By Malcolm Salmon
MRS Gladys Ramsay retired on February 24 after 32 years behind the bar at the Great Britain Hotel at the waterfront end of Flinders Street, Melbourne. And a crowd of her wharfie regulars (above) turned up to say “thanks” for her service in the most fitting way. So warm was the friendship and esteem she built up over those years that wharfies called her “The Angel of Flinders Street”.
“Nobody could count the times Glad has been good for a loan for a man who’s run short,” said wharfie Jack Davidson. Peter Bourke added: “Wharfies coming off a shift tired and thirsty always got a smile and a friendly word when they had a drink in Glad’s corner”.
Three years ago, when the hotel was taken over from the former licensee by a big Melbourne catering chain, the new employer gave Mrs. Ramsay notice. He reckoned without the waterside workers, within hours of the news hitting the waterfront, he was confronted with a petition signed by wharfies of all shades of opinion pointing out that if Glad went, they went too . . . As the proprietor of a pub largely dependent on wharfies’ custom, he took only a few hours to get the message. Mrs. Ramsay stayed. And so did the wharfies.
But on February 24 the “Angel” went of her own accord. Wharfies by the score honored her with the presentation of a silver sugar bowl and a small nest egg against the years of retirement. Among those farewelling her was one man for whom Gladys Ramsay first pulled a beer at the Great Britain 32 years ago. He was Mr. Gerry Fitzgerald.
“They’re the most loyal group of men I’ve ever known,” Gladys Ramsay told Tribune.
“Six years ago I had a fall on the stairs in the hotel. I’ll never forget the way the wharfies came to my rescue.”
The verdict of veteran wharfie Bill (“Horse”) Dalton?
“She’s Cassius. She’s the greatest!”
– Tribune March 15 1967.