By MICK ROBERTS ©
A SOCIAL club, made-up of coal miners, caused quite a stir when they set-up camp at what they named “Froth Blowers Retreat” at Towradgi Beach, just north of Wollongong in the Illawarra region of NSW, for 15 days of beer drinking, sport – and more beer drinking – over the Christmas holidays of 1939.
The Save Yourself Club was formed by Corrimal identity, sportsman, and coal miner, Pat Curran in 1935.
The club was principally set-up as a social group for Corrimal Colliery’s miners. Besides regular weekend sporting and social events, members annually camped on Towradgi Beach over the Christmas holiday period, trying to break their previous year’s beer drinking efforts.
In 1939, members of the social club gathered for their annual camp at Towradgi, where they reportedly broke a world beer-drinking record.
The 15 Corrimal miners drank 600 gallons (2,727 Litres) of beer over 15 days. That’s about 55 modern-day kegs of beer between the 15 men over the period of about two weeks, or just over three kegs a day. Impressive!
At 9.30am on Sunday January 7 1940 the last keg was drained and rolled away. The biggest daily consumption was reportedly on New Year’s Day with 60 gallons of beer and soft drink.
“We may not be as good as those 20-gallon-a-day Germans, but we’ll hold our own with any Australian,” founder Pat Curran told the Sydney Daily Telegraph in a story on January 8 1940.
“In any case, we’ve set an Australian record,” he said.
Known as “Captain Curran” to his club mates, the Corrimal miner believed the club was the ideal way for hard-working men to spend their annual holidays.
“Get away from the crowd, find a nice quiet beach, have music and fun, and plenty of beer,” was his advice.
The keg-man for the 1939/40 camp was 75-year-old Joe King. Every day Joe brought four nine gallon kegs to the camp in a cart. The only teetotal member was the treasurer, Cliff English. Other executive members were Jack Shadlow and Leslie Buchanan. There was also a mascot dog, with the name ‘Midget’.
“We are a happy family,” Curran told the Illawarra Mercury in 1940.
“If a man misbehaves he is punished on ‘Penalty Hill’,” he said.
Penalty Hill was a steep sand dune near the camp, where offenders had to sit for two hours when they broke the rules, which included no quarrelling, no arguments, and no fighting.
The clergy, particularly Sydney’s temperance leaders, were, not surprisingly, too happy about the antics of the Save Yourself Club. Three clergy had the following to say about the Corrimal miners in a story published in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on January 8 1940:
Of course the opinions of a few religious wowsers never dampened the spirit of the coal miners and the Save Yourself Club.
Pat Curran, who called Corrimal home for most of his life, was a keen surfer, who gained his bronze medallion in 1922, and was an active member of the Corrimal Surf Club.
A talented footballer, who played both rugby and soccer with Bellambi and Corrimal clubs during the 1920 and 30s, he formed the social club in 1935 after retiring from active participation in surf carnivals.
A single man, who lived with his sister, Mrs Buchanan, in Harbinger Street, Corrimal, he steered the ‘Save Yourself Club’ until the outbreak of World War II when he enlisted in the A.I.F. as a gunner.
Curran was killed in action fighting in Malay during 1942. The ‘Save Yourself Club’ was disbanded during the war years.
© Copyright Mick Roberts 2020
MINERS GROW FAT DRINKING BEER
Wollongong, January 9.
The 15 Corrimal miners, who aim to create a record, have drunk 530 gallons of beer in 14 days. They have all put on weight. The men are camped on Towrodgi [sic] Beach, where they spend their holidays each year. Hundreds of people have visited their camp, which is named “Froth blowers’ Retreat.” The visitors have been surprised at the men’s gaiety and fitness. “I did not expect to see them playing cricket,” said a woman. The men will break camp next week-end with a final celebration.
– Northern Standard Friday 12 January 1940
IN 12 days, 15 Corrimal miners have averaged 21 pints of beer, and one and a half bottles of soft drink per man per day. They are members of the “Save Yourself Club,” and are camped on the beach near Wollongong. The beer marathon is an annual event, but this year’s consumption is more than double that of last summer. Police say the camp is well conducted.
– Adelaide News Tuesday 2 January 1940
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