By MICK ROBERTS ©
THERE were lessons to be learnt from our road trip to the central tablelands of NSW. And what was one of those lessons?
Bush pubs are as diverse as the publicans behind their bars.
Our road trip in 2019 took us westward from Sydney, over the Great Dividing Range to pubs catering to farming communities, tourists, and coal miners. Our day-trip revealed that it takes all types of people to run country pubs. We talked to publicans who included a city couple, who had made the ‘tree-change’, a butcher, who has found contentment after suffering a life changing accident, and a grazier and engineer, who now runs the town pub.
We visited four pubs in the central west tablelands, spending a jam-packed day taking in the sights of Kandos, Rylstone, Lue, and finally finishing-up at a coal miners’ pub at Ulan.
The first stop on our road trip was the quiet little town of Kandos, located on the Bylong Valley Way, boasting a population of just over 1,200 people.
The town was established in 1913 to take advantage of the abundance of limestone in the surrounding escarpment. The NSW Cement Lime and Coal Company lifted the limestone from quarries by an enormous aerial ropeway.
The town was originally named Candos, an acronym of the Board of NSW Cement, Lime and Coal Co Ltd. In 1915, the name Candos was considered too similar to Chandos in South Australia, and the name was changed to Kandos.
The property superintendent for Tooth and Company, Jim McCausland suggested the brewery invest in building a pub at Kandos and in October 1915 an application for a conditional license was granted to 45-year-old Alfred Ernest Howard, who had up to that time been hosting the Cessnock Hotel. The Mudgee Guardian reported on Monday 15 November 1915:
Evidently it is the intention of the successful applicant for an hotel license for Kandos to go on with the work of erecting a substantial building on the hotel site opposite the railway station in that newly laid out township. The daily papers of last week contain a notification that tenders are invited for the erection of a brick hotel of the new city of cement. Messrs Copeman and Lemont, of (Kent Street) Sydney, are the architects.
The Mudgee Guardian again reported “an event of considerable importance” took place at Kandos on Friday September 22, 1916 “when a fine new hotel was opened” by “Dan” Howard.
The hotel was opened at 5 o’clock in the afternoon, and there was free house until the statutory closing hour of six. Mr. Howard’s hospitality was greatly appreciated and was very generally taken advantage of. The hotel is a fine building, on thoroughly up-to-date lines, of 30 rooms, and is both a convenience and an ornament to the town. It will also be a boon to motorists and travellers, who will now be sure of comfortable accommodation and efficient entertainment when they visit the cement centre.
Howard was a favourite of Tooth and Company. He had secured many licenses for the brewery’s hotels on the Hunter coalfields, particularly around the Cessnock area. Dan grew-up in the country about Scone, but went to Newcastle as a youth where he served his time as a bricklayer. Later he was a hotelkeeper at Wickham, Wallsend, then later at Hexham. He settled in Cessnock in 1904, and took over the brickwork of the Aberdare Hotel. In 1905 he took over the license of the Cessnock Hotel, and remained there until Tooth and Company engaged him to open its new pub at Kandos in 1916.
After overseeing the addition of 11 more bedrooms to the Kandos Hotel, bringing its total number to 33, Dan Howard returned to Cessnock in 1917. He died in 1933 at the age of 64.
The Kandos Hotel lost it grand balcony in 1958 when Tooth and Company replaced it with an awning. The façade was cement rendered, and nine door openings on the second storey were converted to windows.
With the cement works closing in 2012, and the nearby Charbon colliery ceasing operations in 2015, Kandos has struggled economically in recent years.
Current owner and publican of the Kandos Hotel, Ray Odges though has faith in the town’s future.
“We’ve refurbished 19 rooms upstairs – all with ensuites and aircon – in readiness for the re-opening of the Bylong coal mine,” he said.
Ray is a bit of a legend in town, and has been at the helm of the Kandos Hotel for 21 years. He runs the pub, while his wife, Julie manages the next door motel, which they established 15 years ago.
When the pub came up for sale in 1998, Ray, who was running an engineering business, purchased the freehold for $515,000. He also manages a 180 acre farm, where he has “a few cattle”. But he’s best satisfied behind the bar of his pub.
Approaching 70, the popular publican says he has no plans of retiring.
“I’m a non-drinker, but I like being in the pub, mixing with people; so running it suits me to the ground,” he said.
