IN January 1987, with a group of friends travelling outback NSW, we stopped at a memorable little galvanised iron pub, with the tiniest of public bars, and with only icey cold canned or bottled beer available to wet our dusty throats. It was the Yanco Glen Hotel, about 30 kilometres north of Broken Hill on the Silver City Highway.
A crudely painted sign at the front exclaimed: “Yanco Glen Hotel, Cold SA and Vic Beer, Soft Drinks, Toasted S’wiches, Ice.”
I remember a boy fussing over a joey in a cardboard box at the public bar, as we quenched our thirsts before moving onto our next destination. I wasn’t to realise at the time that the famed watering hole was about to dry-up, and by the end of the year would be no more.
The Yanco Glen Hotel was originally a galvanised iron and wooden building with matchboard lining. It was located near Euriowie, but was moved by the licensee, Alexander Robertson, to Corona Station in July 1899 and then to Yanco Glen in April 1900.
Robertson accidentally drowned in a nearby dam in 1901.
The Adelaide Evening Journal reported on Friday 19 April 1901:
An extraordinary drowning fatality oc-curred yesterday at Yanco Glen, Albion Town, 18 miles from Broken Hill. Alex. McIntosh Robertson, aged 45 years, and his son, aged 13 years, left an hotel with a horse and buggy to obtain a cask of water from Ken-nedy’s dam, a mile distant. Nothing was heard of them for some hours, when it was discovered that the horse and buggy had slipped into a deep part of the dam, and that the father and son had both been drowned. Mr. Robertson’s body was re-covered by a man, who, when passing the spot, noticed the cask floating on the water, and the horse, which had struggled out with the buggy, stuck in the mud. The coroner, Mr. Hall, is investigating the case. Mr. Robertson was an old resident of the Barrier, and at one time was licencee of the Royal Hotel in Argent street. He was proprietor of the Yanco Glen Hotel.
Robertson’s wife continued to manage the hotel until 1904. A succession of licensees followed until April 1984 when the hotel burned down. It continued to operate from an iron shed for a time, but closed shortly after I visited the famed watering hole in January 1987.
The Bourke Western Herald reported on Friday 26 April 1968:
YANCO GLEN HOTEL – On the return trip to Broken Hill a visit must be paid to the Yanco Glen Hotel, about 30 miles out of the ‘Hill.’ Imagine to our surprise to find it was run by Mr. and Mrs. Condon, once of Bourke, and also Mrs. Condon’s sister, Mrs. June Gaiter, also of Bourke. Mrs. Condon has 2 rooms devoted to a Historic Museum where aboriginal artifacts, rubbing stones, message sticks and other relics may be found. Also, on display are opals and various other minerals, be-sides an interesting collec-tion of very old implements of all descriptions used by our early settlers. The tour-ist brochure states that “the road to Mootwingie has one great disadvantage in that it has a dusty, clay gravel surface”. The motor-ist from Bourke need have no fears, it surpasses our roads for condition. Visitors are requested not to deface stones or burial mounds. Here then is a one day journey going through his-tory ancient and modern. -J.C.
The best description, I reckon, of the Yanco Glen Hotel and surrounding area is given in this colourful Australian Worker newspaper report on Wednesday 30 January 1924:
WAYSIDE PUBS AND GRAVES
The haunting Barrier Ranges, scenes of fortunes made and fortunes lost, of sweet romance and grim tragedy, claimed whole-souled interest as the ocean creaked up and down, and swung round the curves and bends. There were striking pictures amid those ranges, and many a spot along the wayside where the careless, hunting miner had pegged his last claim.
In the dusk we came to Torrowangee. At a fine hotel that was eloquent of big things in other years, we washed off the dust and brushed up for the last stage on the coach.There were many crumbling ruins in Torrowangee, too, and storied veins were tapped in every old hand you met; but they were mostly tales of wayside pubs, and wayside graves — a rather suggestive combination.
The Barrier hills were rich in old memories; the winding roads were thick with storied landmarks and the graves of men; and west and south, deep buried in the beds of once great lakes, lay the bones of mammoths that a great drought of centuries ago had wiped out; It was truly a land of dead things then, bare of all verdure and all life, studded with dead trees, and strewn with bleaching bones.
Five miles below Torrowangee we passed the ruins of the Gorge Hotel. In its flourishing days, it was a great resort of prospectors, shearers and shepherds. A party of miners were drinking there one night when a shearer entered and unslung his swag. He had just come from a shed. Throwing a cheque on the bar, he invited all hands to “give it a name”. He paid for several rounds of drinks, then suddenly collapsed on the floor and died. Thinking he was only helplessly, drunk, the miners propped him against the bar and continued to drink his health, allotting him a glass each time, until his cheque was cut out. As the hospitable stranger only sagged over when pressed to take his nobbler, it was realised at last that he was dead. He was buried near the pub.
Farther down was the ruin of the old Yanco Glen Hotel, which was burned down in the late 1890s. A man who occupied the room where the fire started perished in the flames and his remains were also planted by the roadside. The publican then bought the Corona Hotel, which faced the Quinyanibie Road, above Torrowangee, and therewith a local carrier named Pincombe stepped into fame. He lifted the main building on to jinkers, and conveyed it by team over 27 miles of rough country to a site a little north of the old place, where it was opened as the new Yanco Glen Hotel forming a landmark that was previously monopolised by somebody’s grave.
Another refreshment place, nearer Broken Hill, was Jacob’s Well. But this was not a pub. It was good, fresh water, which could always be obtained in the sand at the foot of a big rock. Travellers pulled up there for a drink, because the water was always cool. It was a cherished spot of the aborigines; and there, too, kangaroos and wallabies rooted for sustenance in very dry sum-mers. Near, that spot there was no wayside grave.
– E. S. SORENSON.