Outback sands reclaim ‘The Beer With No Pub’, at Yanco Glen

Yanco Glen Hotel NSW 1987 1 BW
The Yanco Glen Hotel, ‘The Beer With No Pub’ in outback NSW, January 1987 a few years before its closure. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection


SADLY the striking red sands and hardy outback desert shrubs have reclaimed where once the Yanco Glen Hotel served-up icey cold beers to weary travellers.

Made nationally famous by the iconic promotional photograph of legendary country music artist, Slim Dusty leaning on the bonnet of his ‘Old Purple’ outside its doors, I was lucky to have visited the Yanco Glen Hotel only a few years before its closure and eventual demolition.

In January 1987, with a group of friends travelling outback NSW, we stopped at this memorable little galvanised iron pub, with the tiniest of public bars, and with only cold canned or bottled beer available to wet our dry, dusty throats.

A crudely painted sign at the front exclaimed: “Yanco Glen Hotel, Cold SA and Vic Beer, Soft Drinks, Toasted S’wiches, Ice.”

I remember a boy fussing over a joey in a cardboard box at the public bar, as we quenched our thirsts before moving onto our next destination. I wasn’t to realise at the time that the historic watering hole was about to dry-up, and by the end of the year would be no more.

The Yanco Glen Hotel, about 30 kilometres north of Broken Hill on what is today the Silver City Highway, was established by Alexander McIntosh Roberston when he was granted a license on April 30 1900.
Robertson was a well-known identity in Broken Hill. He originally came to the Broken Hill region from Saddleworth, South Australia, in about 1890 with his wife, Lily and their children.

corona hotel which eventually ended up at yanco glen then burnt down Broken Hill Historical Society
Corona Hotel, Corona Station, about 74km from Broken Hill. The Corona Hotel eventually was moved over 25kms by ‘jinka’ to Yanco Glen before it was destroyed by fire. Picture: Broken Hill Historical Society

The Robertsons first settled in Silverton before gaining the license of the Corona Hotel, about 74 kilometres (46 miles) north of Broken Hill in July 1892. The Corona Hotel was first licensed to cater to stockman and travellers in June 1890.

Alexander Robertson was licensee of the Corona Hotel until 1894, when he and his wife took over the Royal Hotel in Argent Street, Broken Hill in 1895.

Old Royal Hotel Broken Hill 1927
The Royal Hotel, Broken Hill 1927. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

The couple returned to the Corona Hotel in 1896 where they remained until 1899. The couple seemed to have struck trouble in re-licensing their pub. At the June 1899 licensing court the police opposed Robertson’s application on the ground that the house was “in a dilapidated condition”.

Instead of pursuing a license for the Corona Hotel, Robertson applied for a new license for “Yancowinna Creek, on the eastern side of the Tarrawingee tram line… about 20 miles from Broken Hill”. He advertised in the newspaper, Barrier Miner on October 1899 that the Yanco Glen Hotel would have at least two sitting-rooms and four sleeping-rooms for accommodation.

yanco glen hotel NSW 1900
Mail coach at the Yanco Glen Hotel, circa 1900. Picture: National Archives of Australia

The Yanco Glen Hotel was originally a galvanised iron and wooden building with matchboard lining. Legend has it that the pub was originally located near Euriowie, and was moved to Corona Station and then to Yanco Glen in April 1900.

The Corona Hotel seems to have been moved by well-known Broken Hill builder, Arthur Fletcher Pincombe. It wasn’t the first hotel moved by Pincombe, who had made quite a name for himself by transporting buildings of various sizes in the region. In 1893 he moved the South Broken Hill Fire Station “without even cracking a window”.

In 1894 Pincombe moved Broken Hill’s Round Hill Hotel for re-erection at Warrina, in the north of South Australia, within a few miles of Oodnadatta, where it completed the journey by train. The building was said to have weighed about 18 tons, and cost £115 odd for freight.

After Robertson moved the Corona Hotel to Yanco Glen, the pub reportedly burnt to the ground and was again rebuilt. However, I’m unable to find any newspaper coverage of the fire at that time.

The first license of the Yanco Glen Hotel was issued to Alexander Robertson at “Yancowiana Creek” on April 30 1900.

The Yanco Glen Hotel C1900. Picture: Supplied

Robertson and his 13-year-old son came to an untimely end in 1901 when they accidentally drowned in a dam near the pub. The Adelaide Evening Journal reported on Friday April 19 1901:

An extraordinary drowning fatality occurred yesterday at Yanco Glen, Albion Town, 18 miles from Broken Hill. Alex McIntosh Robertson, aged 45 years, and his son, aged 13 years, left an hotel with a horse and buggy to obtain a cask of water from Kennedy’s dam, a mile distant. Nothing was heard of them for some hours, when it was discovered that the horse and buggy had slipped into a deep part of the dam, and that the father and son had both been drowned. Mr Robertson’s body was recovered by a man, who, when passing the spot, noticed the cask floating on the water, and the horse, which had struggled out with the buggy, stuck in the mud. The coroner, Mr Hall, is investigating the case. Mr Robertson was an old resident of the Barrier, and at one time was licencee of the Royal Hotel in Argent street. He was proprietor of the Yanco Glen Hotel.