RAILWAY HOTEL KANDOS
In 2006, Ray purchased the nearby Railway Hotel – Kandos’ only other pub. He closed and resold it, placing a 20 year caveat on its re-opening as a pub.
“There’s only room for one pub in this town,” he said.
Now run as a restaurant, the Railway Hotel was built by Tooth and Company and opened in 1927.
After enjoying a beer and chat with Ray at the bar of the Kandos Hotel, which has been comfortably renovated, and was sprinkled with a few locals – who by-the-way the publican knew all by first name – we pushed on to Rylstone, 7km down the road.
Located on the Bylong Valley Way, Rylstone has a population of almost 650 people.
By 1868 there were four pubs in the rural settlement, The Rylstone, Bridge View, Shamrock and Globe hotels. The Rylstone and Globe remain trading, while the others have been confined to the pages of history.
RYLSTONE HOTEL RYLSTONE
With limited time, we were only able to visit the Rylstone Hotel on this road trip, enjoying a beer with new owners, Margaret and Gary Hart.
The Harts purchased the pub six months ago, and have brought the business back from the brink of closing.
“It wasn’t opened seven days a week. It was going down hill when we bought the pub,” Margaret said.
The pub was where Labor leader, Ben Chifley was said to have consumed 14-cups of tea overnight, on his failed 1951 election campaign. But we’ll get to that later.
The pub has been trading for over 160 years and is considered the oldest business in Rylstone. The original timber pub was established as the Rylstone Tavern in 1857 by John Walton, about two blocks south of the current site, opposite the old council chambers in Louee Street.
John and his wife Elizabeth Walton ran the pub for over a decade, until their deaths in 1871 and 1873 respectively.
The pub fell into the hands of the Farrar family in the 1870s after John Walton’s eldest daughter married William Farrar in 1864.
Despite a failed legal challenge from the children of John and Elizabeth Walton to retain ownership, the hotel eventually became the property of William and Mary Farrar.
William Farrar ran the pub until his death in 1885 at the age of 49. His son, John William Farrar, at 20, took over the pub after the death of his mother, Mary in 1890.
John William Farrar was well-known in Sydney racing circles. He bred many successful race horses, and was closely associated with a variety of sports in western NSW. For years he was on the committee of the Rylstone and Mudgee race clubs, and agricultural societies.
The Farrar family owned and continued operating the Rylstone Hotel until 1920, when it was sold to the Starr family. At the time it was described as a single storey brick and stone building, with 10 rooms, three outbuildings, and sitting on a one acre property.
Interestingly the Farrars bought back the freehold of the Rylstone Hotel just two years later in 1922. However, John William never returned as host. He died in 1928 at the age of 64.
After the Farrar family re-purchased the pub, it was leased to one of its most well-known and longest serving host, Jim Foster in 1923.The Foster family, except for a couple of years when William and his wife travelled to Europe in the late 1920s, hosted the Rylstone Hotel for over 40 years.
The end for the old landmark inn came when brewery giant, Tooheys Limited, bought the freehold of the historic building for £4,750 in 1935.
News came in 1937 that the hotel was to be rebuilt, two doors from the original site, at a corner position. Work started on the new hotel on April 6 1938. The Mudgee Guardian reported on January 20 1938:
After being a land mark in Louee St. for many more decades than we care to recall the old Rylstone Hotel is to become but a memory, and phoenix like, a new building is to rise from the ashes of the past, but on the site where McKenna’s confectionery shop now stands, a few doors down from the site of the present hotel. The order of the court was obtained, last licensing day for permission to erect the new hotel premises, and it is expected that host Foster will be in occupation of his new premises within the next twelve months.
After the license was transferred to the grand new two storey art deco pub, the original tavern was demolished in March 1947. Today the site of the original tavern is the storage yard for a hardware store.
The Fosters had a special guest in April 1951 when the Federal Opposition Labor leader, Ben Chifley and his entourage stayed the night at the Rylstone Hotel in the lead-up to the April 28 1951 election.
While at Rylstone Hotel, Chifley was reported to have had 14-cups of tea. While that is by no means a world record, it did cause problems for host Jim Foster. Chifley had his tea white, and Rylstone had no milkman. The publican was forced to drive 10 miles to get the milk for Chifley’s tea.
Rylstone, which had a population of about 600 at the time, had been without a milkman for over a month. The milkman, it was reported, had retired from dairying, sold his cows, and now was running sheep.
The incumbent Liberal–Country coalition led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies defeated the Chifley’s Opposition Labor Party at the April 28 election. Chifley died two months later after suffering a heart attack.
