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Road Trip: The pubs of the O’Connell Plains

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Hampton Half Way Hotel, Hampton. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

OConnell Plains Road Trip Map
Note: The venues on this Road Trip were visited before ‘The Great Pub Lockdown’ on March 23 2020. The O’Connell Hotel and Tarana Hotel remain open for take away food only (check venues for days and times), while the Alexander Hotel at Rydal has closed altogether until further notice.

By MICK ROBERTS ©

OUR MOST recent Time Gents’ road trip took us from the city of Sydney over the Blue Mountains into the green valleys west of Oberon and the O’Connell Plains, where we visited three special pubs, and interviewed two interesting and entertaining publicans.

Our O’Connell Plains Road Trip was a leisurely one day excursion, driving through Hampton, briefly stopping at the iconic Half Way Hotel, with its magnificent views, and onto Oberon, where two pubs, the Royal and the Tourist, have quenched the thirsts of a sleepy rural township for over a century.

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Royal Hotel, Oberon. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

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The original Royal Hotel, 1925. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

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The Tourist Hotel, Oberon. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

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The lobby of the Tourist Hotel, Oberon. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

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The original Tourist Hotel, Oberon, 1935. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

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The replacement Tourist Hotel, Oberon, 1936. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University


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The O’Connell Inn, O’Connell

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The O’Connell Hotel, O’Connell. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

Our first port o’call was a pub I’ve been eager to visit for sometime – The O’Connell Hotel, where we met and chatted to publican, Laura White.

It’s Laura’s first license. But, she’ no novice in the industry. In fact Laura worked behind the bar of the O’Connell for many years, before her parents, Lionel and Kate White, purchased the historic pub in July 2017.

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O’Connell Hotel publican, Laura White at the bar. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

The history of the single storey weatherboard inn is long. In fact, the history is way too long to go into in any great detail in this story.

O’Connell’s first pub was the Plough Inn. It was opened in 1833 by Daniel Roberts and closed in 1863.

Irishman, Patrick Dwyer opened O’Connell’s second pub in 1859. After his marriage to Catherine Donovan that same year, the pair established the Willow Glen Hotel on the northern bank of the Fish River. The Bathurst Free Press reported on October 22 1859:

O’CONNELL PLAINS, DIRTY SWAMP, FISH RIVER, AND THE SURROUNDING DISTRICTS

PATRICK DWYER WISHES to inform the inhabitants of the above places, that he has opened the house recently occupied by Mr. Nolan as a store (well known as the property of M. S. Finley, Esq.) under the name of the WILLOW BANK HOTEL, and trusts, by strict attention to the requirements of his customers, to merit a share of their patronage. Without entering into the usual string of long advertisements (seldom or never carried out), he ventures to promise A Good Glass of GROG, Good Stabling and first rate yards and paddocks For Teams.

Patrick and Catherine Dwyer never stayed long as hosts, and it would be another 10 years before the pair became publicans again at O’Connell.

The present O’Connell Hotel was built as an unlicensed inn, on land bought by Donald Campbell from Reverend Thomas Hassall, in 1865. It wasn’t until Patrick Dwyer, his wife, Catherine – now with three children – made the O’Connell Inn their home in 1869 that the building was licensed to sell liquor.

Patrick was granted a publican’s license for the building in January 1869, and so began more than 150 years of the timber inn trading as a hotel.

Patrick and Catherine would have two more girls while hosting the O’Connell Inn, bringing the number of their children to five.

After a decade at the helm, the Dwyers left the O’Connell Hotel in 1880, moving to Duckmaloi, near Oberon, where they became graziers.

Patrick died shortly after relinquishing the license of the pub in December 1880, and Catherine’s death followed in 1897.

A long line of publicans followed Patrick Dwyer, with the most notable being Thomas and Ellen Condon. Tom hosted the pub for a record 36 years before his death from heart failure in 1931 at the age of 75.