Robertson’s wife continued to manage the hotel until 1904.

Yanco Glen Hotel Yanco Glen NSW November 1927 ANU
Yanco Glen Hotel May 1927. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

The Yanco Glen Hotel, now with a verandah slung around the front, was bought by South Australian Breweries in the mid 1920s. The brewery would own the pub’s freehold for the following 40 years before it was sold again to long-time hosts, Joseph and Joyce Condon in the mid 1960s.

The Bourke Western Herald reported on Friday April 26 1968:

YANCO GLEN HOTEL – On the return trip to Broken Hill a visit must be paid to the Yanco Glen Hotel, about 30 miles out of the ‘Hill.’ Imagine to our surprise to find it was run by Mr and Mrs Condon, once of Bourke, and also Mrs Condon’s sister, Mrs June Gaiter, also of Bourke. Mrs. Condon has 2 rooms devoted to a Historic Museum where aboriginal artifacts, rubbing stones, message sticks and other relics may be found. Also, on display are opals and various other minerals, be-sides an interesting collection of very old implements of all descriptions used by our early settlers. The tourist brochure states that “the road to Mootwingie has one great disadvantage in that it has a dusty, clay gravel surface”. The motorist from Bourke need have no fears, it surpasses our roads for condition. Visitors are requested not to deface stones or burial mounds. Here then is a one day journey going through history ancient and modern.


Yanco Glen Hotel Yanco Glen NSW 1950s ANU
Yanco Glen Hotel C1950. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

During these years, to cater for its unique geographical position, the pub served beers from South Australian, Victorian and New South Wales.

A succession of licensees also followed until the old iron pub was made nationally famous when it became a filming location for the Slim Dusty Movie, released in 1984.

Yanco Glen Hotel Slim Dusty
Slim Dusty and “Old Purple” at the Yanco Glen Hotel, one of the filming locations for the Slim Dusty Movie, released in 1984. Picture: Slim Dusty Foundation

The last hosts of the Yanco Glen Hotel were husband and wife, Ken and Vicki Barnes, who took over the hotel from on September 16 1983.

Less than a year after taking the reins from previous hosts, Judith and Malcolm Caldwell, tragedy struck, when the Barnes’ landmark pub sadly burnt to the ground in April 1984.

The resilient outback publicans however were not about to give-up their new business venture. A remaining corrugated iron shed on the property was transformed into a makeshift bar, and it quickly earned the nickname, ‘The Beer with No Pub’.

Vicki and Ken Barnes remained at Yanco Glen until the last day of trade on May 20, 1989. After almost 90 years, the Yanko Glen Hotel closed, and was no more.

After leaving ‘The Yanco’ Vicki and Ken took over another bush pub at Kyalite, about 520km south of Broken Hill, and 160km west of Hay, NSW, where they remained hosts for 30 years.

After Ken’s death in September 2019, Vicki retired as licensee of the Kyalite Hotel in January 2020. Vicki still owns the property at Yanco Glen where the pub once traded.

Yanco Glen Hotel about 1988. Picture: Stephen Paul Munro, Australia Looking at Times Past Facebook Group.

The last word, I reckon, is best left to ‘E. S. Sorenson’, who described Yanco Glen Hotel and the surrounding area in this colourful Australian Worker newspaper story, published on Wednesday January 30 1924:


The haunting Barrier Ranges, scenes of fortunes made and fortunes lost, of sweet romance and grim tragedy, claimed whole-souled interest as the ocean creaked up and down, and swung round the curves and bends. There were striking pictures amid those ranges, and many a spot along the wayside where the careless, hunting miner had pegged his last claim.

In the dusk we came to Torrowangee. At a fine hotel that was eloquent of big things in other years, we washed off the dust and brushed up for the last stage on the coach.There were many crumbling ruins in Torrowangee, too, and storied veins were tapped in every old hand you met; but they were mostly tales of wayside pubs, and wayside graves — a rather suggestive combination.

The Barrier hills were rich in old memories; the winding roads were thick with storied landmarks and the graves of men; and west and south, deep buried in the beds of once great lakes, lay the bones of mammoths that a great drought of centuries ago had wiped out; It was truly a land of dead things then, bare of all verdure and all life, studded with dead trees, and strewn with bleaching bones.

Five miles below Torrowangee we passed the ruins of the Gorge Hotel. In its flourishing days, it was a great resort of prospectors, shearers and shepherds. A party of miners were drinking there one night when a shearer entered and unslung his swag. He had just come from a shed. Throwing a cheque on the bar, he invited all hands to “give it a name”. He paid for several rounds of drinks, then suddenly collapsed on the floor and died. Thinking he was only helplessly, drunk, the miners propped him against the bar and continued to drink his health, allotting him a glass each time, until his cheque was cut out. As the hospitable stranger only sagged over when pressed to take his nobbler, it was realised at last that he was dead. He was buried near the pub.