Jim Foster, who at 82 still called the pub home, but had relinquished the license to his son, died a few weeks after Chifley’s visit.
The old publican was sitting beside the fire when he fainted and fell forward into the flames. He was rushed to the Rylstone District Hospital, where he died a few hours later. With the exception of a short break, Jim had run the business from 1923, firstly from the old tavern, and later was the first host of the new hotel, where he died in 1951.
Foster was known far and wide for his “straight dealings”, the Mudgee Guardian reported on May 24 1951, after his death.
“It is not many years since he had to give up his game of golf, which he loved. He was president of the Rylstone club for many years. A keen Freemason, he was a past master of Lodge Rylstone, also a member of the Sydney Masonic Club, where he was held in very high esteem by his brother members….”
Just a month after the publican’s demise, the pub lost another guest through death. Budge Ormsby, a well-known commercial traveller, was a regular visitor to the town and the pub. Budge, 63, had travelled the district’s roads for over 25 years.
After chatting beside the pub’s fire one night, he retired to his room about 9.30pm. Not long after a fellow boarder heard a noise coming from his room and on investigating found the commercial traveller seriously ill. He was taken to the Rylstone Hospital, where he died from ‘natural causes’.
James Robert Foster Jnr continued as licensee of the pub until 1965. When he retired as publican, the family had been at the helm of the pub for a remarkable 42 years.
The brewer, Tooheys Limited sold the freehold of the Rylstone Hotel to H. Newell on November 27 1979.
Current owners, the Harts called Sydney’s Manly home before making their ‘tree-change’ to Rylstone.
“We were looking at buying a country pub when we heard that this place was on the market,” Margaret Hart said.
The public bar of the Rylstone Hotel, Rylstone, NSW. Video: Time Gents
Margaret has plenty of experience in the hospitality trade, previously sitting on the board of directors of a Sydney registered club, while her husband Gary is a third generation mechanic.
Prior to buying their first pub, the pair had bought a 100 acre property near Rylstone. They fell in love with the historic pub after having dinner there one night.
The asking price of $1.2 million with four pokies though was a little above their budget. However, when they heard that the previous owner had sold the pokies separately, and the asking price had dropped to just over $600,000 the pub became in reach.
“It’s a work in progress,” Gary said.
“A lot of the locals had abandoned the pub, but they’re slowly returning. We had 60 people in the bar here the other night.”
Margaret said they have given the 14 bedrooms upstairs a make-over, and are eager to attract the tourist trade. They are hesitant though to make any drastic changes to the almost original art-deco public bar, with its curved counter, and fantastic tiling.
“It’s just a great bar,” Margaret said.
“We will give it a fresh coat of paint. The bar room has plenty of charm. There’s no need to make any major changes.”
The pub is open seven days a week, along with an eatery.
The Rylstone Hotel is a must when visiting the historic hamlet, and worth a stop-over for a beer – or, even a cup of tea – whatever takes your fancy.
There’s plenty of milk available in Rylstone these days.
GLOBE HOTEL RYLESTONE
Rylstone’s other pub; the historic Globe is another asset to the quaint village.
Unfortunately we never had the time to visit the old stone pub, which was opened in November 1875 by Thomas Owen when he treated 120 guests to a free ball.
Owen had been a special constable in the NSW police force before opening the Globe Hotel at the age of 25. His daughter, Mary and her husband George Holland took over the pub in the late 1880s.
Tom died at the age of 70 in 1895, and George and Mary Holland continued as hosts until the early 1900s. John and Mary Fletcher were owners of the pub for many decades after.
Moving on, we made our way to our next destination – and next pub – just under half an hour, or 25km, down the road at Lue.
LUE HOTEL LUE
The Lue Hotel is a treasure – a true Australian bush pub.
A regular to its bar for almost 30 years, ‘Booka’ was enjoying a stubby of beer on the veranda when we pulled up in a little gravel car-park opposite the pub.
“Where you’re parked there’s railway land, you know.
“They kept putting a fence up to stop people parking there, and we kept pulling it down.
“They gave up in the end.”
Known by one and all as ‘Booka’, the Lue Hotel regular didn’t want to give the name printed on his driving license. Although he agreed the Lue Hotel is an important institution, he differs in the belief that the town’s on its last legs.
“It’s sort of my local office,” he said.
“If you want to know something you come here.”
