Customers at the Queensland Hotel, Coolangatta queued when beer was in short supply

The Queensland Hotel, Coolangatta, C1950. Picture: Philip Derriman

RETIRED journalist and one time publican, Philip Derriman, now living with his wife in Oberon, on the NSW Central Tablelands, has put together this interesting story for Time Gents about his father, Bernard Derriman.

My father, Bernard Derriman (1902-77), widely known as Bernie, had three pubs: the Carlton Hotel in Toowoomba from the early 1940s to 1946; the Queensland Hotel at Coolangatta from 1946 to 1956; and the Jubilee Hotel, known as ‘the Jube’, in the Valley, Brisbane, from 1956 until his death. The Jube was the closest pub to the Courier Mail HQ, so for many years it was the main journos’ pub in Brisbane.

Publican Bernie Derriman behind the bar at the Queensland Hotel, probably around 1950, with an unknown barmaid. While the blokes sitting at the bar are unknown, it is thought the drinker at the far left was the pro boxer Freddy Corten, who lived at Coolangatta and was a regular at the Queensland Hotel. There seems to be an assortment of bottles and glasses on the counter. Maybe beers with chasers? Picture: Philip Derriman.

Dad was an Englishman who’d come to Australia as a 21-yr-old, worked as a drover and shearer in western Queensland and then as a radio announcer on 4TO in Townsville (he had a fairly cultured English accent) before getting into the pub game. It was probably because he came from England, where queueing was an accepted part of life, that he hit upon the idea of making customers queue for a beer when beer was in short supply for quite a few years (until the early 1950s, I believe) after World War II.

Most other pubs then opened for only short periods, called ‘sessions’, at peak hours. They’d open for, say, a couple of hours twice a day, and people had to fight their way to the bar through the crush to get a drink.

If you were old, frail or in any way disabled you’d struggle to make it. Dad’s queue became popular because it meant blokes could line up for a drink in a relaxed, orderly fashion. All they needed was patience.

The queue for a civilised beer at the Queensland Hotel, Coolangatte, C1950. Picture: Philip Derriman.

Dad was a formidable character, and he’d patrol the queue to make sure everyone abided by the rules. Anyone he caught jumping the queue was kicked out.

Each customer was entitled to two middies (then called ‘beers’ in Queensland) when he reached the bar. It amused my father that many of them would then spill much of the beer as they ran to rejoin the queue.

Publican, Bernie Derriman (centre) with two unknown lawn bowlers on the verandah of the Queensland Hotel, Coolangatta. Picture: Philip Derriman.


COOLANGATTA: Host Derriman, of the Queensland Hotel, Coolangatta, has instituted a novel scheme to assist in raising funds for the Queensland Spastic Children’s League. In lieu of the usual “swear box” common in many hotel bars for the collection of funds for charity, he has installed a box in which any customer who breaks an empty glass is required to deposit one shillings. Should a full glass be broken the penalty is two shilling. When the local Rotary Club cleared the box last week it contained more than £7.

– Brisbane Telegraph, January 25, 1954

The Queensland Hotel, Coolangatta, C1930. Picture: University of Queensland

Established by Robert Harrison as the Commercial Hotel in 1884, the Queensland Hotel was sadly demolished in July 1997. The pub later became known as the Federal before the Queensland in the early 1900s. Known affectionately as ‘The Patch’, the pub became a much-loved music venue over the last 30 years it traded. The following history was posted to the Tweed Heads Historical Society’s Facebook Page:

Robert Harrison, another of Pilot McGregor’s boatmen, built Coolangatta’s first hotel, the Commercial in 1885. It stood on the banks of the back channel, a beacon for sailors and travellers. It was said that ‘stuttering Bob’ kept his hotel ‘excellently’.

On its opening, it was noted there was no other Queensland hotel between Southport and Cudgen. In Town & Country Journal a traveller wrote of Harrison’s pub – “one must actually experience the feeling of riding on a good horse along the sea beach ….to know its enjoyment.” After arriving wet and sandy!

When Robert Harrison died in 1890 the license passed to his widow, Jane, and then to Otto Vetter in 1892. It then changed hands several times and in 1896 Mrs Velong became the licensee.

The Commercial burnt down on 29 July 1897. Rebuilt in 1900 it was opened by Tom Graham in 1901 as the Federal – federation was the one theme at that time.

In 1910 the name was changed to the Queensland and was to last to 2000 when the hotel was demolished for units. It was a place to stay for some of those caught in Queensland when the Border Gates closed in 1919 to prevent the spread of the pneumonic flu after WWI.

In the twenties, the liquor laws brought in six o’clock closing in hotels, a dark period of the hotel trade known as the ‘six o’clock swill’. Talking of the Queensland, a man said, “I get a couple of pints when we reached the bar, then we’d be out the side door and join the queue again at the front. Round and round we’d go as long as we could …”.

The hotels were tiled. They were hosed out at the end of trading. Drunks lying anywhere were a common sight. It was a low point in history.

In the rock-and-roll era, the Queensland pub ran a night club, ‘The Patch’, very popular with the young. From being built on sand just above the water, the Queensland was finally surrounded by bitumen streets and traffic. Progress had surely come to the old pub.

The Queensland Hotel, Coolangatta, 1950. This picture was taken during major renovations when the facade and balcony were ‘bricked-in”. Picture: Australian National University, Noel Butlin Archives.
How the Queensland Hotel looked after the major renovations and additions in the 1950s. Picture: Tweed Heads Historical Society.
The demolition of the Queensland Hotel, Coolangatta, 1997. Picture: Supplied

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Categories: Publicans, Queensland hotels

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