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The O’Connell Hotel, O’Connell, 1925. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

Born in Cork, Ireland, Tom Condon came to Australia as a young man taking the license of the O’Connell Hotel in 1892. He was described in his obituary as “a hotelkeeper of the old school — a type that is fast becoming rare”.

“He made himself and his hotel widely and favourably known, and attracted hundreds from all parts. His death will be generally regretted and the sympathy of a host of friends will go out to the bereaved widow together with the family…”

After Tom’s demise, the pub was taken over by his son Thomas Condon Junior. Thomas Junior would host the pub until his death in 1944.

The Condon family ran the pub for an amazing 60 years before selling out. The last host was Josephine Condon who relinquished the license in 1951.

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The O’Connell Hotel, O’Connell 1959. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

The Hurstville newspaper, The Propeller published an interesting history of the roadside inn on August 25 1933:

Australianites

By Will Carter, Hurstville

HOTEL O’CONNELL

”Where is O’Connell?” I inquired of a Sydneysider the other day in an Illawarra train, whose name was Patrick Murphy, and a most intelligent fellow he was. “O’Connell?” he said with a bright spark in each twinkling eye, “Dan O’Connell, the Irish Liberator, you mean, of course? Why, the man died in Genoa in 1847, as you, or any other intelligent man, should surely know.” And there you are again, that irregularity of things which I was writing of just a while back. O’Connell happens to be a country township, situated about 15 miles out of Bathurst, on the Oberon-Jenolan Caves Road, and pretty cold it was up there this bless-ed, frosty morning, I’ll warrant. It is interesting to note what small things impress a person with regard to places that swim into and out of gaze when motoring swiftly along through the country. I would have answered for Pat Murphy that O’Connell district is memorable for its straggling bush fences. Not the little town itself but the district around, I mean. But, O’Connell has erected a more impressive memorial than its straggle-fences, and that is the Hotel O’Connell, which exhibits a notice on one of its walls, which, for “service,” humour, and originality, would take more than Jack Crawford to beat. It reads thusly:- “Hotel O’Connell.— Proprietor, Mine, Host, Tom Condon (Don’t blame the pub, it can’t help it). Rafferty Rules! (Referee, Gwen Hughes). Patron, Sam Cox and Others. Towels changed weekly – sheets occasionally. Dogs not allowed to share beds. Spurs must be removed on retiring, boots optional; guests troubled with nightmare will find a halter behind the door. If the room gets too hot, open the window and see the fire-escape. Do not worry about paying your bill; the house is supported by its foundations. This hotel is convenient to the gaol, the morgue, and the cemetery. Guests wishing to do a little driving will find hammer and nails in the bar. If the light fails, a feather from the pillow will be found light enough for anything. Hazards, poker, two-up, selling a horse, tiddly winks, snakes and ladders, run by the proprietor. Special rates for clergymen and bookmakers. Every known fluid, except water, sold in bar. Not responsible for jewellery, boots, revolvers, bicycles, powder puffs, vanity-bags, racehorses, or other valuables kept under the pillows. They should be put in the safe. Board at the usual rates, ice cream and manicure extra. Petrol on sale (some cars do run on it). Do not make eyes at the waitress, she has a “steady.” She would not have you on at any rate. There was a nine-hole golf course in the creek at the rear of the hotel, but a flood came. The tennis court is in excellent order, all you require for a really good game is a racquet, net, balls, and lines. If you have forgotten your tennis shoes, football boots may be hired from the hotel. The croquet lawn is the best in the district. Guests who want to do some shooting only require a gun and cartridges, then find something to shoot, and shoot it. Please be careful, some of the local inhabitants look like fair game, but they are all married. The oldest inhabitant can remember when the house shouted.”

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The public bar of the O’Connell Hotel. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

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The back stone section of the O’Connell Hotel. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

We settled at a table, ordering a bite to eat and a couple of drinks, before chatting with current licensee, Laura White.

