The legend of the ‘Pub with no Beer’

Lees Hotel, The Original Pub with No Beer, the only Hotel in Queens Land with official Iconic status.

The Legend. Lees Hotel is undoubtedly the home of “The Pub with No Beer” made famous by Slim Dusty who based the song on the poem “The Pub Without Beer” from Ingham’s favorite poet Dan Sheahan. The song was launched on April 1, 1957 becoming Australia’s very 1st, number 1, worldwide hit. The song was on the flip side of “The Saddle Boys” and took Australia, and then the world by storm. Translated into 7 different languages and in the 1960s became the very first song to be beamed back to Earth from a satellite orbiting in space.

Slim Dusty has confirmed the origin of the song on a number of occasions, not only in his last book “Walk a Country Mile” but also it in his most recently released CD and video. Slim Dusty became good friends with Dan Sheehan and Dan went on to write two more songs for Slim Dusty.

The Story. It was the summer of 1943. The 22nd Bomb Group from the USA were on their way from Brisbane to Port Moresby to fight the enemy and prevent Australia from being invaded. The aircraft they were flying was the “Marauder”, generally considered to be the most dangerous and unreliable aircraft being used by the US at that time, The 22nd Bomb Group a.k.a. “the Red Raiders” loved the aircraft and were generally acknowledged as the best pilots and the best bomb group in the Pacific theater. The convoy had traveled from Brisbane to Townsville and averaged 50 mph [80 kph], a very good speed in those days. They left Townsville at lunchtime expecting to be in Ingham in about 1 1/2 hours.

Unfortunately no one told them about the 70 River and Creek crossings they would have to make, with only 2 bridges. It was the wet season. Imagine arriving at every crossing, driving through flooded creeks with the bank’s turned to a quagmire of mud and mush, every man having to get out of the trucks and physically push them up the banks to get back on the road to the next creek crossing. 14 hours after leaving Townsville they arrived at Lees Hotel [it was then the Day Dawn Hotel] and at 2 o’clock in the morning woke the publican and proceeded to drink the pub dry.

Next morning Dan Sheahan rode his horse in 20 miles [about 30 km] from his property – still owned to this day by the Sheahan family – to his favorite pub to discover that they have run out of beer! With that, Dan takes the only drink available, a warm glass of wine, and retreats to the back of the bar and pens the famous poem. And the rest is history.



1977 Dan passed on at the age of 95, and the very 1st telegram the Sheahan family received came from Slim Dusty.

1988 Lees Hotel and the “Pub with No Beer” became part of an Australian Government federally funded Bicentennial Commemoration and on 17 December 1988 Shaun Sheahan, Dan’s son, unveiled a bronze plaque to the event and that plaque is still in place today.

2005 The Queensland National Trust draws up a list of all that is truly Iconic in Queensland, Lees Hotel becomes the only hotel on that Heritage List.

2012 March 31st a milestone in the refurbishment of Lees Hotel is reached and commemorated with a short reenactment of the Historic event, 100 people turn up.

2013 April 21 Ingham’s 70th anniversary Pub with No Beer reenactment Festival takes place, 5000 people turn up to celebrate the days events.

2013 October 9th to 13th, The 22nd Bomb Group hold their 64th annual reunion in Tampa Florida, attended by some of the original members and a great number of their relatives and descendents who gathered to honour these brave men.

2013 October 20 local model maker Esko Isokangas builds a scale model of the Day Dawn Hotel and presents it to Lees Hotel where it goes on permanent display in the Hotel foyer.

2013 November the $1.2 million upgrade to the Hotel and Motel is finally completed, the guests say that the beds are so comfortable they want to take them home.

Since 1875, on this site, through a dozen renovations and 2 complete rebuilds patrons have been offered a cool drink a warm smile and a place to stay – and we only ran out of beer once!


The Song

IT WAS first written as “a pub without beer.” It became a familiar song, made famous by Slim Dusty. Although there is a pub ‘down south’ that claims to be that pub, the truth is that the story has its origins in Ingham, in North Queensland.

Slim Dusty himself confirmed it when in 2001 he told George Negus on the ABC:

…the original pub with no beer was a pub without beer (that was the Day Dawn Hotel at lngham) written by an old Irishman, Dan Sheahan.

And that was published in ”The North Queensland Register” in 1943 and my friend Gordon Parsons picked up the verses.

He injected the characters into it, set it to music and I recorded it for him, calling it A pub with no beer.

on that day in 1943 Irish-born Dan Sheahan, a local sugarcane farmer and poet, called in at the Day Dawn for a cold beer only to be told by the publican Gladys Harvey that the pub was out of beer. A convoy of American soldiers had passed through the night before and had drunk the pub dry of its quota.

With a warm glass of wine, so the story goes, Dan Sheahan consoled himself in a corner of the parlour alone, writing the poem that started it all. (It was, in fact, published in “The North Queensland Register” on January 1, 1944.) When Cordon Parsons was given the verse he assumed it to be an old bush poem and thus in the public domain.

The Day Dawn Hotel, on the site of the original Telegraph Hotel, was later demolished to become Lees Hotel as it is today. It has never run out of beer.

Slim Dusty

Dawn Hotel

Dan Sheahan

Official commemoration of the Pub without Beer plaque

The Day Dawn Hotel today – Lees Hotel

The Day Dawn Hotel was later demolished to become Lees Hotel as it is today.