Booka, who manages his parents’ 80 acre property at Rylstone, says besides being an important social meeting place, the single storey brick pub is where the voluntary bushfire brigade meets.
“We call it fire central during emergencies,” he said.
Hotel manager, Phil Carney has been at the helm for the past two years, and says the current owners have the historic business up for sale.
“It’s owned by a family consortium, and they are ready to move onto other ventures,” Phil said.
Business at the pub has picked up since the establishment of the nearby Louee Enduro and Motocross Complex on nearby Lue Station, a working sheep and cattle property.
“We can have up to 80 people in the bar during the bike riding season in the winter months,” Phil said.
The current Lue Hotel was opened by William Thompson in January 1896.
Prior to opening the current pub he had hosted the Travellers Rest “opposite the Lue Railway Station” for 10 years.
The Thompsons, William and his wife Margaret licensed the Travellers Rest on December 12 1886.
Thompson’s Travellers Rest is not to be confused with another pub, which operated in the now deserted village of Dungaree, about three kilometres south-east of Lue.
A busy little settlement, Dungaree was located on the banks of Lawson Creek, the source of water, and supported a school and a butter factory.
Dungaree village slowly lost its population after the completion of the Rylstone and Mudgee railway line in 1884 when the railway station was built about three kilometres further west. Many of the residents of Dungaree worked on the neighbouring properties of Monivae, Havilah and Louee Stations in varying capacities.
The Dungaree Arms was established in Dungaree by John Moloney in 1865 to service the village, which was on the Cobb and Co route. The pub, which burnt to the ground in 1883, was rebuilt, by publican John Mulligan, however it wasn’t relicensed in 1890 and closed.
The Thompsons established their single storey timber inn, the Travellers’ opposite the new railway station, which was given the namer ‘Lue’, two years after its opening.
Tragedy struck William while hosting the inn when his wife, Margaret, fell ill and was rushed into Mudgee in March 1889 to seek medical advice.
The hostess of the Travellers Rest reportedly mistakenly overdosed on opium, used as a medicine, and died at Millett’s Club House Hotel, Mudgee after falling into a coma. She was 58.Post
Thompson was delivered another set-back in 1895 when was his pub was destroyed by fire. The Daily Telegraph reported on Tuesday 29 October 1895:
MUDGEE, Monday. — Thompson’s Travellers’ Rest Hotel, Lue, with furniture and a large quantity of wine and spirits, was destroyed by fire on Saturday night. The publican had gone to bed, leaving a candle burning and the curtains or other inflammable matter were ignited. The flames quickly spread to all parts of the house, and the building collapsed in less than half an hour. The inmates had barely time to escape with their lives. The building was a large wooden one, and only partially covered by insurance. The estimated damage is over £500.
Now 63, Thompson was not fazed by the set-back and he rebuilt a new six-room brick pub to replace the Travellers Rest, before successfully gaining a license on January 7 1896 at the Mudgee Licensing Court.
Thompson remained at the helm of the new Lue Hotel until his retirement when his 28-year-old son, John gained the license on April 11 1897.
William Thompson died at the age of 68 in 1901 and was buried beside his wife in the Mudgee Cemetery.
The same years as the public school was relocated from Dungaree to its current position, John Thompson was granted permission in March 1912 by Mudgee Licensing Court to add another 12 bedrooms to the east of the 1896 pub. The work was undertaken by L. Taylor, of Rylstone at a cost of £350.
John and his wife, Jemima ran the pub until 1929 before their retirement.
When the license was transferred to a Mr H. C. Martin, of Mudgee, “an old Wollar boy”, the license had been in the hands of the Thompson family for 44 years.
The Thompsons continued to call Lue home, where William ran a butchery and general store with his son. Now empty and derelict, both buildings remain beside the pub at Lue.
John died in Sydney on June 2 1937 at the age of 67, the Mudgee Guardian reporting that he was “one of the best-known and highly respected residents of Lue”.
The late Mr. Thompson had lived at Lue practically all his life, and had taken a remarkably active part in the business life of the town, having conducted a hotel, store and butchery. Mr. Thompson’s passing will be very deeply regretted, not only at Lue, but right throughout the Mudgee district, and the “Guardian” joins with those who are extending their sympathy to the bereaved. The remains arrived in Mudgee this morning by train, and the funeral was conducted by Messrs. J. C. Swords and Son at Lue this afternoon.
His widow, Jemima died in 1947 at the age of 74 at Mudgee Hospital, and she was buried beside her husband in the Church of England section of the Lue Cemetery.