The Whites purchased the pub from Michelle Webb, who had hosted The O’Connell for about 10 years. It’s a family run pub. There’s Laura’s partner, Phil Walker, her siblings Emma, and Josh, along with girlfriend, Sarah Watterson, all keeping the popular pub operating smoothly.

The pub was purchased by Laura’s parents, Lionel, a retired Bathurst police officer, and Kate, the principal of Bathurst Public School.

Kate had been working at the pub as a barmaid when Michelle Webb put the place up for sale in July 2017.

“I approached dad and mum to see if they were interested in buying the pub,” Laura said. “And we’ve been here ever since.”

Laura said the family has worked hard toward attracting a younger crowd to the pub. They have established a rodeo on New Year’s Eve and a family muster in October, which both attract big crowds.

The pub has also become known for its lawn mower and yabby races – not held at the same time as the freshwater crayfish would come out second best!

Customers at the O’Connell Inn are an eclectic mix, including tourists and those working on surrounding properties.

“We have a lot of farmers coming to the pub,” Laura said.

“It’s not unusual to see our locals ride their horses to the pub and tie them to the trees in the beer garden.”

Speaking of The O’Connell’s beer garden, the pub’s yard and gardens are picturesque, with large shady trees, and spacious tables with bench seats, where Laura has hosted a number of wedding receptions in recent times.

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A sign at the O’Connell Hotel. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

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O’Connell Hotel, O’Connell. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

“We’re only 20 minutes out from Bathurst, so the pub’s a popular weekend destination for lunches and other functions,” Laura said.

Along with Sunday bands, the pub also has a popular Thursday night meat raffle and badge draw.

Between preparing meals and pulling beers, Laura (a ‘one-man-show’ on our visit) said she is enjoying her first-time role as a publican.

“I like the people you meet, and the stories you hear,” she said.

“I’ve seen a lot of relationships start, and a few end here at the pub. Birthdays are my favourite. I’ve watched a lot of the kids grow-up, and many of them are now our customers.”

An exploration of the old inn, including checking out the historic photographs gracing the hall walls, we bid farewell to Laura, and drive onto our next destination – The Tarana Hotel.

O’Connell Hotel, O’Connell

Annual Licensees

1869-1880: Patrick Dwyer
1882- 1886: John Gray
1886-1887: Alfred Chapple
1887- 1892: Henry Clarke
1892-1931: Thomas Condon
1931-1944: Thomas P. Condon
1944-1947: Marguerita Condon
1947-1951: Josephine A.P. Condon
1951-1956: Clifford Parsons
1956-1958: Richard Wallace & Jessie Henderson
1958-1960: George Thomas & Ethel Gertrude Retford
1960-1960: James Vincent Power
1960-1970: Hugh Nickolas Kelly
1970-1972: Stanley Armour
1972-1973: Lola Mary Farr
1973-1974: Peter Kevin Bruce
1974-1976: George Gavin Christie
1976-1977: Robert Wray Eivers
1977-1978: Alex Carlin
1978-1880: Sidney Littler
1980- 1983: Lindsay A. Rockwell
2007-2017: Michelle Webb
2017-2020: Laura White
* Can anyone help us out with licensees between 1980 and 2007?

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The Tarana Hotel, Tarana

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Tarana Hotel, Tarana. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

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Tarana Hotel, Tarana. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

Affectionately known as “The Na” by the locals, the Tarana Hotel is located 22km from O’Connell Hotel, along the picturesque Mutton Falls Road.

Although the pub’s logo states that the pub was established in 1873, my research has found that it was first licensed as the Railway Hotel in May 1876, a month after the opening of the extension of the Great Western Railway from Kelso to Bathurst.

The Railway Hotel’s first licensee was 37-year-old John ‘Jack’ Fawcett (sometimes spelt, Faucett).

