Back in the day there was a pub on every Mullock heap

FLOODING OF THE ATLANTIC: The Atlantic Hotel, during a Mary St flood. Mama and Papa’s Pizzeria is now there. The Gympie Times will feature historic pubs of the Gympie region over the coming weeks.
FLOODING OF THE ATLANTIC: The Atlantic Hotel, during a Mary St flood. Mama and Papa’s Pizzeria is now there. The Gympie Times will feature historic pubs of the Gympie region over the coming weeks. Contributed

GONE but not forgotten are the days of a pub on every corner, or in Gympie's case, a pub on every mullock heap.

Between 1867 and 1900, in Gympie's goldfield heyday, there were 157 licensed premises, aptly named everything from the Lucky Digger to Chinese Camp to Live and Let Live.

A 1869 Gympie map showed more than 70 pubs in Mary St alone, from the foot of Calton Hill to the top of Commissioner's Hill.

Pubs also lined areas such as Caledonian Hill, Nashville (One Mile) and Monkland, while hotels in Imbil, Kilkivan and Widgee were a central part of rural life.

The public houses weren't just thirst quenchers, they provided entertainment; playing host to rich and varied musical performances, recitations, community singing, cards and darts competitions and smoke concerts.

Besides night time entertainment the pubs were also the headquarters of local sports teams, where club meetings were held and equipment and trophies displayed and stored.

Late Gympie historian Ailsa Dawson wrote that the large number of Gympie pubs was "a fact which rather suited the generally rough and ready inhabitants".

Mrs Dawson describes the pubs as beacons of warmth and hope in a dark and primitive outlying scene.

"In the rough living conditions on the early goldfields, pubs and shanties filled a great need," Mrs Dawson wrote.

"Homes were usually primitive and comfortless - a tent or a slab hut, an outdoor galley for cooking, crude makeshift furniture and poor light from candles or lanterns - which gave scant comfort in dark, cheerless digs.

"The pubs at least, were well lit, and it is no wonder customers were numerous, eager for the warmth and companionship there.

"Prospectors and miners were hard workers, and while many did strike it rich, a large percentage were disappointed and sought solace in a bar, where, at least for a time, drinking in company eased their disappointment.

"The fortunate ones celebrated their luck by 'shouting' for mates, while they boasted their strikes."

With the gradual demise of gold mining, at the turn of the century, the number of licensed premises in Gympie dwindled to 46.

Flood, fire and even cyclone played a large part in beating down the number of pubs and the ones which weren't replaced became grand memories for many.

Fire was the main culprit and out of the scores destroyed by flame, 19 were rebuilt; one three times.

Today, 11 pubs trade in Gympie with names such as the Australian, the Royal and the Mt Pleasant still trading after 140 years.

And while some still boast original ale-stained bars, or altered versions of them, Gympie's remaining pubs are a tangible link to the past.

A past where pubs were a place of solace, a local hub and where stories of what Gympie was built on linger after the last mullock heap.

Topics:  gympie history pub

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