Vale: The saliors’ pubs

The Port Hotel, one of South A ustralia's oldest inns, which was torn down to make way for Harbors Board improvements.

The Port Hotel, one of South Australia’s oldest inns, which was torn down to make way for Harbors Board improvements.

AS the inexorable trend of modernisation goes on round us, each day sees the demolition of yet one more of our old landmarks. Perhaps no other part of South Australia is suffering more from this than Port Adelaide.

Already, many old but interesting buildings have fallen to allow construction of new wharves, warehouses, and business places so badly needed in this busy port. Woven around the old hotels of Port Adelaide is an interesting, exciting, and colorful past of which very little is known by the present generation.

The Port Hotel, one of the first buildings to be erected in Port Adelaide, was a fine establishment where the rowing boats from the lofty sailing ships used to tie up at the verandah posts to discharge their cargo of thirsty sailors.The Lass o’ Gowrie, in St.Vincent street, was often the scene of much bloodshed and skull-duggery. This inn, demolished only this year, is reputed often to have been the pick-up centre for a ship’s crew. Yes, even shanghaing used to flourish in our own Port Adelaide. Keen rivalry existed between the Jervois and the Dock Hotels. opposite each other in Lipson street. At one time the Jervois, to increase its trade, reduced the price of beer from 6d. to 4d. a pint.

The Dock, not to be outdone, immediately reduced its price to 2d., which, incidentally, was the cost price in those days. But best remembered of all is the Ship Inn. This fine building, with its frontage of blue tiling, specialised in cockfighting. The tough sailors surrounding the 12-ft. iron circle would cheer gleefully as the two dynamic balls of blood and feathers thrashed their way to death or victory. But no matter what else was indulged in, this respectable house always remained closed on Sunday afternoons.So one may talk of Port Adelaide and its inns from the time someone decided to lay a road farther down the river at Port Misery until as recently as 1910,when a public option poll closed 16 hotels in the Port Adelaide district.

Throughout all those years our “Gateway to the State” has been tinged with the marks left by travellers from all corners of the globe; men who never ceased travelling until they had made the last long journey; men who drank, played, and fought in buildings which may still be seen today. At least some of them may still be seen, but time and progress are gradually taking their toll of what was once one of the most romantic ports in the Southern Hemisphere.

-Kevin Crease.

– News (Adelaide), Friday 20 February 1953, page 14



Categories: South Australia Hotels

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