The Deegans at the Bulli Family Hotel during the war years

Phyllis and Cyril Deegan in the 1950s

Phyllis and Cyril Deegan in the 1950s


deegan 2

Pat and John Deegan at the cedar doors of the Bulli Family Hotel in the 1940s and below John and Pat were photographed at the same spot almost 60 years later.

AS a 14 year-old girl Pat Pennefather loved to slide down Bulli pub’s red cedar banister rails.

Almost 60 years later during a visit to the Bulli Heritage Hotel in 2003 the 72-year-old just couldn’t resist jumping onto to the old stair-well railing to re-live some of those happy childhood memories.

“My brother John said get off, you’re too old for that now,” Pat said.

Spritely Pat, who regularly swims and believes you’re never too old to have fun was determined to ride the banister railing from top to bottom, and so she did.

“No way, you’re never too old, I laughed, and slid down, It brought back so many joyful memories.”

Pat and John revisited the pub where as children their mum and dad worked during World War II.

Pat spoke to Looking Back about her parents, Phyllis and Cyril Deegan and how her mum became a respected Bulli business woman.

Phyllis and Cyril were married in Lithgow in 1930 before moving with their two children to Sutherland in the late 1930s.

Cyril suffered from tuberculosis (TB) and Sutherland was in easy travelling distance to the Waterfall Sanatorium where he received regular treatment for the illness.

deegan 1The Deegans were doing it tough, trying to make ends meet, with Cyril on the dole, unable to work due to TB and Phyllis taking odd jobs to support the family.

The family’s luck changed when Pat’s uncle and Bulli publican, Charlie Luscumbe found it impossible to employ staff at the Bulli Family Hotel because of the war.

Charlie and Marjorie Luscombe, who became hosts of the pub in 1941, asked Pat’s mum, Phyllis to help out.

”It would have been tough for mum because dad couldn’t work,” she said. “This was an opportunity for her to have a career, feed and school us, and provide a roof over our head.”

Phyllis decided to accept the Luscombe’s offer and the Deegans moved into the Bulli pub in 1943. The pub also provided suitable employment for Pat’s sick dad, who worked as a rouse-about, stoking the boiler donkey in the kitchen, emptying ash trays and doing other odd jobs.

Within a couple of years Phyllis Deegan was managing the Bulli Family Hotel for the Luscombes. She developed excellent business skills and the pub became a favourite with tourists and day-trippers.

Pat recalls the war years at the hotel with fondness.

”We had a lot of army personnel visiting the hotel, as well as, surprisingly, a lot of tourists,” she said.

Besides the many tourists, the pub also had permanent residents.

”There was Paddy Gleeson, the barman, who lived in one of the little attic rooms, who was quite a character,” Pat recalled.

Other permanent residence included Mrs McGillroy, manageress of the Woonona Cooperative store, and Edna Brown, the manageress of Sports De Jon, the elegantly named women’s swim-wear factory that operated from the present Bulli Chemist shop, opposite the pub.

Charlie Luscombe, Bulli hotel licensee.

Charlie Luscombe, Bulli hotel licensee.

She spoke of Leo Condon the SP bookie, and characters that frequented the bar, such as Johno Johnson.

Pat remembers the 17 hour days her mum spent managing the Bulli hotel with 6am starts serving breakfast for guests.

”Mum would come up stairs to bed, so tired, most nights at around 11pm.”

Homework during the infamous ‘Six O’clock Swill’ was difficult for the two Deegan kids.

“I didn’t like that time of the evening because the drinkers in the bar were roaring out loud, doing what men do when they have a few beers,” Pat said.

“We sat in the upstairs family room to do our home work and the noise made it hard to concentrate at times.”

We would mingle with guests and permanents in the family room, where we would gather to listen to the wireless or play the piano,” she said.

The hotel was popular with tourists and served excellent meals supplied by a Mrs Richardson according to Pat and many guests would return year after year to experience the hotel’s famed hospitality.

Like her brother, Marjorie Luscumbe, wife of the licensee, also suffered with TB and died from the disease in 1946.

After the death of his wife in 1947, Charlie Luscombe sold the hotel business and helped Phyllis establish a mixed business opposite the present Bulli Masonic Lodge.

© Copyright 2014 Mick Roberts

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