Constables caught-out having after-hour New Year’s Eve drinks at Erskineville’s Imperial Hotel

The Imperial Hotel, Erskineville, August 1930. Inset: a cartoon of the four constables appearing in court. Pictures: Noel Butlin Archives, Australian National University and Sydney Daily Pictorial February 6 1930.

FOUR Sydney police constables were caught-out on New Year’s Eve 1930 when they called into an Erskineville pub for after hours’ celebratory drinks with the publican.

Constables Robert Ramsay, Alfred Costello, William Mowbray and William Grover were each fined 10 shillings, with 8 shillings costs, for being on licensed premises during prohibited hours.

Closing time for Sydney pubs in 1930 was strictly 6pm, and publicans caught flouting that law were often dealt with severely by the courts.

Lucky for the publican of the Imperial Hotel at Erskineville his after hours’ drinkers were police constables.

Publican, James Joseph Burtimote had invited the four constables “to come in for a little convivial drink” on December 31, 1930. Unfortunately for the publican and four constables, Police Inspector Collings was passing the pub at 10.30pm when he noticed the bar illuminated and heard voices. The police boss knocked, and the licensee answered the door, admitting the Inspector.

In a shed in the yard the Inspector found the four men. When he spoke to them they gave no reason for being on the premises, but the licensee said that it was the time of the year for a celebration.

The constables’ lawyer said that there were extenuating circumstances. It was New Year’s Eve and they had received an invitation from the licensee to come in for a drink. Each of the constables had written a candid report and the lawyer asked the magistrate to dismiss the case.

In view of the straightforward reports made by the men, the magistrate instead took a lenient view and imposed a nominal penalty.

The publican though was fined £1, with 8 shillings costs.


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