McConkey’s Bodalla Hotel

Bodalla Arms Hotel January 1970 anu

Bodalla Hotel, Bodalla, during the McConkey’s ownership in January 1970. Photo: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University.

A pub filled with history

Bill McConkey bodalla hotel 1982

Mr Bill McConkey at the bar in Bodalla, below a portrait of Queen Victoria.

McCONKEY’S Hotel has been a landmark at Bodalla [on the NSW South Coast] for many years, and is overflowing with history.


Established in 1875 and owned by The Bodalla (Pastoral) Company until the 1930s it was bought by Mr Bill McConkey and his wife, Jean in 1952.

The McConkeys moved into it from Braidwood, where they had run the Commercial Hotel for five years.

A number of their former Braidwood patrons, including the late travelling magistrate, Mr O’Sullivan, made the trip down the mountain for the occasional drink and visit.

“There’s a hell of a lot of history attached to it”, Mr McConkey said, recounting the visits of the late author John O’Grady, who mentioned the pub extensively in his book ‘Gone Fishin’ which was written under his pen name — Nino Culotta.

“He used to come down and have a drink with the boys in the bar”, Mr McConkey said.

The bar has a tremendous atmosphere, due in no small part to the many paintings and photographs hanging on its walls.

One painting of ‘An Old War Scene’ had come with the family from Braidwood “mainly for its frame”. On arrival in Bodalla, the painting was scraped away to reveal a second painting — of Queen Victoria. It now has pride of place above the bar, but once was exhibited in Canberra by a Victorian society.

Mrs McConkey said that business had dropped over the past few years.

“They go for more modern places now”, she said, recalling the times when the town had been cut off by floods and the pub had slept men on verandahs and floors.

“They ran out of tucker, so we used to cook their meals in the fireplace”, she said.

Though some customers preferred more modern surroundings, many people came into the bar just to look at the items on the walls. Some coach tours too, stopped at McConkey’s, though not many of the tourists sat and had a drink.

( It is 2½ years since the McConkeys stopped working behind the bar. Mr Norm Howes and his wife, Doreen, and family, who I have been in Bodalla for 20 years, now manage the hotel. They are not troubled by the long hours: 10am to midnight, Monday to Saturday, and 10am to 8pm on Sundays.

There is rarely trouble; although one night Mrs Howes “threw one out by the scruff of the neck”.

New Year’s Eve had been a great night — “Not one swear word, just a big mess”, she said with a grin. The hotel calendar, which has become famous over the past 30 years, had proved popular again this year, with many tourists unable to get copies.

“The locals come first”, they were told.

– Canberra Times January 8 1982


Categories: Australian Hotels, NSW hotels, Publicans

Tags: , , , , ,

1 reply

  1. Still a good pub with good food and live music on weekends. Now owned by Dairy Shed cafe opposite.

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