Federal Opposition Labor leader, Ben Chifley and his entourage paid a visit to the Lue Hotel, which was in his electorate, in the lead-up to the April 28 1951 election.
While visiting the pub he is said to have “shouted the bar” while on the campaign trail. It’s not sure how many were in the bar at the time, however, the publican, Roger Copland protested that the Labor leader should not be shouting the bar, and he insisted that the drinks be “on the house”. Chifley replied: “You won’t make any money like that, young man. It’s easy to see you’re not related to my mate – Sir Douglas Copland.”
Sir Douglas Copland was a pioneer of the economics profession and an adviser to governments, including Chifley when he was federal treasurer.
The incumbent Liberal–Country coalition led by Prime Minister Robert Menzies defeated the Chifley’s Opposition Labor Party. Chifley died after suffering a heart attack a month after the election.
Hopefully there’s a bright future for an enterprising hotelier at the historic pub.
The current owners, a family consortium currently have the Lue Hotel on the market for $580,000.
Enjoying my beer and tour of the hotel by manager, Phil Carney it was time to move onto our next, and last pub on the road trip – the Post Office Hotel, Ulan. The coal mining village is just under an hour’s drive, 78 kilometres from Lue via the Ulan Road.
POST OFFICE HOTEL ULAN
The Post Office Hotel is the only property in the little village of Ulan, which is not owned by the nearby open cut coal mine company.
“There was about 20 people who lived in the town until the mine bought them out,” publican Dave McMahon said.
“We’re the only building in town not owned by the mine.”
Dave, who retired as a butcher in nearby Gulgong, has been licensee of the Post Office Hotel for the past 13 years.
“I had an accident, shot myself in the leg,” he said.
“I wasn’t able to continue as a butcher and this place became available.”
Dave and his then partner took the lease of the pub. While they have now gone their separate ways, Dave has remained at the miners’ pub.
“Most of my customers are shift workers from two nearby coal mines. I open-up for breakfast at 6am. We’re pretty famous for our bacon and egg rolls.”
The Post Office Hotel was established in 1904, with the current pub built in 1993 after the historic timber building was destroyed by fire in 1993.
The pub is an elongated building, constructed of besser-blocks, intended as a temporary structure while a new replacement pub was built on the north-west corner of Main Street and Mackay Streets.
“The pub was supposed to be the accommodation quarters, while the bar was to be built on the corner where the car park is now,” Dave explained.
“It never happened, and the pub’s continued to operate from the besser-block building.”
The pub also has six accommodation rooms in temporary “dongas” located in the car park. The miners seem to prefer the pub’s large covered beer-garden, tacked onto the south-side of the building. Inside the bar’s long, and basic, while three pokies sit in the corner.
The Post Office Hotel was first licensed on July 13 1904 by John Wilson Robinson. However, the old single storey weatherboard inn was first run by Robinson as a wine saloon prior to it becoming a pub. He received a colonial wine license for Ulan on July 30 1893, and a license for a post office for the premises a month later.
Robinson was born on November 10 1854, the youngest of 10 children of William and Catherine, who were early pioneers of the district. He and his wife, Henrietta established a boarding house, general store and butchery at Ulan in the early 1880s before opening his wine saloon and post office in 1893.
The Mudgee Guardian reported on July 7 1904 that Robinson was applying for a publican’s license for Ulan, which was “urgently required on the locality for many years past”. He was granted the license on July 13 1904.
Robinson ran the pub at Ulan for 12 years before he sold the freehold and goodwill to Charlie Buchanan in March 1916. Seven months after Robinson sold the pub, and adjoining general store, he died at the age of 62.
Charlie Buchanan was a popular host of the Post Office Hotel during his 18 year tenure, in which time the coal mines opened in the district. Buchanan was known for his musical talents. He sold out to Frank Jeannerette in 1934.
The current host of the Post Office Hotel says he had no plans of calling it quits.
“I’m contented here at Ulan,” Dave said.
“It’s a good job. I’ve met a lot of people over the years. It’s a comfortable lifestyle, although I don’t make a huge amount of money.
“I’ll be here for a while; I just signed another 10 year lease with the owners.”
After enjoying a beer and chat with Dave, it was time to hit the road for the long drive back to Sydney, via Mudgee where we photographed a couple of beautiful Victorian era pubs as sun set over the NSW’s central tablelands.
© Copyright Mick Roberts 2019
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