The true story of the ‘Pub with no beer’

In 1943 local farmer Dan Sheahan rode 20 miles to town for a beer at the Day Dawn Hotel in Ingham. Beer was rationed during the war and the American servicemen had drunk the bar dry the night before. On hearing this from the publican Gladys Harvey, and unhappy about riding home dry, Dan penned a poem that he called the “Pub without Beer”.

On January 1st 1944, the NQ Register published the poem in Ben Bowyangs column.

In 1956 songwriter Gordon Parsons was handed a scrap of paper at the Taylors Arms Hotel in NSW with the poem as an ‘anonymous’ verse. He revamped it and presented it as a song to Slim who recorded it on the back of “Saddle Boy” on April Fools Day 1957. Confusion of the songs origin reigned for years until Slim acknowledged Dan’s claim in his book “The Country Mile”.

The Original Day Dawn Hotel was owned by the Harvey family and was partly demolished and rebuilt as Lees Hotel. RecentlyLees Hotel received Queensland Icon status through the Queensland Heritage Trust and was formally recognised as the Original Pub With No Beer.


The original poem of Dan Sheahan

A PUB WITHOUT BEER
It is lonely away from your kindred and all
In the bushland at night when the warrigals call,
It is sad by the sea where the wild breakers boom,
Or to look on a grave and contemplate doom,
But there’s nothing on earth half as lonely and drear
As to stand in the bar of a pub without beer
Madam with her needles sits still by the door,
The boss smokes in silence, he is joking no more,
There’s a faraway look on the face of the bum,
While the barmaid looks down at the paint on her thumb,
The cook has gone cranky and the yardman is queer,
Oh, a terrible place is a pub without beer.
Once it stood by the wayside all stately and proud,
‘Twas a home to the loafer a joy to the crowd,
Now all silent the rooftree that often times rang
When the navvys were paid and the cane cutters sang,
Some are sleeping their last in a land far from here.
Oh, a terrible place is a pub without beer.
They can hang to their coupons for sugar and tea,
And the shortage of sandshoes does not worry me,
And though benzine and razors be both frozen stiff,
What is wrong with the horse and the old fashioned ziff,
‘Mid the worries of war there’s but one thing I fear,
‘Tis to stand in the bar of a pub without beer.
Oh, you brew of brown barley, what charm is shine,
‘Neath thy spell men grow happy and cease to repine,
The cowards become brave and the weak become strong
The dour and the grumpy burst forth into song,
If there’s aught to resemble high heaven down here,
‘Tis the place of joy where they ladle out beer.
Ingham, 1944. Dan Sheehan

Slim Dusty’s song “Pub with no beer”

It’s lonesome away from your kindred and all
By the campfire at night where the wild dingos call
But there’s nothin’ so lonesome, so dull or so drear
Than to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer
Now the publican’s anxious tor the quota to come
There’s a faraway look on the face of the bum
A The maid’s gone all cranky and the cook’s acting queer
What a terrible place is a pub with no beer
The stockman rides up with his dry, dusty throat
He breasts up to the bar, pulls a wad from his coat
But the smile on his face quickly turns to a sneer
When the barman says suddenly: “The pub’s got no beer!”
There’s a dog on the verandah, for his masters waits
But the boss is inside drinking wine with his mates
He hurries for cover and he cringes in tear
It’s no place tor a dog round a pub with no beer
Then in comes the swagman all covered with flies
He throws down his roll, wipes the sweat from his eyes
But when he is told he say, “What’s this I hear?
I’ve trudged fifty flamin’ miles to a pub with no beer?”
Old Billy, the blacksmith, the first time in his life
Has gone home cold sober to his darling wife
He walks in the kitchen: she says: “You’re early, me dear”
Then he breakes down and tells her that the pub’s got no beer
It’s lonesome away from your kindred and all
By the campfire at night where the wild dingos call
But there’s nothin‘ so lonesome, so dull or so drear
Then to stand in the bar of a pub with no beer