Lismore Hotel’s ‘buxom brunette’ banned ‘bar-drinkers’ during the war years

The Lismore Hotel, Pitt Street, Sydney when Marie Joan Keighery was host in 1939. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

Marie Joan Keighery finally got fed-up of drinkers ‘hogging’ the bar of her Sydney pub during the war years when beer was short and pubs often sold-out before the end of the day.

The host of the Lismore Hotel in Pitt Street controversially placed a large sign over the bar ordering patrons to step away after ordering their drinks. While this may sound normal these days, it was a bold step back in the war years when drinkers stood shoulder to shoulder at the bar, jostling for prime position to be served. The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported on January 16, 1945:

Woman licensee compels courtesy among patrons

LICENSEE of the Lismore Hotel, Pitt Street, Mrs. Mary Keighery,  pointing out to patrons yesterday a new sign asking them to move away from the bar after they have been served.

Hotel’s ‘stand back’ order to ‘bar flies’

LARGE signs in the bars of the Lismore Hotel, Pitt Street, Sydney now tell customers to move away from the bar after being served.

The signs, 4ft by 3ft, have been erected by the licensee, Mrs Mary Keighery. Last week Mrs Keighery became hoarse requesting customers to move back from the bar after they had obtained their drink.

Mrs Keighery’s idea was inspired by the Brisbane system of queues.

“Complaints by regulars that they were unable to get near the bar for a drink demanded the expedient,” she said yesterday.

“Customers complained of having their heads bitten off when they asked anyone to move or tried to elbow their way in.

“The trouble Is that at lots of hotels a few loungers wait outside until the hotels open, then hover over the pumps like bar flies until the beer runs out.

“Then customers’ clothing gets stained by beer spilt from glasses being passed from the bar to other customers standing hack.”

But Mrs Keighery fears that some customers may resent the rule, just as they did when in 1940 she introduced the discoloration of beer in drip trays.

The Lismore Hotel traded at the corner of Wilmot and Pitt Streets Sydney. A pub had traded on the corner from at least 1865. Originally known as the Curriers Hotel, the pub was rebuilt in 1901 and given the sign of the Lismore Hotel in 1909.

Marie Keighery, who was also known as Mary, was introduced to the hotel industry by her husband and the son of a legendary Auburn publican, Greg Keighery. More on Greg Keighery HERE.

Marie Joan Bell married Maurice Keighery in 1927, and the couple were given the task of managing their father-in-law and father’s hotels.

When Marie married Maurice, she was a secretary at St Joseph’s Hospital, Auburn. Maurice, also known as James, at the time had been a hotel attendant at his father’s Auburn hotel. He was also a well-known singer, who entertained the troops during the war years.

The marriage began to fall apart in 1935 when Maurice reportedly “roamed away” from the family home in Everton Road, Strathfield. Marie Keighery took the license of the Lismore Hotel in Sydney in 1938, and remained host until 1951.

While host, Marie Joan Keighery filed for divorce from her husband, who had recently returned from war. The Sydney Truth reported on July 4 1943:


WHEN Marie Joan Keighery, a buxom brunette, lavishly decorated with silver fox, presented the original certificate of her marriage to Maurice Keighery in the Divorce Court last week, Mr. Justice Edwards blinked. Little wonder, for the document’s vital middle had vanished, like the snows of yesteryear. “What’s happened to it?” queried His Honor. Mrs. Keighery, who has an address at the Lismore Hotel, 345 Pitt Street, indicated that lepidopterous insects had made a meal of it. “Moths”, said Mr. Toose. “They got at the marriage, too.” His Honor: “The moths certainly made a job of the certificate… “He got drunk religiously at least once or twice a week,” she [Mrs Keighery] said. His Honor: “I don’t quite understand the religious side of it!” Mr. Toose: “A sort of ceremony, your Honor, once or twice a week.” …A decree nisi was granted.

Marie remarried Neil J. McMillan in 1946 and the couple hosted the Lismore Hotel together until 1951. She died at Ashfield in 1972 at the age of 72. Her ex-husband, Maurice died in 1985, about the same time as the Lismore Hotel is believed to have closed for business.

The facade of the hotel was retained as part of the Century Towers residential project, which was completed in 1997.

Can anyone tell us the exact year the Lismore Hotel closed for business?

former lismore hotel pitt street sydney google 2017
The former Lismore Hotel in Pitt Street Sydney. Picture: Google Street View.
Lismore Hotel Pitt Street Sydney 1960 ANU
The Lismore Hotel, 345 Pitt Street Sydney, 1960. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.


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Categories: Sydney hotels

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1 reply

  1. It closed probably around 1985 it was an a great venue for Sydney punk bands in the 80s like the Civic down the road and the Vulcan hotel as well .

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