Yowie Bay publican charged with cancer suffering wife’s manslaughter

The Yowie Bay Hotel, Port Hacking. Picture: Supplied.

THE publican of the Yowie Bay Hotel, south of Sydney, made headlines around the country in 1905 when he attempted suicide after the death of his 42-year-old wife.

The pretty little pub traded from 1903 to 1918 and was located on three acres of land off Attunga-road, Yowie Bay, on the north shore of a Port Hacking estuary, in the Sutherland Shire.

A certificate of confirmation of a conditional license was granted by the courts to Ernest Sydney Blackwood of Yowie Bay for the hotel in January 1903. 

The most notable event in the short 15 year history of the pub is the tragic story of cancer-stricken Elizabeth Mary Smith and her publican husband Walter in 1905.

Walter Sidney Smith reportedly was arguing with his wife, who was drunk, and, according to employees at the pub, had beaten her violently before her death. The Bendigo Independent reported on Tuesday, September 26, 1905:


SYDNEY, Sunday— A remarkable case was reported to the Kogarah police yesterday afternoon. Walter Sidney Smith, licensee of the Yowie Bay Hotel, Port Hacking (NSW), was found in one of the rooms with a gash in his throat and a blood-stained razor by his side. His condition is not regarded as serious. About an hour before Smith was found with his throat cut, his wife died. The cause of death, in the opinion of the doctor who had attended her, was cancer, accelerated by some contusions. An inquest will be held to-morrow.

The inquest on Elizabeth found that she had died from hemorrhaging in her stomach, caused by the treatment she received from her husband. The coroner found that “ill treatment” administered by her husband contributed to her death.

As a result Smith was committed for trial on a charge of manslaughter and his attempted suicide. However, the attorney general declined to proceed with the charges, and Smith was allowed to go free.

A disastrous fire “almost destroyed” Smith’s pub in April 1907 before repairs were made, and the landmark hotel continued trading. Smith retired as licensee in January 1908.

The hotel closed for business in 1918 as a result of the 1916 NSW Government Local Option Poll, which allowed residents to decide on the number of hotels in state electorates.

The last host of the Yowie Bay Hotel was Walter John Horn.

“John Smith, licensee” standing outside Smith’s Yowie Bay Hotel. Picture and description: Sutherland Shire Libraries. This image is most probably owner and licensee Walter Sidney Smith.

The Yowie Bay Hotel was described in the Sydney Morning Herald on Christmas Day 1920 when the owner of the pub was forced to place it on the market:





Together with all HOUSEHOLD FURNITURE and EFFECTS Hierein.

One of the best-situated PROPERTIES In this beautiful DEEPWATER BAY, with DEEPWATER FRONT-AGE, and adjoining the ESPLIN-SHORT ESTATE.

THIS WELL-KNOWN PROPERTY is admirably suit-able for an ACCOMMODATION HOUSE (which is badly needed in Yowie Bay), or for a PRIVATE RESIDENCE.

Main Building built of stone, with Iron roof, and comprising 6 rooms and bar-room, verandahs at side and front. Adjoining Building, built of brick, with iron roof, contains 3 rooms, kitchen, and all outhouses, etc.

The Land has an absolute water frontage of about 138 feet, with a depth of about 830 feet, and with a frontage of about 137 feet 6 inches to Attunga-road.

The Property has an easterly aspect, and tile MOTOR BUS from Cronulla Tram at Miranda to Yowie Bay passes the property.

The above Property will be submitted to PUBLIC AUCTION, on the Ground, on NEW YEAR’S DAY, 1st January, 1921, at 3.30 p.m. TITLE, Holt Sutherland Leasehold.

yowie bay bottlo 2
The former Yowie Bay Hotel, was located behind the bottle shop on Wonga Road. Picture: Google Streeview.
yowie bay bottlo 1
The former Yowie Bay Hotel was located behind the ‘bottle shop’ on Wonga Road, just up from the boat ramp The tiled roof of the former pub can be seen behind. Picture: Google Streetview.

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Categories: NSW hotels, Sydney hotels

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5 replies

  1. The only Hotel I know of in Yowie Bay was on the corner of Wonga and Forest roads, It was Called Cliff Haven. It became a convent early in the 20th century the nuns taught at Miranda Infants & Primary school at the site of Miranda Catholic church. The church sold of this site in the 1980’s it has since been subdivided and sold off for homes.
    On Wonga Rd. the coach house can still be seen, it has now been converted to a home. The old hotel building is now in a home on the high side of Cliff Haven Pl. and the old swimming pool in stone is in the front yard of of a home on the lower side of Cliff Haven Pl.

  2. Thanks Howard. Going by the sale of the advertsiement for the sale of the property in 1920 (see advert I added to the posting), the Yowie Bay Hotel property had “an absolute water frontage of about 138 feet, with a depth of about 830 feet, and with a frontage of about 137 feet 6 inches to Attunga-road”.

    • The old hotel buildings are still there & are the 4th & 5th homes from the Wonga Rd boat ramp towards Miranda. The buildings became an isolation hospital during the influenza epidemic of the First World War, & following that the property was subdivided for residential use.

      • Hullo Fay. I have added an image of what I believe is the former Yowie Bay Hotel. Is this the building you are describing?

      • Hello Mick
        No, this is the bottle shop in Wonga Rd. Your original photo of the two buildings was correct. You can just see the top of the roof of the hotel building behind the bottle shop building in your second photo. The old iron roof was replaced with tile many years ago. The buildings can easily be seen from the bottom of Burraneer bay Rd on the opposite side of the bay. I am sorry, I don,t want to make public our address as it is a battle axe block & can’t be seen from the street. Fay

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