The Swaggies

A swagman (also called a swaggie, sundowner or tussocker) is an old Australia and New Zealand term describing an underclass of transient temporary workers, who travelled by foot from farm to farm carrying the traditional swag or bedroll. Particularly during the Depression of the 1890s and the Great Depression of the 1930s, unemployed men travelled the rural areas of…

Panorama’s first publican murdered his wife

By MICK ROBERTS © THE life of one of Sydney’s most successful publicans, the man who was the first host of the Panorama Hotel at Bulli Tops, ended tragically in 1935 after he murdered his wife while she slept, and he then turned the revolver on himself. The son of a celebrated New Zealand whip…

Career Publican: Ellen Stokes

By MICK ROBERTS © BESIDES running a popular and profitable bar, the pinnacle for a career publican must be hosting the likes of royalty – and the closest to Australian royalty is a governor general. Ellen Stokes hosted at least two Governors General during a long and distinguished career as a hotelier, which began with…

The Boxing Publican

The Arrow April 29 1927 – Bulli Family Hotel – “Gordon Coghill, once well in the running for heavyweight championship honors, is now mine host of the Bulli Hotel. This should mean much to the sports of that industrious part, for Gordon, as his war record proves, is a dinkum Aussie.”  

The Centennial’s heroic publican

By MICK ROBERTS © SAID to be a modest man, publican James Alexander Martin managed to keep from an official government inquest how he saved the life of a drowning man when he gave evidence in 1914. Jim Martin was the first publican of Helensburgh’s re-built Centennial Hotel in 1915. The original old single storey…

The flash Irish publican & cabman

By MICK ROBERTS © DESCRIBED as a “flash looking little cab driver”, Irishman Jimmy Barton and his wife Elizabeth established what is today considered Kiama’s oldest operating business. Trading as the Kiama Hotel on the corner of Teralong and Shoalhaven Streets, the Bartons licensed ‘The Fermanagh’ on April 6 1853 making it the seaside village’s third…

Johanna Ryan: The untold story

By MICK ROBERTS © FIFTY five years after the death of her husband, Irish hotelier Johanna Ryan was finally reunited with her spouse Michael, laid to rest beside him in the Catholic section of Australia’s largest cemetery. The year was 1956, and the grand old landlady, who ruled her pubs with an iron fist for…

‘Need glasses? See an optician’… Pubs lost on average 60 glasses a week in the 1940s!

During the 1940s, publicans were experiencing unprecedented theft of beer glasses from their pubs. One newspaper reported more than 7,00,000 glasses disappeared from Sydney’s 600 metropolitan hotels in 1944, “In an amazing wave of petty thieving”.  Hotels lost an average of 60 glasses a week! The licensee of a Melbourne hotel said in 1945 petty thefts, mostly of 7oz.…

Lysaght and the reformed drunkard

By MICK ROBERTS © WELL over six feet tall and solidly built, Andrew Lysaght was an imposing and influential Illawarra pioneer. A magistrate, who resigned after a NSW Parliamentary inquiry found he called the Wollongong Police Sergeant an “old woman”, he wasn’t afraid to speak his mind – especially to the establishment. Lysaght was granted 60…

The Baby Farmers

By MICK ROBERTS © THE 19th century had many notorious publicans out to make their fortune, by any means possible. However, none were so callous than the one time hosts of Wollongong’s Royal Alfred Hotel, who after hanging-up their publican apron became multiple murderers. This is the story of John and Sarah Makin – The Baby…