“Where the hell is Dunedoo?”
As the town’s only pub, The Dunedoo Hotel is a hub for locals, thirsty travellers and inquisitive visitors who want to see the town that almost had a “big dunny” as its main attraction. LISA MINNER dropped by to find out why people are no longer asking: “Where the hell is Dunedoo?”
BUILT in 1913, the Hotel Dunedoo began its life as an 18-room establishment known as the Talbragar Hotel, according to the local rags of the day, the Mudgee Guardian and Northwestern Representative. Just the following year, in 1914 in the Dubbo Licensing Court, the pub was re-christened with the name of the pretty little central west town on whose main street it sits.
In times past, travellers and local patrons had the choice of whetting their whistles at either of the town’s watering holes, the other being The Royal. These days, the Dunedoo Hotel is the last pub standing in the township that’s home to 800 souls.
The Royal Hotel, just up the road, is no longer licensed and instead serves as a bed and breakfast so its former counterpart is the only pub in town where the thirsty can nab a coldie. And nab they do.
Glenn Chapman has been managing Hotel Dunedoo for just a year. He’s lived most of his life so far in the Blacktown/ Mount Druitt area, but says he could count on one hand the number of people he knew there.
It’s one of the reasons he loves the lifestyle and pace of Dunedoo. He doesn’t miss life in the big-smoke at all.
“Country hospitality is totally different to life in the city,” he tells me when I pull in for a yarn.
“I could leave my keys in the car here, not that I do! But you certainly wouldn’t do that back where I came from.”
The pub attracts a lot of the older patrons who enjoy dropping in for a beer and a chat during the day and in the afternoons.
“The cockies, shearers and farmers swing by regularly, and at the weekends we mostly get the shearers and the young blokes here,” Chapman says of the pub’s clientele.
There are hundreds of Royal Hotels in Australia, Glenn notes, but he loves the fact that his pub has its own unique name.
“There’s a Royal up the road, there’s a Royal at Mendooran, there’s one at Coolah, a Royal at Hill End, but there’s only one Hotel Dunedoo – in the whole world actually – because no one in their right mind would name their hotel Dunedoo!”
Coming to Dunedoo and taking up their position behind the town’s pub has been a learning curve for Chapman and his partner Marlitt.
“It’s been hard work but fulfilling too, we’ve met a lot of good people which has been great.”
As with most towns, Friday night is when it all happens at Hotel Dunedoo.
“We have our members’ night, our raffles and joker draw, and it attracts all the locals.”
“It’s also nice to be working here because some of the older regulars come in and tell us a few yarns,” he says, echoing what so many publicans and licensees of small town watering holes have told me during my rounds of bush pubs.
“It’s the best thing about the place, the people.”
As a younger man, Chapman was “a bit of a loner” he says, but as he’s grown older he’s been enjoying social interaction more. That’s just as well, because he’s certainly getting a good dose of it since he took on the reins of the pub.
His partner Marlitt is the restaurant’s chef and between the two of them and their antics, they keep the customers entertained with good-natured banter and friendly ribbing.
Bruce Woods, a local patron, agrees Dunedoo has been in the news a bit lately with the capture of the fugitive father-son duo, the Stoccos, happening near town. The subsequent media frenzy had journalists, photographers and film crews pacing the main street looking to talk to anyone who may have had some contact with the two, prior to their capture.
Chapman says the Stoccos never actually darkened the door of the Hotel Dunedoo, however there was a moment when he thought the pair had been in his establishment.
“When we looked back on our camera footage around the time it was all happening, there were a couple of suspicious looking characters sitting over there in the corner,” he says pointing to the far end of the front bar.
“So we looked into it further, went over the footage and it turns out it was me and me mate, sitting there!” he recalls, laughing.
“All that business did put us on the map there for a while, though.
“Everyone was asking “Where the hell is Dunedoo?” but in fact the pair was caught just out of Elong Elong, and nobody has heard of that place other than locals.”
But that momentary burst of fame was just fleeting. What Dunedoo is really best known for is as the town that almost had a big “dunny” in its main street.
Plans to build a big toilet were “flushed” by the community, which deemed the proposed dunny inappropriate. In fact they completely “poopooed’ the idea.
“Some of the gentry in the town didn’t think it was becoming for Dunedoo,” Chapman says.
“But even thought it was never built, it created a lot of interest at the time with people coming here just to look at Dunedoo.”
“I’d give him $20 to go down there and drink and the publican there would give him another $20 to come back up to the Royal! It was all good fun.” - Bill Mahoney, former town publican
Would the town continue to fight for the erection of the much-talked about big dunny, the general consensus around the bar is “no”.
“That idea’s been knocked on the head for a good while now,” everyone agrees.
Woods offers that while Dunedoo is still a great place, the old characters that used to live there and enliven the town were largely long gone – but this is from a bloke with his tall tales and cheeky ways who seems to fit his own description pretty well.
