Boxing champ behind the bar



frank kirwanFormer fight champion Frank Kirwan (pictured), for 29 years head barman at the Esplanade Hotel’s front bar, has never had a drink of beer in his life. Yet, today, with all the enthusiasm of his customers, he is looking forward to the complete relaxation of beer rationing.

“People who are always fighting against beer are wrong. My 35-odd years in bars has proved to me that beer is the healthiest drink of all,” he says.

“I have never seen a man sick through drinking just a few beers a day. It worries me now to see young chaps forced into drinking spirits be cause there is no beer. Mind you, there’s nothing wrong with a good many brands of spirits. But it’s the effect they have on men who, after all, are primarily beer drinkers.

“I have always reckoned that with spirits men get drunk before they are full and with beer they get full be fore they are drunk.”

Sandy-haired Frank Kirwan is 57.


He started professional fighting when he was 19, gave it up when he was 31. He was bantamweight champion of Western Australia, fought for the Australian title in Melbourne in 1915. He was beaten by Jack Jannese.

“When I started boxing,” he says, “I saw many successful fighters finish in the gutter through drink.

“I determined that I would not have a drink until I had finished as a boxer. When I did finish. I was 31 and I thought it was a bit late to start drinking: then.”

His first job was in the Kalgoorlie brewery, owned in those days by Mr J. Cummings. Kirwan’s promise as a boxer prompted Mr Cummings to build an open-air stadium so that he would get the experience he needed to polish him off.


Later, Kirwan took his first bar job in a Kalgoorlie hotel. He got it in a queer way.

A big man outside the hotel was ill treating an old prospector, was about to kick him when Kirwan ‘took to him’.’

“I was pretty good with my hands then,” Kirwan says, “and was able to give him what he was asking for.

“Next day as I was walking past the licensee asked me what work I was doing. I told her I was just filling in time between bouts and she asked me if I would like a job in a bar.”

Kirwan considers that the Kalgoorlie bully did him a good turn. “He indirectly pushed me into a bar job and now, after about 35 years, I can’t think of any job I would like better.”

Kirwan recalls that when he took that first bar job hotels bought beer at £3/15/ a hogshead (54 gallons).. “But today duty alone on an 18gallon keg is £3/17/11.

“We used to import English ale and still be able to sell a pot of two ales — English and local — at 4d. For the same price you could get a ‘dog’s nose’ (gin and beer) and more gin went into those drinks than you get now when you ask for gin alone.”

One of the things that has amazed Kirwan about regular beer drinkers is that they “never seem to need medicine”. Until 18 months ago, when he had an operation for varicose veins, Kirwan skipped 500 every morning.

“I consider I have kept myself as fit as any other man but I take medicine twice a week.”

The customer who wants to fight is the only one who annoys Kirwan. The only other chip he carries on his shoulder is the beer shortage.

“There’s no doubt servicemen passing through here and those on leave use up a lot of the beer quota,” he says. “But I don’t think there’s anyone in the business who begrudges them their beer.”

Kirwan hopes for an early return to full beer quotas.

“Naturally no one wants to work until nine at night but those who have to will not mind so much when all men can get their national drink— beer.”

– The Perth Daily News Saturday 26 January 1946

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