Jack grew up in the Bathurst region, and as a teenager he had at least a couple of ‘run-ins’ with the law. He was fined 20 shillings or 24 for hours in the Bathurst lock-up in June 1858 for drunkenness. However, later the same year 19-year-old Jack was sentenced to six months imprisonment with hard labour for stealing a case of razors, and four silk pocket handkerchiefs belonging to Bathurst Catholic priest, the Very Reverend Dean Grant. Stealing from a priest was considered a grave offence back in the 1850s, and young Jack paid the price when he fronted Bathurst Police Court in December 1858.

After his marriage to Jane Hamilton, Jack settled down as a family man. With Jane, and his three children, aged between seven and four, he opened the Royal Hotel at Oberon in 1874, where his fifth child was born.

From Oberon, the Fawcetts moved to Tarana in 1876 where they opened and operated the Railway Hotel. They would remain at the Tarana pub for 11 years before retiring to Hurlstone Park, near Canterbury. After the death of his wife, Jane, at the age of 87 in 1920, Jack lived out his life in Sydney. He died aged of 84 in 1923.

Another prominent publican at Tarana was Richard ‘Dick’ Yates, who followed Jack Fawcett as the licensee of the Railway Hotel in 1887. Describing a visit to Tarana, the Bowral Free Press reported on August 7 1889:

Down the Zigzag we go; past the Lithgow Coal Valley, and soon reach our first stopping place and depot, Tarana. Euphonious name that. Is it Aboriginal or Celtic? It were well that more of the soft-sounding Aboriginal names of places were preserved. A few ascending stops to the left bring us to our hotel, a one-story building, with its detached sign-board, on which are deciphered the words “Railway Hotel, Richard Yates”, a train in motion being painted thereon, with commendable effort, by some local artist.

Dick Yates was one of Tarana’s real characters. He and his wife Ellen were both 47 years of age when they became hosts of the Railway Hotel in 1887.

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The Railway Hotel, Tarana, 1925. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

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The Railway Hotel, Tarana, 1930. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

Richard and Ellen arrived in Australia from England in the mid 1870s. Dick, as he was known by most people, earned a reputation as an authority on the sport of coursing or greyhound racing. The breeding and training of greyhound dogs was his life’s work.

Every morning, with his walking stick in hand, Dick Yates could be seen walking along the old Oberon road with his well-trained hounds racing around him. In his obituary, penned by T. J. Ryan of Oberon and published in the Lithgow Mercury on April 17 1914, Dick’s personality was revealed.

As a gun-shot, he excelled. And perhaps none among those who made the Railway Hotel their holiday resort ever excelled him in a day’s shooting. Attracted by his genial, interesting personality, the number of city men who made Tarana their shooting-box and place of rest-cure was large. There were merchants, professional, and businessmen. And they found in “Dad” as Richard Yates was often familiarly termed, a rare personality. His whimsical sayings, his independence, and his self-belief rendered him entertaining company… In matters appertaining to coursing, no man, however highly placed socially, dared dispute with him. His was the final decision, and his friends bowed to it… His spirit of independence and utter disregard for the social positions of people were characteristics. From the highest to the lowest he only knew men as men to be addressed by their Christian or surnames. For many years “Dad” was an intimate friend of one of the most distinguished medical men in Sydney. And to “Dad” the medico was always Charley. Some years ago Sir Joseph Carruthers, then Premier of N.S.W., arrived one morning by motor at Tarana. “Dad” was standing on the hotel verandah as Sir Joseph approached, and in the manner characteristic of him greeted the Premier with, “Good morning, Joe, how are you ?” And Joe was not further noticed by the independent host of the Railway Hotel…

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The Railway Hotel, Tarana, 1939. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

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The Railway Hotel, Tarana, 1955. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

An entertaining story of Richard Yates’ disregard for the social position was further explained in the obituary, when the publican took a break from his role as publican at Tarana to visit London.

