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The golden age for local breweries

Monday, 1st November, 2010

The SA Brewing Co, 1926. The SA Brewing Co, 1926.

By Peter Black

Most men of my generation have an interest in Broken Hill pubs - extant and closed - simply because we have had a drink in them, and perhaps relocated (in my case twice, the Pig and Whistle, and the Caledonian) through closure or change of hands.

Not necessarily so with our breweries; the last to close was in 1926, too long ago for most to remember.

Broken Hill in fact at the turn of the 20th Century boasted five breweries, and a further two 'boutique' breweries.

The most popular was the Waverly Brewery (1887- 1906), followed by the Broken Hill (SA Co.) Brewery (1888-1926), the West End Brewery (1888- 1918), the Burton Brewery (1891-1900) and the South Broken Hill Brewery (1891-1900).

The two 'boutique' breweries were primarily soft drink factories; John Shelley and Co (Morgan Lane) did however produce a XXX Ale, and the Silver City Mineral Water Co (Argent Street) produced a 'golden ale, non intoxicating' under the name Clayton's Barrier Brewery.

The Waverly Brewery was located in Beryl Lane (now Silica Street), off Buck Street. The initial proprietors were George Simpson and Thomas Burke, the last leaving in 1889 to manage the Union Barrier Brewery at Silverton. 

The brewery in addition to supplying local pubs and hotels also supplied beer to most West Darling pubs up to the Queensland border.

It was bought out, and closed as a profitable business, in September 1906 by the South Australian Brewing Co, which had acquired the liquidated Broken Hill Brewery from licensee James Cowan in July 1889 for 6,000 pounds sterling.

The South Australian Brewing Co was also to eliminate the West End Brewery as a competitor by buying and closing it in 1918, thus securing a Broken Hill monopoly in its final Broken Hill years.

The Broken Hill Brewery is the only brewery still recognisable as such, located at the rear of the Jubilee Oval on one acre of land where good quality well water hadbeen located. 

The tower is four stories high, an account of the brewing process used may be found in the Silver Age of December 13, 1889.

The location of the West End Brewery was on the Picton Flat, extending from the southern corner of Morgan and Kaolin Streets to Thomas Lane.

It was originally established by Irishman J. F., Molony, who relocated his Shamrock Brewery from Railwaytown to the site, where he joined forces with James Sloan (from the Burton Brewery) and a Mr Hince, the new brewery being called the West End Brewery.

Although closed in 1918, the brewery buildings, around which children played, were not demolished until 1930, the 'Flat' then being subdivided for housing.
I was guilty in many Mayoral speeches of confusing the 'West End' Brewery of Hindley Street Adelaide operated by the SA Brewing Co with our local 'West End' brewery, the simple error arising from the fact that both breweries were in operation at the same time, and hence my belief that 'West End' beer was still made in Broken Hill until 1926.

Fran McKinnon heard me repeat the confusion in many civic addresses - without correction. Apparently she must have been confused as well.

Suffice to report that the Centenary committee of which I was Chairman acquired the enthusiastic support of the South Aust. Brewing Co for many Centenary activities including sponsorship ($10,000) of the Burra to Broken Hill Wheelbarrow Pushes of 1983, 1985, 1986, and 1988 (Toyota generously provided matching $10,000 grants) together with a truck replete with refreshments and promotional materials.

The Co also produced a Broken Hill Centenary draught beer, claimed to be the most bitter beer then produced in Australia, brewed to the original Broken Hill formula.

Mirrors featuring the draught Centenary beer were also produced, one of which I was fortunate to acquire. 

The Burton Brewery owes its origin to Peter McIndoe, a local wine and spirit merchant, and Peter Sloane who owned the Globe Hotel, located at the western corner of Argent and Bromide Streets, opposite on the northern corner were warehouse facilities (still standing) operated by Seppelts and Co.

