

Story by John Dunn

Sam Griffin was born in England in 1841 and came to Australia 47 years later to look for gold. Somewhere, somehow along the way he became known as Sam Knott. He chose the Walhalla area but had no luck so instead found employment in the Aberfeldy hotel and finally at McVeigh’s pub where, in a weekly ritual using the same note, Paddy McVeigh would pay him one pound, which Sam would promptly hand back in return for his lodgings and that “one at eleven” or more.
On May 25, 1907 Sam is said to have choked on an oxtail bone and died. No doubt the story is true, although it may well have been embellished a bit over the years. However, the tale of Sam’s funeral is particularly entertaining and is recounted with much hilarity in the bars of the Yarra Valley to this day.
Paddy cobbled together a coffin from old butter boxes, fence palings and packing cases with stencils that read ‘This side up’ and ‘Keep in a cool place’. The cortege – just a single horse-drawn dray – set off to meet the minister, William Williams, at the Wesburn Hotel before proceeding to the Warburton cemetery.
It was winter, the rain was heavy and the rough bush track was muddy and slippery. As the dray bounced and slithered, the coffin kept falling off. Finally, it broke into pieces and Sam fell out. The drivers, George Stackpool and John Maginn, repaired the damage as best they could.
The minister hadn’t arrived at the hotel so Stackpool and Maginn had a drink while they waited. They took Sam with them, propped him up against the counter and proposed a toast – several actually. The locals were much amused, declaring it was the only time they had seen Sam at a bar without a drink in his hand.

This story excerpt is from Issue #108

Outback Magazine: Aug/Sep 2016