“Dad” was in London in connection with a Waterloo coursing event, and at the time the late Henry Copeland was Agent-General for NSW. Copeland, while living in NSW had often visited Tarana for shooting, and, of course, formed a friendship with Mr Yates. Being in London, “Dad” naturally desired to visit his old friend at his offices. The day selected was a busy one for the A.G., who was negotiating a loan for NSW Financial magnates were waiting in the office corridors to interview the Agent-General, whose office was guarded by uniformed flunkeys. However, Richard Yates, sun-tanned and big-framed, entered the Agent-General’s outer offices, and in his fine abrupt Australian way asked for Harry Copeland. The flunkeys almost dropped dead. They were accustomed to blandly-spoken frock-coated gentlemen presenting their dainty cards of introduction, and waiting quietly for admission. But the manner of Richard Yates’ demand was so startlingly new that they were seized with mental spasms. “Tell Harry Copeland,” said Richard, “that Dick Yates, of Tarana, wants to see him”. The message was given, and Copeland, like the democrat he was, came out and welcomed, and led his old Australian friend into his private office. This incident, related of Richard Yates, would be absolutely in keeping with his fine spirit of independence and contempt for social status. His denunciation of a “Wowser” was entertainment in itself, and the terms in which he expressed it were withering. He had a large circle of friends among the city professional, business, and sporting men, who made frequent holiday trips to Tarana to spend pleasant days with their esteemed old sporting friend. Proceeding to the river with their rods, or with their guns, in the direction of Mutton’s Falls, Sodwalls, or Mountain Home, “Dad” and his friends in the old buggy and sulkies were familiar figures along the Tarana roads. And on these occasions, which were frequent, in the company of his best friends, “the captain”, the doctor, the blackfellow, and Ludo, there, was none hap-pier than he. With his sun-tanned, face, he loo’ed what he was a lover of the outdoor life, and in the term adopted by Australians to express fine qualities in a man, a sport to his Inst moment of consciousness.

Dick Yates lost his wife, Ellen in June 1905 when she dropped dead at the pub from heart failure. Ellen was attending to her household duties while caring for ‘Dick’, who had been unwell. She took him a cup of tea, and soon afterwards she died. Ellen was 65 years of age. Old Dick continued as host of the Tarana pub for another decade, finally retiring in 1913.

The following year, Dick was rushed to St Vincent’s Hospital in Sydney after an infection in his toes. He had three toes amputated, but after a three week stint in hospital the Tarana publican succumbed to the infection and died on April 3 1914 at the age of 74.

The hotel’s ‘sign’ was changed from the Railway to simply ‘The Tarana’ sometimes after 1980, when Edward and Winifred Mumford owned and operated the pub.

An interesting feature of the pub is that unlike many hotels, it doesn’t face the main road. The side of the hotel faces the main road, while the front of the building is disguised under a huge pergola sheltered by ancient wisteria.

The hospitality by Dick and Ellen Yates, and those who followed the well-known hosts, continues at the Tarana hotel to this day.

On our arrival we were made welcome by the friendly owners and staff. I chatted with a grey-bearded man, sitting on the verandah with the pub dog, before we settled in the beer-garden for a drink and a delicious meal.

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We enjoyed a delicious meal in the beer-garden, which overlooks splendid rural views out to Tarana Mountain. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

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The entrance to the bar of the Tarana Hotel. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

The beer-garden, which takes in stunning rural views through to Mount Tarana, seems to be the favourite place for diners. The hotel also features three self contained cabins for accommodation.

