A loophole allowed Attunga pub to have a 17-year-old licensee in 1939

Railway Hotel Attunga NSW 1924 NBA ANU EDITED

Railway Hotel, Attunga, NSW, 1924. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

THE Attunga pub, in the New England region of NSW, can lay claim to probably the youngest licensee in the state, if not Australia.

The publican was so young in fact that he was unable to drink in his own bar!

A loophole in the Licensing Act allowed the son of the owner of the pub, 17-year-old Donald Bernard Harris to become licensee in 1939.

At the time the pub was known as the Railway Hotel. The teenager held the license from February 13 1939, until July 1 1940.

The Smith’s Weekly reported on February 1 1941:


“My five-year-old son is in the hotel business!” Because of anomalies in NSW liquor licenses’ Act, a proud father can make publicans out of all his male children, irrespective of their age.

Loophole in the Act allows males under 18 years of age to hold a licence. Yet a clause in the Act states: “. . . publican is obliged to remove any male person, under 18, who enters the bar.”

Some time ago, Donald Bernard Harris, 17 years 9 months, was granted a licence for Railway Hotel, Attunga, few miles from Tamworth (NSW).

Although Harris was proprietor of hotel, the Act forbids him to enter his own public bar! Licensing judge was aware of Harris’ age, but took into consideration fact that his parents were experienced in hotel business.

“In special circumstances, infancy is no bar to issuing of licences,” Judge said.

Law states that a female under 21 cannot enter a public bar. But a widow under that age can hold a licence. Under the Act, she is compelled to eject herself from her own bar!

Regardless of age, a single woman cannot hold a hotel licence. When Mrs Furlong, licensee of Oaks Hotel, Neutral Bay (Sydney), died, her single daughter, Miss Ann Veronion Furlong, who was about 30 years of age, applied for permission to continue the licence. Permission was refused.

Unlike the under-age widow who can hold a licence but cannot serve in her own bar, Miss Furlong can enter a public bar, but is forbidden to hold a license!

These aggravating anomalies should be cleared up when the Government at tempts to settle closing hours’ problem.

Originally opened as the Railway Hotel, the pub was totally destroyed by fire on June 2 1941.

The war years prevented the re-building of a new pub to replace the Railway Hotel. Instead a temporary bar was built, and operated in tin shed on the site for 14 years.

Attunga Hotel temporary bar Attunga NSW 1948 NBA ANU B

The Railway Hotel, Attunga, temporary bar in 1948. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University


The hotel’s sign was officially changed from the Railway Hotel to the Attunga Hotel on January 8 1947.

A new, unusual circular brick pub was eventually built on the site and opened for business on October 20 1955. The pub continues to trade to this day.

Attunga Hotel Attunga NSW 1955

The new Attunga Hotel under construction in 1955. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

Attunga Hotel Attunga NSW 1970 NBA ANU

Attunga Hotel, Attunga, 1970. Picture: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University

Attunga Hotel Attunga NSW Google

Attunga Hotel, Attunga, NSW, 2020. Picture: Google Streetview


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Categories: NSW hotels

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2 replies

  1. Worked at Attunga hotel ,never heard this story.tried to email you at slackyflat-at-hotmail.com.wont accept.i had a lot of details in email.too much to re-write.

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