Coalcliff rail tunnel opened on St Pat’s Day

BESIDES St Patrick’s Day, March 17 also marks the anniversary of the completion of the Coalcliff to Clifton rail tunnel. Known as the ‘Gate of Illawarra’, and measuring 1070 yards or just under 980 metres, the completion of the tunnel was celebrated on St Patrick’s Day 1887 with Clifton storekeeper, P. J. Kenna given the honour of…

The dusted miner

By MICK ROBERTS © RETIRED coal miner George Forsyth Bryson was described in a story with the Daily Telegraph in 1946 as a short, stocky man, with brown eyes and a cheer-fill grin, looking closer to 30, rather than his 41 years. The reporter described George as a man you would take to be in…

Wollongong’s pub shortage: Three shifts a day in bed

  The hotels in Wollongong, on the NSW South Coast, went through a major transformation with the population explosion that came with the opening of Hoskins Iron and Steel Works at Port Kembla in 1927. The works became Australian Iron and Steel the following year, and as the 1930s progressed, the region struggled with the…

Bulli’s Beer Boycott

By MICK ROBERTS © THE barmaids must have looked on in sheer horror as thousands of thirsty beer drinkers began filling the public bar of their Bulli hotel on Christmas Eve 1940. With just 40 minutes before closing time, hardly a slop tray had been emptied at the Bulli Family Hotel that day, in fact for…

Arrest of a Supposed Madman

A BULLI SENSATION BULLI. Tuesday – A man named John Reynolds, who was discharged last week from the lunatic asylum, became dangerously mad this morning. Reynolds, with his brother, was sent several months ago to the asylum, suffering from religious mania. At that time both showed great violence and armed themselves with iron bars. John…

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.”  

Illawarra’s first clubs

By MICK ROBERTS ©  REGISTERED clubs, with their assortment of restaurants, bars and cafes, gymnasiums, and ‘mini-casinos’, have come along way from the timber cottages, offering dominoes and newspaper and magazine libraries, that began to appear throughout colonial New South Wales during the 1890s. Prior to this, membership of early colonial clubs was confined to…

The Kennedy Brothers

By MICK ROBERTS © THE Kennedy brothers’ attempts at respectability in Australia seemed to have started off on the right foot. The three Irishmen, Hugh, John and Richard built a portfolio of properties, and established a profitable cattle trading business, before their empire came crashing to the ground as a result of criminal activity, alcoholism and financial…

Lady Luck & the pub rouse-about

BILL Price fitted perfectly the profile of a pub rouse-about or ‘useful’. A drifter, he did most odd jobs around the pubs where he worked in return for boarding and lodgings. He did jobs like tapping beer kegs or barrels, to collecting glasses, cleaning toilets, and emptying ashtrays. Bill worked in an unnamed Bulli pub…

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!

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. glasses,…

Balgownie’s Fountain on the Mountain

By MICK ROBERTS © THREATENED with demolition in the 1990s, and described by the hopeful developer at the time as worthless of preservation, the ‘Fountain on the Mountain’ – the Balgownie Hotel – survived to celebrate 100 years of trade on Monday December 20 2004. Balgownie Hotel was designed by architect Alex Elphinstone and built…