Railway Hotel, Tarana

Licensees 1876-1970

1876-1887: John Fawcett (Faucett)
1887- 1914: Richard Yates
1914- 1915: Frederick J. Ludowici
1915-1916: Charles Wood
1916-1918: Clara Wood
1918-1919: Joseph Lister
1919-1921: Harry Lister
1921-1922: John Roche
1922-1923: Kate Johnstone
1923-1923: John Barcley (Battley)
1923-1923: James Lindley
1923-1924: John “Jack” Forrest
1924-1924: Albert Wilcox
1924-1925: Stewart Mitchell
1925-1925: H.J. Martin
1925-1925: John M. Heiler (Hetler)
1925-1927: Charles F. Dillon
1927-1928: Phillip S. Graham
1928-1929: Herbert Maskill
1929-1932: Charles F. Dillon
1932-1932: Eugene Henry Shore
1932-1933: John William Paul
1933-1934: Leslie Thomas Hinton
1934-1936: Thomas J. Donnelly
1936-1936: J. Richards
1936-1936: Clifford May
1936-1937: Leslie T. Hinton
1937-1937: John W. Allan
1937-1939: Clifford M. May
1939-1944: Robert Gillett
1944-1949: John Hardwick
1949-1950: Harold Bowtell
1950-1951: Richard Edwards
1951-1952: Austin Smith
1952-1954: Charles Cawthorne
1954-1954: Eliza Shanks
1954-1959: Olive McGuire
1959-1960: Ian Colling
1960-1961: Dave Wilkerson
1961-1963: Palmer Mitchell
1963-1964: Ian Colling
1964-1965: Catherine Rigney
1965-1966: John Jenning
1966-1967: Donald Ratcliff
1967-1970: Edward and Winifred Mumford
* Can anyone help us out with licensees from 1970 until the present?

Bar Tips

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A$2.00


Alexander Hotel, Rydal

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The Alexander Hotel, Rydal. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

Leaving the Tarana Hotel we travelled 20 minutes along Sodwells Road to the next and last destination on our O’Connell Plains Road Trip – The Alexander Hotel, Rydal.

The Alexander Hotel’s establishment came about after the forced closure of the village’s only pub, the Royal, east of Rydal Railway Station in 1913.

Career publican, Edward Vernal Carr was the first licensee of the Alexander Hotel. He first came to the Lithgow Valley to work sinking an airshaft for the old Eskbank Colliery in the early 1870s. He married a local girl, Catherine McKenzie in 1877 and after following further mining work around Hill End and Sunny Corner, he tried his luck as a publican.

Carr’s first pub was the Tattersall’s at Sunny Corner, about 24kms north-west of Rydal, in the Bathurst Licensing District, in 1884. He remained as host there for over a decade, before taking over the license of the Genowlan Hotel at Airly, a small mining village, near Capertee. From Airly, Carr went on to Rydal in 1902, where he hosted the Royal Hotel for a few months. From there he re-opened the Royal Hotel at Capertee in 1906, where he remained until 1911 before he returned to Rydal to host the Royal Hotel.

Carr hosted the Royal from July 31 1911 to February 24 1913, when he was forced to close pub after the license was cancelled due to its dilapidated condition. James Cale, who owned the Royal’s freehold, refused to carry out repairs on the building, and as a consequence Carr took matters into his own hands. He applied for a new license for a proposed 12 bedroom, two-storey brick hotel in Rydal valued at about £2000.

The railway duplication works were underway, and, besides the financial opportunity at quenching the thirsts of the many navvies, there was a pressing need for accommodation at Rydal. The Lithgow Mercury reported on June 25 1913:

This is the first winter in the history of Rydal without a hotel, and if it were not for our obliging local storekeeper and postmistress many travellers would have to pass on cold and hungry pending the completion of the new boarding-house and the erection of the new hotel.

Edward Carr’s old landlord, James Cale didn’t want to miss-out on any of the action and applied to have the old Royal Hotel re-licensed. The two men came head to head on Monday April 21 1913 at the Hartley Licensing Court.

James Cale’s Royal Hotel was built of stone in 1886, and he told the court that if he gained a license, he proposed to make additions that would see it have eight bedrooms. His renovations to the old inn were estimated to cost about £2000.

