The Shakespeare Hotel

In 1975 Surry Hills was a long way from the Surry Hills you know of today. It was rough, tough, and probably not the neighbourhood you wanted to be out in after dark. But ignoring all that was Margaret Hargreaves. On paper she appeared to be living the white picket fence dream. A mother of four who lived in Mosman, and married to a real estate developer. However, there was a lot more to Margaret than met the eye. She was, and still is, the publican of one of Sydney’s most legendary pubs, the Shakey, or if you’re a traditionalist, the Shakespeare Hotel.

As Margaret’s youngest daughter Kelly remembers, “Mum bought the pub in ’75, and then us kids shifted from Mosman, into the Shakey upstairs for a few months while dad stayed put, across the bridge.”

Built in 1879, there’s little doubt the Shakespeare has seen a lot in that time, sometimes notoriously so. There was the infamous bootlegging out the back door during prohibition, and the drive by shooting in the 1990s, when the Shakey took 14 bullets to it. As a side note, it was 3am, and not a soul about.

At any one time there can be three generations of Hargreaves behind the bar, with 91-year-old Margaret leading the way. Standing next to her, as has been the case for the past 43 years, is her right-hand barlady, Norah, who started at the Shakey not long after arriving from Ireland. And once you enter this pub, with its old world charm, extensive menu and welcoming smiles, you might find yourself never leaving too.