“QUONDONG HOTEL, Thirty-three miles from anywhere. Half-way house on the Menindie to Broken Hill coach line.”
– The Sydney Mail Wednesday 26 October 1910.
By MICK ROBERTS ©
ALL that remains in the arid outback setting of where the Quondong Hotel traded is its rubble, and a resilient lone Pepper Tree, planted by the wife of the first publican.
The tree is a reminder of a once popular and essential wayside pub that traded for just over a century, shutting its doors in 2000, before it burnt to the ground the following year.
The Quondong Hotel, a single storey timber and corrugated iron structure, was located 50km south east of Broken Hill on the Menindee Road, on the banks of the mostly dry Stephens Creek.
The pub was named in honour of the quandong, a small tree that grows in the central deserts and southern areas of Australia. The plant is highly prized by indigenous Australians for its fruit, and is also known as native peach.
There seems to be only one other Australian pub named after the bush tucker tree. The other, The Quandongs Hotel operated in the Riverina district of NSW, near Hay, about the same time as its counterpart.
Our Quondong Hotel though, was a half way coach stop on the 110km journey between Broken Hill and Menindee – a small town on the banks of the Darling River.
The Quondong Hotel was built and opened by William Sugars on July 28 1891. He was born at Holdfast Bay South Australia in 1863. Sugars followed his father into the butchery trade before moving to the booming mining town of Broken Hill in NSW at the age of 26 in 1889.
Sugars almost never made it to Stephens Creek to open his pub. A gun accident in 1878 nearly blew his head-off, the South Australian Chronicle reported on Saturday September 14 1878.
On Wednesday, September 4, a lad named William Sugars, a son of Mr. G. Sugars, butcher, of Strathalbyn, met with a narrow escape of being shot dead… the gun which is used for shooting the beasts was left at the killing yard, and some larrikins got at it and loaded it with three or four charges of powder and a lot of stones within four inches of the muzzle, and as the lad was endeavouring to clear it out he dropped a lighted match into it while held in his hand and it immediately exploded and the charge just grazed his forehead, giving him a very severe fright, but fortunately no further damage was done.
Sugars arrived in Broken Hill in 1889, and in 1891 built the Quondong Hotel, placing a Mr Wilson in charge. It was not easy for unmarried men to receive a publican’s license, so Wilson was licensee until Sugars married Rosetta Perryman, daughter of a Broken Hill nurse, Margaret Perryman, on January 26 1892.
The newly married couple took-over the Quondong Hotel, where they remained for 16 years as hosts. The new publicans lost a child, Myrtle, at the age of three months at the hotel in 1894, but would go on to raise two boys and a girl.
Sugars was warned by the licensing magistrate that he needed to keep his hotel – where the four-horse passenger coach called twice a week – better supplied with liquor and horse feed in 1898.
The Adelaide Advertiser reported on Monday January 4 1904:
THE BARRIER DISTRICT FLOODED. MAILS DELAYED.
A SENSATIONAL ADVENTURE.
Broken Hill, January 3.
The Menindie mail, which left Broken Hill on Monday, did not reach its destination till Thursday night, having been stuck up at the Quondong Hotel owing to the flooded state of the country. On reaching Quondong the driver had to ride one of the horses to the hotel, where a buggy was obtained in which the passengers were removed from the coach. Two men endeavoured to swim the flood on horseback, but were washed off and managed to climb into the fork of a tree from which “they were rescued by the people from the hotel by means of ropes. The mail driver states that he has never seen the country so flooded during the twelve years he has been
travelling over it. The past year’s rainfall in Broken Hill amounted to 14.26 in. The greater part of this fell within the last four months,
and constitutes the second highest fall for nine years.
Quondong Hotel and its surrounding cattle stations were a harsh environment to say the least, with Sugars’ inn a welcome oasis in a land that could transform from dry and arid, to raging flood waters in an instant.
In 1902, Albert Harvey, a 45-year-old cook employed at Bedan Station was brought to Sugars’ pub, suffering pneumonia. Sugars tried to bring him into Broken Hill Hospital, but the cook died in the attempt.
The remoteness of the Quondong Hotel may have led to the Sugars selling the business in 1907. The Quondong Hotel was placed on the market, described as having 11 rooms at the time. The Sugars went on to host the Miners Arms Hotel at Rockwell, about 16 km (10 miles) out of Broken Hill along the same road. They remained as hosts at the Rockwell pub for about three years.