Bill Mahoney was the former publican at the Royal Hotel just up the road, and now enjoys a beer or two with mates at the Hotel Dunedoo, but he has plenty of memories of the Royal back in its heyday.
“I took over the Royal in 1974 and held the reins for about six years. I bought the freehold and leased it and went up and managed the golf club for ten years while the children grew up,” Mahoney recalls.
“Back in ’74 it was a very interesting town. It was different then – the kids would be running around and giving you a hand; it was a different atmosphere in those days.”
I can’t resist asking if there had been anything scandalous that had occurred at either pub, and Mahoney says he’d only been arrested once. Thankfully his brush with the law wasn’t entirely of his own making – a “few young ones” from another town caused a bit of trouble, he says.
However, he does recall the time when a patron who used to have horses had a few too many one night.
“This particular patron had taken one of his ponies out of the truck and decided to try to walk it up the stairway of the pub on this new carpet I’d just laid. I didn’t even know he was doing it; he’d already gone up a few of the stairs before I noticed!” Mahoney says, laughing at the memory.
“There was another bloke – we use to call him the ginger-cat. He was a shearer here and my wife use to cash his cheques. Anyway, he was a regular and he’d book up a few drinks and I’d give him a few dollars to come down here (Hotel Dunedoo) and drink because he used to annoy the shit out of me.
“So I’d give him $20 to go down there and drink and the publican there would give him another $20 to come back up to the Royal! It was all good fun; they were lovely people.”
The former publican recalls a time (a classic even) when the shearers, half a dozen or so, would go out of town shearing and always purchased a heap of tinnies to take with them.
“The sad thing was this particular
time, these guys couldn’t find a bag of ice to keep the cans cold so they went into a shop here and bought $20 worth of paddle pops to keep their tinnies cold – true story! And I saw some of the results of the cans coming back – they were all different colours, and sticky and messy.”
The pub’s history
IN 1925 it was reported by the Sydney Morning Herald that a sleep-walker named Frank Ryan, an auctioneer aged 30, fell from the balcony of the Hotel Dunedoo at about 2am and broke his back.
“He was seriously injured and died three hours later without regaining consciousness. Ryan was said to be one of the most popular and well known men in the district,” the paper noted.
In 1925 a Mr Howden was the new manager of the pub. He was also a former police officer having been stationed at Dubbo, Warren and Bathurst over the course of his career. Six months prior to his arrival at the Hotel Dunedoo he ran the Criterion Hotel in Newcastle, where he is said to have done well. The paper reported he was a great acquisition to the town and took a keen interest in “public movements and in particular anything that favoured sports”.
In 1936 Mr BW Byrne, the owner of the Hotel Dunedoo “painted within and without; when completed, it will have
a fresh and attractive appearance and make the town look bright and attractive. It seems to be the motto of the people of Dunedoo,” reported the Mudgee Guardian, in 1936.
The Dubbo Liberal and Macquarie Advocate of the day reported that a Mr Shepard had sold the Royal Hotel, Dunedoo, for 3100 pounds in 1914. “There are now two hotels in this goahead little town, the site of which five years ago was a sheep walk,” the report said.
The Mudgee Guardian and Northwestern Representative records that in 1914, the outstanding features of the Hotel Dunedoo were exquisite in the manner in which the building had been furnished.
“Mr Aiken evidently had it in mind that, to be in keeping with the building itself, the best fittings would have to be procured.
“Each room is furnished to a degree which suggests more than ordinary taste was bought to bear in the selection of the furniture, which was supplied by the Craftsman Furnishing Specialists, Sydney…the reproduction of Craftsman, Sheraton, Jacobean and Louis fittings and furniture is carried out on an extensive scale. There is no haphazard variety about the furniture in the Hotel Dunedoo; uniformity of wood is to be seen all through.”
“Everyone was asking “Where the hell is Dunedoo?”” – Glenn Chapman, manager
With Bill Mahoney were Barry Drayton and Merv Mills from Tea Gardens, who were in town for a bowls tournament . They love the Hotel Dunedoo and say they’ve visited many times. “Several headaches here,” Drayton laughs.
Graeme ‘Whitey’ Whitelawe, barmaid Laura Milson, Shane ‘Shaker’ Amidy, manager Glen Chapman and Andy Tregove at the pub’s main bar.
Tim Gibson from Narromine and Chris O’shea from Dubbo were passing through and decided to stop in and have a beer and watch the cricket while waiting for a mate.
Retired farmer and local of 40 years, Bruce Woods, says he loves the pub and Dunedoo because “it’s a nice quiet place”. “It’s always good to come up and have a yarn to somebody,” he says, and offers to share a joke: There were two Irishmen standing out the front and a load of turf went past on the back of a truck. One bloke said to the other, “When I win the lottery I’m going to do that.” His mate said, “Do what?” The bloke said, “Send my lawn away to be cut!”
Manager Glenn Chapman on the balcony upstairs at Hotel Dunedoo. The verandah provides a panoramic view of the town.