By MICK ROBERTS ©
BEWARE the grog at the Black Dog, they warned. And for good reason!
A short, but steep walk up Brown Bear Lane from George Street at The Rocks during the first half of the 19th century, would take you to one of Sydney’s most notorious watering holes – The Black Dog Hotel.
The long gone pub was described in the Freeman’s Journal in 1900 as a place “where the soldiers and ex-convicts used to meet, and often settle their little differences by the aid of fisticuffs”.
Blaming the dangerous practice of ‘lambing-down’, the New South Wales coroner warned in 1840 that he had undertaken at least 18 inquests into alcohol related deaths at the Black Dog. To make colonial liquor go further publicans around The Rocks were adding dubious ingredients to their casks and bottles. Lambing down, as it was known, became infamous, prompting warnings from authorities.
One disreputable brew, known as ‘Blow-Me-Skull-Off’, consisted of spirits, opium, tobacco, cayenne pepper and whatever the publican could lay his or her hands on to preserve liquor for long periods. Drinkers were warned not to light up a pipe or cigarette while drinking Blow-Me-Skull-Off as it could set their breath on fire. Another notorious brew was Cape wine – said to contain “deleterious drugs” and a favourite with the whalers.
Most inquests held at the pub, a coroner remarked in 1840, were on the bodies of New Zealand Maoris and South Pacific Islanders – sailors who worked as whalers – who had come to their demise as a result of drinking Cape wine.
A haunt of Maoris and Islanders, the pubs around Sydney’s Rocks, particularly the bars of Gloucester, Cumberland and Lower George Streets, were seething with sailors on shore leave from around the world. Armed robberies, assaults and brawls were common place.
Over a five year period, from 1835 there were at least four liquor related deaths at the Black Dog. In 1839, two drinkers died on the same day as a consequence of swallowing brews served-up from its bar.
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‘Didyano’ Pub & Beer Trivia
Didyano #110: A ‘Jimmy Woodser’ was a name given to a man who drank alone, or was a drink consumed alone. The name is thought to come from a poem by Barcroft Boake, published in The Bulletin on May 7 1892, about a fictional Jimmy Wood from Britain who is determined to end the practice of ‘shouting’ (buying rounds of drinks for a group of mates), by drinking alone. See more: Old Jimmy Woodser.
More pub and beer trivia HERE
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