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Good Gough! When Perc met the PM

Peter "Percy" Jones with the late Gough Whitlam. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)
Peter "Percy" Jones with the late Gough Whitlam. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

It’s been six months now since mine host Peter “Percy” Jones last graced The Astor Hotel with his substantial presence – but the ghosts of the past still prevail at the old Lygon Street watering hole, by way of black and white photos adorning the yellowing pub walls.

Amongst them is the ghost of Gough, the late Australian Prime Minister Edward Gough Whitlam, who died on Tuesday at the grand age of 98. The photograph in question, which still hangs from the old pub’s eastern wall, captures the moment when the pair crossed paths at another lost institution, The Southern Cross on Exhibition Street, on the occasion of the then VFL’s 75th anniversary celebratory dinner.

According to Perc, the pic was taken in 1973 when both men were riding high. Gough had led Labor to victory on the strength of the “It’s Time” campaign in December ’72, while Perc was still basking in the afterglow of the ’72 Grand Final triumph, perhaps his finest hour in 249 games for the old dark Navy Blues.

The image still hangs on the eastern wall of the Astor Hotel. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

“I was invited to the function at the Cross and Gough was there. I’m not sure what he was doing there as he didn’t know anything about the game,” Jones recalled from idyllic Barwon Heads this week.

“He came up to me and I was introduced.”

Never one to miss an opportunity, Jones, then working the taps at the Dover Hotel on the corner of Lygon and Victoria Streets, suggested to the PM that they retire there for drinks.

“‘Ade’ (Adrian Gallagher) and I were running that pub up at Trades Hall, which was a worker’s pub, and I thought ‘How good would it look if I walked in with the Prime Minister?’. After all, most of the people in the bar were trade unionists’,” Jones said.

“Anyway I asked Gough and he was keen. He said yes, and it was on until he turned to one of his minders who suggested otherwise, saying ‘Sorry Perc, he’s got to do this and that’.”

The Astor Hotel, Lygon Street. (Photo: Carlton Football Club)

Of course, Whitlam wasn’t the only PM with whom Jones has been famously snapped.

He was also photographed with Carlton devotee RG Menzies in the Princes Park dressing rooms, and he shared frame space with Malcolm Fraser when the latter was domiciled in idyllic Kirribilli.

In truth, Carlton’s much-loved Best and Fairest and four-time Premiership ruckman is a conservative, having once famously ran as a Liberal candidate for the state lower house, employing the slogan: “Point Percy at Parliament” through a memorable, if unsuccessful campaign.

Not that it impacted on his perceptions of the late great Labor man.

“Gough was a top bloke,” said Jones.