The Quondong remained a welcome stop-over between Menindee and Broken Hill after the Sugars’ departure. The Barrier Miner reported on Wednesday December 21 1910:
Thirty-two miles from Broken Hill is the Quondong Hotel, a very modest little hostelry, on the banks of what is here called Quondong Creek. It is really Stephens Creek, which runs in a south -easterly direction until it reaches New Lake, a small depression about 6 miles from the river, about half-way between Lakes Cawndilla and Tundora. It is only when there is a very strong stream that the creek water reaches New Lake. The thirsty sand usually soaks it up before it reaches that far. The traveller from broken Hill to Menindie usually camps at the Quondong for the night if he is going in his own vehicle. The coach only pauses for refreshments and goes on again. There is a bridge across the creek here, but although it has been erected for about a couple of years, only three or four teams have been known to go over it. There being water in the creek only some three or four times a year, it is easier to follow the old road across the creek bed. It is complained that the bridge is too narrow and too slippery to be safe. The keeper of the hotel is not an enthusiastic agriculturist. He has a few pepper trees, a clump of bamboos, a young lemon tree, and about 200 g a s. with some poultry and turkeys. The traveller has a good chance of a piece of goat for dinner, but no chance at all of a slice of turkey. The water supply is from a well in the bed of the creek, and it is drawn up by manual labor, and then hauled by horse labor up to the house. This is a tired country, there is no doubt about it. Windmills and water pipes are too big a proposition to be faced on the Menindie road or at the end of it. At the change house mentioned below where we had a cup of tea the water for the house and the horses is carted from a tank about 200 yards away, from where it would cosily run by gravitation if pipes were laid.
The host of the Quondong Hotel, Walter Mellowship was fine £3 in Broken Hill Magistrates Court in December 1912 for refusing accommodation to a party of “motorists” were on their way to Menindee when a heavy storm caused their vehicles to be bogged in nearby Stephens Creek. The court heard that Mellowship refused food for the stranded motorists, which included women. They were only given “verandah accommodation” while stranded at Quondong overnight.
An interesting yarn – with a fantastic photograph to back it up – is told about a visit to the Quondong Hotel in about 1910 when Mellowship was host.
Outback bushman, Arthur Paynter, whose company Seppelt and Sons was agent for Sanderson’s Whiskey had the job escorting a 7ft 2inch tall Scotsman, fully dressed in kilt and spawn, to a few outback pubs on a promotional gig.
Arthur was said to delight in harnessing up a four in-hand buggy, so light that he and a companion “could pull it with their mouths and race across country to Menindee, Wilcannia, and other places”.
A mate of Arthur’s, who accompanied him on the whiskey promotional tour in 1910, told of how they took the towering Scot to Broken Hill. The Chronicle reported in September 1944:
The Scotsman boarded the vehicle, dressed fit to kill, with kilt, spats and all accessories. He selected the back seat, minus cushion or hood, and the rain fell in torrents. We started in full gallop for Mt. Gipps Hotel, 10 miles away, and the whole landscape was under water. Far be it from me to be little the courage of any Scotsman, but this one knew nothing about horses; the pace and the bumps made him hit the seat every 10 yards, and it was no exaggeration to say that he was bored stiff. You can imagine what he looked like when we reached Mt. Gipps through water and mud. He took the landlady aside, confided that he could not swim, that he would like to see his mother again, and could she do anything to slow down these two madmen he was travelling with? However, we got him back to the Hill safely. Arthur Paynter was a great whip and a good fellow, and I was very sorry to learn of his death.
In response to the recollections of Jack Noonan, Mr J.C. Cassidy, who was an overseer on a station at the time, was prompted to dig-out an old photograph he had of the tall Scot’s visit to the Quondong Hotel. The Chronicle reported on October 5 1944:
[The photo] shows the giant from Scotland wearing kilt and carrying bagpipes on the verandah of the Quondong Hotel, on the Menindee road, shaking hands with Willie Roberts, who was half his height. Arthur Paynter and two bushmen and a woman [Mrs Allen] are looking on. “I remember that that Scotsman could reach up and put stickers on the ceiling of the bar room,” Mr. Cassidy told me recently.
Dust and rain storms could be harsh in the Barrier district, with the roof reportedly blown from the pub in February 1915.
A TIMELY DISCOVERY. DUE TO A PET LAMB.
Broken Hill, January 27.
Mr. William Alfred Cutts was found lying exhausted at the rear of Redan station yesterday afternoon. He was brought in to Broken Hill to-day and admitted to the hospital. The man would probably not have been found only for a pet lamb from the Quondong Hotel which had fol-lowed him for twenty miles and attracted the attention of the manager of the station. Cutts could not give any information concerning himself. The last place he remembers being in is Queensand.
– The Adelaide Advertiser Friday 28 January 1927.
Improvements were made to the old inn during 1930 when the licensee John Broughton spent £150 on renovations. The improvements included raising the roof, removing a partition between the bar and parlor, to make an extension of the dining room, and adding a new pantry and bathroom.
The bar of the Quondong could become extremely busy during wet weather. The Barrier Miner reported in April 1932 that Mr. J. Foulds was “a busy man helping stranded travellers at the weekend”.