The brewery was established at the rear of the Globe Hotel. After four years of successful operation Sloane resigned to effect a partnership in the West End (local) Brewery in April, 1895, and a Mr W. H. Alton took over. 

The Waverly Brewery bought the Burton Brewery on March 1, 1900, and closed it. Brutal business times. The buildings including the tower, were not demolishedand the well was not filled in, until 1932 when the Shell Co. bought the site.

City Council in the 1970s in conjunction with rail standardisation developed Kanandah Road, deciding that it was inappropriate to have a fuel depot in town. 

The Shell Depot was relocated to Kanandah Road, the site was acquired by City Council for the purpose of constructing the Broken Hill Tourist and TravellersCentre, which I had the pleasure of officially opening in 1980. 

The Centre will be 30 years old this October, a long cry from the former Burton Brewery. The South Broken Hill Brewery was established at 274 Knox St, (272 Knox was the bottle yard next door) in 1891 by the German Jew Louis Berliner, with the assistance of his son Michael.

He was not as successful as the other breweries, attracting no offers from either the SA Brewing Co or the Waverly Brewery when he attempted to sell out.
Berliner left to become a brewer in North Fitzroy. Other breweries did exist in the district; Edmund and Emil Resch opened (what was originally a cordial factoryoperated by Edmund) the Lion Brewery in Wilcannia (its buildings minus tower now constitute the Golf Club) in September, 1879, the first brewery in the WestDarling. 

Edmund and Emil subsequently established other breweries in the district, with John Penrose the Lion Brewery at Silverton, and subsequently at Tibooburra.

Separately Emil (the young brother) opened a cordial factory in Argent Lane, and became an original trustee of the Broken Hill German Club in 1892.
The Falcon Brewery was established at Gum Well Purnamoota, by John Cocks, Alfred Martin and Charles Kite.

Other Silverton Breweries included Topman's and the Unicorn (formerly Nector). 

Perhaps the most lasting impression of the era is a photograph of an extremely long camel train ready to go outside the Broken Hill Brewery - each camel with a barrel (36 gallons) on each side.

In the early days, we had a much larger thirsty population and many more bush pubs than now. We also had generations of people who patronised the pubs as a social and pre computer source of information.

When I first arrived in Broken Hill beer was sold in ponys (5oz), butchers (7oz), schooners (10oz) and pints (15oz).

Confusion again reigned; 10 oz glasses in the rest of NSW were middies, NSW schooners were 15oz, and pints were 20oz. And on one memorable night a tourist (?) who had inadvertently arrived at the Pig and Whistle to have a Southwark or West End (the only beers on tap) was told by Nanny Norah Forde to jump the bar and wash the glass himself when he wanted a new glass for his second beer.

How times have changed:


Brian Tonkin and the resources of the City archives, and Keith Deutscher, 'The Breweries of Australia'.


1) My last column ('The Pinnacles Mine') produced some comment, including from a number who had thought the Pinnacles to be extinct volcanoes.

The Labor Doyen thought that he could recall a visit to the Victoria Hotel, which stood for over 50 years in the Pinnacles township. He states that he may havehad a glass of sarsaparilla, which knowing him is quite possible.

The Labor Doyen also recalls being sent as check inspector by WIU of A (the then miners' union) chief Arthur Treglown to check on the working/living conditions of four Kiwi drillers on the Pinnacles site working for the South Mine. 

They were sleeping on rough beds in the open, with stores etc. in what he describes as a filthy caravan. Needless to say the conditions improved.

One of the Kiwi drillers, who also played A-grade football for the United Rugby League Club and who went on to successfully court a local girl was the man with the meat in Patton Street, Ken Holden.

At the risk of being tedious, in response to the letter to the editor (BDT Sat. 23/10/10) from Mark Sutton, the following points are made:

* The proposal to quarry amphibolite as dimension stone by Michael McGuinness was based on a flank of Hungry Hill, not the Pinnacle, per se.

* One should treat Aboriginal fables such as the Bronze Wing Pigeon's visit to the Pinnacles with the same regard that most of us give to European fables such as Grimm's Fairy Tales.