The Hartley licensing Inspector, Senior Sergeant MacKenzie told the court that he had visited Rydal and inspected both sites and had a close look at the plans. In his opinion, Carr’s plans were more suitable. He also thought the requirements of the travelling public would be better met by the creation of Carr’s hotel rather than by Cale’s. As a result, the Hartley Licensing Bench decided to grant Edward Carr’s application and refuse James Cale’s.

Cale’s old Royal Hotel opened as a boarding house, and by July 1913 the foundations for Carr’s new brick hotel were laid. The Lithgow Mercury reported on November 17 that the new hotel was nearing completion and that it “will form an imposing structure in the main street, and assist in bringing the place into notice”.

Edward Carr, and his wife, Catherine, had a short stay at the pub, and, just prior to the outbreak of the Great War in June 1914, they left Rydal to take over the operation of the Royal Hotel at Cullen Bullen.

The Carrs hosted the Royal at Cullen Bullen through the lean years of the Great War. They couple lost a son and a grandson, both killed in action, as a result of the war.

The Carrs left Cullen Bullen in 1918, and went on to host two more pubs at Singleton and Temora before their retirement to Sydney.

The pioneering hotelkeeper, Edward Carr died on July 6 1929 at the age of 74. His widow, Catherine died less than six months later at the age of 74 on Christmas Eve 1929.

During the first 12 months of operation of the Alexander Hotel, three licensees’ names had hung above its front door. There’s a peculiar pattern running through the early history of the Alexander Hotel. Maybe it was because the pub opened for business in such depressed times, or simply that it attracted some rough and ready customers, that there were more than a dozen licensees in the first 15 years of its was operation.

The pub opened for business on January 21 1914, and within 10 months, the Lithgow Mercury reported on November 18 1914, a brawl involving “a large number of men” working on the rail deviation at the Alexander.

Trouble at Rydal

Lively scene at Hotel Alexander

Our Rydal correspondent telephoned this morning that there were lively scenes in the little township last night, commencing about six o’clock. The trouble was .brought about by the deviation workers a large number of whom congregated in the hotel and outside the building. For a time matters were very much mixed. The men quarrelled amongst themselves, threw glasses and bottles, and altogether “made things hum.” The police, Constables Cullen and Kennedy, were unable to thoroughly quell the disturbance, although they did good work and undoubtedly prevented bloodshed. Ultimately the hotel was cleared and closed for a short time. Many of the men bore a battered appearance, while damage was done in the hotel bar. Later in the evening matters were much more quiet.

Between the years 1914 and 1970, only two licensees remained longer than three or four years at Rydal. One of these was its owner, Oswald Green, who had the license from 1928 to 1937. The other was career publican, David Percival Anderson.

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The Alexander Hotel, Rydal, October 1939. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

Anderson had the Rydal pub for over two decades. He had a track record in dealing with heavy drinking blue collar workers, having previously hosting pubs in the coal mining areas near Newcastle, which may have been one of the reasons why he stayed at Rydal for so long.

During the 1930s, Anderson had hosted the Minmi Hotel, before taking the license of the Royal Hotel, Maitland, and later the Tattersall’s Hotel, Blayney before he was granted the license of the Alexander Hotel at the age of 51. He remained at the Rydal pub for 21 years before his retirement in 1959 at the age of 71.

Anderson died in the Lithgow region in 1970 at the age of 81.

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Alexander Hotel publican, Phil Paton at the bar. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

The current host of the Alexander can also be included in the list of publicans who have had lengthy stays at Rydal.

Phil Paton and his life partner, Judy Findlay, who he met four years into his term as publican, are current hosts of the Alexander.

Phil made the tree change to Rydal from Sydney in August 2007 after working in auto accessories for most of his life.

The story of Phil’s life as a bush publican began after the loss of his wife to cancer, and a need to escape the rat-race of the city.

“I had had enough of the city, and working for someone else. So I decided to buy myself a job,” he said.