FOUND DEAD IN BED
AGED MAN AT QUONDONG HOTEL
Mr. Jack Thomas (71), an old age pensioner and a man with a long association with the outback, was found dead in his bed at the Quondong Hotel last night or early this morning. The hotel is about 30 miles from Broken Hill on the Menindie-road. News of the death was conveyed to the police by Mr. J. B. Foulds, licensee of the hotel. Thomas had been under treatment in the Hospital for heart trouble, and was only discharged yesterday, Mr. Foulds taking him out to the hotel.
Mr. J. A. Harris, coroner, was informed, but in view of the fact that Dr. Barnett, of the Hospital staff, is prepared to issue a certificate as to the cause of death, an inquest will be dispensed with.
Mr Thomas is well known in the district, and last worked on Kars Station, which is near the Quondong Hotel. He was a single man, and as far as can be ascertained, his only living relative is a brother at Burra, South Australia. Thomas was a native of Burra. Mr. T. J. Mallon left this afternoon to bring in the body from Quondong.
– Barrier Miner Thursday 16 June 1932.
Aged Man’s Death Follows Fall
THE bough of a tree knocking down a ladder resulted in the death of 72-year-old George McBeth, father of the licensee of the Quondong Hotel, on the Menindee-road. McBeth died in the Hospital yesterday afternoon… McBeth, who lived at the Quondong Hotel, was an old age pensioner. The accident which led to his death was not witnessed by anyone. Last Thursday morning McBeth was standing on a ladder cutting boughs from a gum tree in the creek near the Quondong Hotel. Apparently the limb he was cutting struck the ladder and McBeth fell to the ground, a distance of about 14ft. His son, William George McBeth, heard the crash and rushed to his father’s assistance. He was lying on the bank of the creek. McBeth, jun., asked what had happened, and his father said, the limb of the tree knocked the ladder out of position and he fell. The injured man was taken into the hotel, and the following day was brought into hospital where he was admitted suffering from a fractured left hip bone. He died at 4.20 p.m. yesterday…
– Barrier Miner Wednesday 27 April 1938.
The hotel industry – in fact selling liquor in general – was a profitable business in the Broken Hill region, where big drinking miners kept 48 pubs, clubs and liquor stores operating in 1938. The Barrier Miner reported on June 15 1938:
BIGGER BEER PURCHASES
More Consumed In Broken Hill
A FAIR indication of the prosperity of Broken Hill may be gauged from the revenue from liquor licences granted in the district each year. Applications for a renewal of liquor licences in the Broken Hill district will be made to the Licensing Court next Monday morning.
The licence fee for the period of 12 months from July 1 is based on the amount of liquor handled by each hotel from January 1, 1937, to December 31 1937. The total revenue from licences this year, if all are granted, will be £6668/5/-, compared with £6336/1/4, an increase of £1332/3/8.
The revenue from this source in 1936 was £4392/17/6.
There are 48 hotels in the Broken Hill district, 40 of which are in the city. The outside hotels are the Border Gate Hotel at Burns, the Exchange Hotel at Stephens Creek, the Miners’ Arms at Rockwell, Mt. Gipps Hotel, Topar Hotel, Quondong Hotel, Silverton Hotel, and Yanco Glen Hotel.
In addition to hotels, there are seven clubs in Broken Hill holding liquor licences, five spirit merchants and seven Australian wine licences.
On the presumption that all renewals applied for will be granted, the revenue from each source this year with last year’s total shown in parentheses, will be:
Hotels, £6228/17/- (£4930/16/1);
Australian wine licences, £46/0/4 (£40/4/11)
Spirit merchants, £128/5/6 (£126/9/7);
Clubs, £265/2/2 (£238 10/9).
The increased consumption of liquor may be attributed to the increased employment in the city, especially along the line of lode, where the lead bonus was at its highest last year.
The liquor industry had been kind to William Sugars who established the Quondong Hotel. He had retired to Menindee, where he pursued his hobby of gardening, before his death at the age of 76 in May 1939. His death though nearly also claimed the life of his widow and her sister. The Barrier Miner reported on Monday May 15 1939:
SISTERS INJURED IN CAR COLLISION
Two sisters – Mrs. W. H. Sugars and Mrs. Lillian Dearlove – were treated at the Hospital yesterday for shock and abrasions sustained in a collision between two cars at the intersection of Thomas and Iodide streets [Broken Hill]. Mrs Sugars had received advice that her husband – William Henry Sugars (76) – who was an inmate at the Hospital, was in a low condition, and she was hurrying to his bedside when the accident occurred. Mr. Sugars died during the afternoon.