Farther down was the ruin of the old Yanco Glen Hotel, which was burned down in the late 1890s. A man who occupied the room where the fire started perished in the flames and his remains were also planted by the roadside. The publican then bought the Corona Hotel, which faced the Quinyanibie Road, above Torrowangee, and therewith a local carrier named Pincombe stepped into fame. He lifted the main building on to jinkers, and conveyed it by team over 27 miles of rough country to a site a little north of the old place, where it was opened as the new Yanco Glen Hotel forming a landmark that was previously monopolised by somebody’s grave.

Another refreshment place, nearer Broken Hill, was Jacob’s Well. But this was not a pub. It was good, fresh water, which could always be obtained in the sand at the foot of a big rock. Travellers pulled up there for a drink, because the water was always cool. It was a cherished spot of the aborigines; and there, too, kangaroos and wallabies rooted for sustenance in very dry summers. Near, that spot there was no wayside grave.

Yanco Glen Hotel Licensees 1900-1989

1900-1901: Alexander Robertson

1901-1904: Lily Robertson

1904-1906: James Dromgoole

1906- 1910: William John Edward

1910- 1911: Edward Jay

1911 – 1916: Morgan Evans

1916- 1921: Richard James Rowe

1921-1922: John Swanson

1922- 1923: William Henry Baker

1923- 1924: John Amos Hywood

1924-1927: William Henry Mercer

1927-1928: Peter J. McLure

1928-1935: George Castleman

1935-1939: A.A. & J.M. Davies

1939-1943: Raymond A. Bennett

1943-1947: Lewis E. Rebbeck (deceased 1946)

1947-1948: Beatric Rebbeck

1948-1949: William Morgan Evans

1949-1951: Jack William Turner

1951-1952: Francis Graham Vickers

1952-1953: Godfrey Berry

1953-1958: Francis Vincent Fitzgerald

1958-1969: Joseph Leonard Condon

1969-1971: Joyce Patience Condon

1971-1973: Herbert Chaplain

1973-1983: Judith and Malcolm Caldwell

1983-1989: Vicki and Ken Barnes

Hotel closed for business May 20 1989

Yanco Glen Hotel NSW 1987 TG W
The Yanco Glen Hotel, ‘The Beer With No Pub’, January 1987, a few years before its closure. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

© Copyright 2020 Mick Roberts


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Categories: NSW hotels

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6 replies

  1. My name is Vicki Barnes and I was the last Publican of the Yanco Glen Hotel. My husband (Ken) and I took over the hotel from the Caldwells on the 16th September 1983 and remained there until the last day of trade on the 20th May 1989 The actual hotel building burnt down in April 1984 and the remaining bungalow that was located at the back of the main structure became the Pub. It was nicknamed The Beer with No Pub!. After leaving The Yanco we took over the Kyalite Pub where I am still the Licencee, and in fact I still own the land that the pub was built on. If you would like anymore information you can contact me via the Kyalite Pub facebook page.

  2. Good on you. Over many years my parents often stopped there. Husband John Rebbeck, grandson of Lewis, and I stopped there a few times on way in from Lonsdale. Sure remember Joyce Condon and Mal Caldwell

    • The Royal Hotet that was pictured is in Oxide street, Alexander Robertson was the Licencee of The Royal Hotel(Finns Royal Hotel)
      delienced 1924
      Now known as the Royal
      Building retail shops ground floor ,popular accommodation upstairs.
      My wife & I owned this property until 2017.
      My wife was licencee of the Old Royal Hotel, Oxide Street from 1973 through to 1978
      Lindsay Robertson (no relation)

  3. Hi, My mother was a daughter of Lewis and Beatrice Rebbeck and worked at the pub, met my dad whom worked at Mootwinji (his brother-in-law managed the station). I had my first two years there then they came into town. We as a family, (have a sister), used to travel to nearby properties (mainly one) regularly as children/teenagers, always stopping at Yanco for beer, squash and raspberry drinks, something we always looked forward to. In later years my husband (and younger daughter) used to do the same trips with my father, always enjoying themselves, having great memories. My father and mother’s ashes are “spread” on a rock opposite Yanco Pub (across the highway), father passed in 1990, mother 2005, the rock has gradually gotten small due to erosion, but their ashes are still there, as I don’t live in BH now I don’t get to go out there very much but my nephew does regularly. It is the best place for breakfast, then a walk down the creek from Kennedys Tank to the pub site.

    A bit of Trivia – My mother’s mother’s maiden name was Roberts!!!!!!!!!

    Enjoyed your information very much – thanks. Susan

  4. A very interesting story. My dad Dick Toohey would have been a visitor. Also I didn’t know there was a pub at Round Hill- my mums parents the McKinnon’s had a dairy there. The good old days

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