Phil first visited Rydal on a 4WD trip into the nearby mountains in 1991. He was with a group of off-road vehicle drivers who had stopped at the Alexander for a refresher.

He immediately fell in love with the village, and its old pub.

“When I heard it was for sale in 2006, I began making inquiries,” he said.

“Many said that I wouldn’t last – But here I am 13 years later.”

Phil lives with Judy on a 120 acre farm just out of Rydal, where they run Collie dogs. The couple only open the pub on Thursday and Friday afternoons, and all day Saturday and Sundays.

“We’re opened seven days; but not in a row,” Phil said with a smile.

“It’s not worth opening during the week. There’s just not the people around here to make it worth opening. Our main customers are visitors passing through on weekends.

“We probably have about eight regulars from the village. The drinking culture has changed a lot, not only in NSW, but in our little village.

“Mostly our villagers are older, and prefer the quiet life.”

The village though wasn’t always a sleepy backwater though, and Phil said during the days when two power stations and eight coal mines were operating in the district, the Alexander could get “very lively”.

“Now we have one power station, and two coal mines, and even they are not running at full capacity.”

One of Phil’s favourite yarns is the tale of the Alexander’s shortened bar.

“One night the barmaid was complaining how cold she was and how long it took to walk out and around to get in front of the coal fire,” Phil said.

“So, one of the local fellows said: ‘I got a chain saw in the back of the car’. So he came in and cut a section out of the bar, so she could walk in and out much easier…. See down here, the chain saw cut is still there.”

Phil and Judy also run a small kitchen at the pub where you can sample the usual reasonably priced schnitzels, steaks and burgers.

Phil, who is also a member of the local bushfire brigade and the Rydal village improvement committee, has various donations tins sitting on his bar. He also has an extra, extra dry Rydal draught beer available for just $2 a glass that goes to one of his charities. Well worth a try.

The pub also has six comfortable accommodation bedrooms upstairs. Prices are reasonable at $70 for a twin, or $60 for a double a night.

And how long does Phil plan to continue as host the pub?

“I had a 10 year plan, and it’s now been almost 13 years,” he said.

“In saying that, I’m not in a hurry to go anywhere at the moment. I enjoy talking with visitors, and love this little village.”

Alexander Hotel Rydal NSW publican Phil Paton 1

Your host, Phil Paton behind the bar of the Alexander Hotel. Picture: Mick Roberts Collection

Alexander Hotel, Rydal

Licensees: 1914 to 1980

1914-1914: Edward Vernon Carr
1914-1914: Arthur Edward Pauling
1914-1915: Henry Harold Rosenberg
1916-1917: John Williams
1917-1919: Herbert E. Fox
1919- 1921: Michael Stokes
1921-1922: Eliza Catherine Chapman
1922- 1923: Herbert Preece
1923 – 1925: Carslake Hutchinson
1925-1925: D.J. McNaught
1925-1928: Walter Herbert Glenfield
1928-1928: Robert E. Morris
1928-1937: Oswald Green
1937-1938: W.M.J. Donnelly
1938-1959: David P. Anderson
1959-1961: Thomas Alfred Edwards
1961-1962: Neville Norman Verdon
1962-1964: Edmund John Conrick
1964-1967: Majorie Mary Duffy
1967-1968: Kathleen Mary Duffy
1968-1970: Vaclav Cibulka
1970-1974: John Benjamin Jennings
1974-1977: Harold Edward & Millie Pawn West
1977-1979: Robert Kerry & Jann Fliz Wood
1979- 1982: Anna Cairns
2007-2010: Phil Paton
* Can anyone tell us the licensees between 1982 and 2007?
© Copyright Mick Roberts 2020

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Categories: NSW hotels, review, Reviews, Road Trips

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2 replies

  1. Lindsay A. Rockwell Was Licensee 1980 -Mid 1983. Please advise postal address can supply photos if you need them.

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