The Western Grazier reported the death of Rosetta Sugars on Friday February 20 1948:
DEATH OF MRS. SUGARS
PLANTED PEPPERS AT QUONDONG
The death of Mrs. Rosetta Margaret Sugars in Broken Hill on February 4 takes toll of another pioneer from the Far West district. Coming here at the early age of 13 years with her mother the late Nurse Berryman, they lived in the district ever since. She was married in 1892 and went as a bride to live at Quondong Hotel, which her late husband had built. The licence had only been taken out for the first time three months before, and held by a Mr. Wilson until the late Mr. Sugars was married. Then they took over and conducted that hotel for 16 years, selling out from there and moved to Rockwell Hotel, where they remained until 1914, then moved to Broken Hill. She was of a lovable nature and was widely respected in the district. For about ten years prior to Mr. Sugars death they lived at Menindee. When a widow Mrs. Sugars went to live with her daughter in Melbourne to be under an eye specialist, ‘but unfortunately had one eye removed eighteen months ago and since then gradually went blind. She had been ill three months in Melbourne with her heart, but came back on January 20 by plane, which incidently was the anniversary of her wedding day and her first arrival in Broken Hill 63 years previously. She was a great horsewoman in her younger days and was not afraid to ride or drive the wildest horse. The pepper trees at Quondong are a standing memorial as she planted them on January 28 1892. She was buried in the same grave as her husband who died in 1939, and leaves a family of two sons, Messrs. Hector and Bert Sugars and daughter, Rose, and four grandchildren. Staying with Mrs. H. M. Dearlove. 265 Wilson Street, Broken Hill, is her niece, Mrs R. Stewart and her son and daughter-in-law from Melbourne. They returned on Monday’s plane. Mr. and Mrs. W. (Bill) Stewart arrived from Melbourne by Thursday’s plane to be present ot the funeral of his grandmother, late Mrs. R. M. Sugars. Mr. and Mrs. Bill Stewart returned on Monday’s plane to their home in Melbourne, this being the first visit of Mrs. Stewart, who was greatly impressed with what she had seen of Broken Hill in the short stay.
Meanwhile, during the early 1940s, the Quondong Hotel had become known for its beer drinking kangaroo. The Barrier Miner reported on January 10 1944 that visitors to the pub would miss “a well known frequenter of the vicinity—a beer drinking kangaroo”.
This animal was an attraction at the hotel for many months and caused laughs among visitors with its feats. Whether its liking for beer brought about its death is not known. The licensee of the hotel reports that the kangaroo died about a month ago.
Broken Hill historian, Jenny Camilleri, says in the early 1950s, during September, the wild lilacs covered the ground around the pub, with native Sturt Peas, giving splashes of red in an out of the purple mass.
“It was so beautiful. With no water coming down the Darling River and little rain this area is so dry. As a child I remember the little canaries the owners kept on the verandah.”
It is rumored out South that a publican from that suburb and several friends spent some time during the week end fishing for sardines in Quondong Creek. The party was on its way to the Darling River to catch some of the big ones they had heard so much about, but got anchored at the Quondong Hotel. A practical joker scooped a big hole in the creek bed, filled it with water and emptied in some sardines. He then induced the “big game fishers to try their hand. They accepted the bait but could not induce the sardines to bite. Friends who tried to convince them that they were still miles from the river were treated with utter contempt.
– Barrier Miner Tuesday 11 March 1952
The license of the Quondong Hotel was sold in 1994, however it continued to trade as an off-license hotel or bottle shop by Roger and Graham Collins until the business closed in September 2000 .
The building became an empty shell, as it was unable to be sold, and eventually was burnt to the ground on August 17 2001. Jenny Camilleri says: “It was a very sad ending to such a great little stopping area on the way to Menindee.”
The Sugars other pub, the Miners Arms, which later became known as the Blazing Stump Hotel, 10 miles out of Broken Hill, also burnt to the ground on January 27 1975.
Stephens Creek, NSW
Licensees 1892 – 2000
1892-1907: William Henry Sugars
1907 – 1912: Walter Mellowship
1912 – 1917: Mary Dennison
1917 – 1921: William Henry Butler
1921 – 1922: Thomas Deveney
1922 – 1927: Richard Frederick Harding
1927 – 1929: James Francis Lamb
1929 – 1934: John Broughton Foulds
1934 – 1949: George William McBeth
1949 – 1955: Michael Vivian Murphy
1955 – 1956: Helen Elizabeth Chaplain
1956 – 1963: Terence Michael Cavender
1963 – 1967: Adam Fleming Mackenzie (licensee) and Robert Edward Barrell.
1967 – 1971: Peter Fioretti
1971 – 1974: Valerie Janet Anderson
1974 – 1987: Donald Howard Smith
1987: Audrey Nada Adams
C1989: Andre Stewart
1991: Darryl Kavanagh
1994: Roger Collins
(Hotel license sold)
Operated as an “off license”
1994 – 2000: Roger and Graham Collins
Hotel closed 2000
© Copyright 2020 Mick Roberts