Sydney’s majestic nude painting left ‘Chloe for dead’ at Sydney’s Newcastle Hotel

The Newcastle Hotel, south west corner of George and Essex Streets Sydney 1970. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

THE bars of Jim Buckley’s Newcastle Hotel, in Sydney’s CBD, were adorned with artwork. Most of the available wall space inside the pub, which was home to Sydney’s more creative drinkers, was hung with artwork.

Buckley had the the pub, at the south-west corner of George and Essex Streets, from 1956 to 1972.

Buckley took-over as host and continued the tradition of former publican, Sydney actor, comedienne and silent film star, Lily Molloy. Molloy starred opposite Snowy Baker in one of the earliest Australian films, “The Enemy Within”. Read more about Lily Molloy and how her family transformed the Newcastle Hotel into one of Sydney’s most popular bohemian pubs HERE.

In the early 1970s, writer, John Larkins and photographer, Bruce Howard went on a 40,000km pub crawl around Australia, telling their wives, “Don’t wait up!” With Larkins wonderful words, and Howards’ fabulous photos, they chronicled an amazing snap shot of Australian pub culture – many, both people and pubs, which have now gone.

From that expedition they had published the book, “Australian Pubs”. This is an excerpt from the now out of print book when Larkin visited the Newcastle Hotel during her final trading days.

At the time the pub’s freehold was owned by the Maritime Services Board, a department of the NSW Government. The pub closed for business on February 24 1973 and it was later demolished. A highrise office tower now sits on the site.

jim buckleys 1

Jim Buckley with the replica Chloe nude. Picture: Bruce Howard

A kid of 14 painted a couple of trees on the way home from school, came here, and stuck the picture on the wall in the pub. It was there for months. He came in every day. ‘Have you sold my painting yet?’ Anyway, one day we were hosing the bar and splashed it with water and, being a watercolour, it ran. We were at our wits’ end; we didn’t know what to tell him. Anyway, he came in next day and said ‘Where’s my painting? so I said, ‘We sold it for five quid.’ I gave him the fiver, and his eyes lit up. I suppose he thought he’d made it; he’d sold a picture in Jim Buckley’s pub.”

This was the gentle Jim Buckley, talking through a friend; he had undergone a throat operation, and normal speech was no longer possible. When we visited Jim Buckley’s Newcastle Hotel in George Street, Sydney, it was under a death sentence, having to make way for the huge Rocks development. It was a pub that would be sadly missed, a cosy corner in a hard, bustling city. Scores of paintings lined the walls – in the back bar, only inviteable “Gents” sign broke the row of pictures. A tough part of the city, not far from the docks, but the crowd was quiet and the barmaids were pretty.

A majestic nude dominated one wall; this was Jim’s own picture. She was a Dutch girl and once she adorned the wall of the Sergeants’ Mess at the North Head army barracks. But when the wives objected, the picture was moved to Buckley’s.

The faithful at Jim’s pub believe she is greater than Chloe, the beautiful nude at Young and Jackson’s in Melbourne. Jim Orme, who manged the Newcastle for Jim Buckley, said: “Chloe’s not really a nude. She’s wearing a bangle on her left wrist.”

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The nude in the bar of the Newcastle Hotel that was said to have rivaled Melbourne’s ‘Chloe’. Picture: Bruce Howard

That, most assuredly, would be fighting talk in Melbourne!

In fact, they displayed their scorn of Chloe at Buckley’s by pasting a cheap copy of the painting behind a clock in the public bar.

“We had an exhibition here once,” Jim said, “and at least 20 of the nudes would have left Chloe for dead.”

Anyone could display a painting at the Newcastle.

“The artists have to put fair commissions on their work, and when we sell a picture for them, we pass the commission on to the Spastic Centre.

“Paintings have sold here from a few bob up to $2,000,” Jim said.

Jim Buckley is a millionaire, so he could afford to smile over the $30,000 in dud cheques he had pasted to boards in an upstairs room at the pub.

Every so often, they’d bring the cheques down and hold an exhibition of them. It made a nice change.

– John Larkins


Newcastle Hotel Sydney 1960 anu

Buckley’s Newcastle Hotel, corner of George and Essex Street Sydney 1960. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.


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Categories: Publicans, Sydney hotels

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2 replies

  1. The pub was a popular meeting place for the ‘push’. It was also popular with criminals, such as Lenny McPherson. In the late 60s a Sydney newspaper ran a story about how some criminals were using the pub to recruit women for prostitution. A woman would be tricked into spending a night at another high profile hotel with a man who had befriended her. A phone call would be made and a group of men would enter the room and rape her. She might be forcibly injected with drugs. In a low-life version of ‘good cop bad cop’ one of the guys would convince her that now she was ‘damaged goods’ she might as well make some money and she would be enticed with the offer of a lucrative job as a high end call girl who could pick her customers. The reality was likely to be somewhat more sordid.

  2. Just a small correction, was on the south west corner of George and Essex not Sussex

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