* The suggestion that any aboriginal in pre- European Australia had any knowledge of the mineral galena, or the metal it contained, lead, is preposterous.
Pre-European Aboriginal communities were essentially stone-age communities who did not use metals, despite the ready availability of meteorites, especially in central Australia.

The fringe elements in the 'Aboriginal Industry' (white and black) I will continue to oppose, in the same way I will continue to oppose fringe elements in the local environmental movement and creationist conservatives (in the USA now called the 'Tea Party') in the right wing of the Liberal Party.
One nonsense being perpetrated by the fringe element (but not by the vast majority of Australians of Aboriginal descent) is the re-spelling of geographical locations in what is allegedly Aboriginal spelling.

The fact is that no pre- European Aboriginal race (there was more than one!!) or clan had a written (other than etchings etc.) language, to suggest that geographical locations should now have an Aboriginal name using the Roman alphabet is a nonsense, perhaps the alphabet (if any has to be used) should be Asian, reflecting ancestry.

Early settlers at places such as Mootawingee no doubt listened to the then extant Aboriginals (a far cry from now) and did their best in translation, in English. I'll stick to 'Mootawingee!

* No one can deny the many atrocities that took place during and after European settlement, which is why people like me passionately support reconciliation, and promoted themselves to membership of the Aboriginal Affairs subcaucus in the NSW Government.

* Whilst I may well be a Labor stalwart as described, so is Linda Burney, Member for Canterbury and Minister for Community services; without doubt, the greatestmember of her race ever to enter NSW public life. 

We sat next to each other in the NSW Parliament from 2003 to 2007, together we launched in parliament two wines produced from grapes grown on the onlyremotely successful aboriginal enterprise in what was then the much larger State seat of Murray Darling, Murrun Bridge, located on the Lachlan River about 15 miles from Lake Cargellico.

In Broken Hill, I used the five Executive votes - against two local clubs - to permit the Boomerang Football Club (Wilcannia) to play Reserve Grade only at senior level in its first two years to permit the club to get on its legs.

The same privilege, again with opposition, was later extended to the Menindee Yabbies. To the best of my knowledge, the Aboriginal Flag was first flown in Broken Hill at any NSW Australia Day flag-raising ceremony. 

Beryl Carmichael was the first local Aboriginal Elder to welcome the attendance to 'land' at such ceremonies.

So let's take facts, not fables. Many bad decisions have been made by the 'Aboriginal Industry' - perhaps the worst in recent times leading to the degradation of Poolamacca (do I spell it correctly?).

Finally, a word to the wise: in conversation some years ago with Smiley Johnson at the Tydvil Hotel I claimed that I had always tried to treat everybody equally - evidencedas Mayor in my passionate support for multiculturalism at a time when the Liberal Party and local red necks were opposed. 

Smiley responded "Yes, but you weren't born black." That response has worried me for years, it certainly pricked my conscience. 

We do not have to accept the bull of the 'Aboriginal Industry' to be compassionate, and proactively supportive of the reconciliation process.

2) Last Wednesday night I had the great good fortune to attend the 14th Annual Broken Hill Prom at the Civic Centre, the night produced one of the truely great items in thecultural history of Broken Hill in the penultimate offering 'Let Go The Long White Sails' (Paul Jarman) from combined Civic Orchestra, BIU Band and the Philharmonic Choir(back to eight male voices!) with Fred Peter on solo pipes. 

Truly magnificent, an item I'm sure we will hear again. Full marks to M.C. John Curtis, who remains without peer as the best M.C. in town.
The evening commenced with two generally bright and lively brackets interspersed with a very large and very good Morgan Street School Senior Choir conducted by Sanny Dougherty. 

It is a pity the choir members and parents largely chose to leave half-way through the Prom, but not before they heard and saw the meteoric emergence and arrival of Anna anillas, a singer of exceptional talent who was brilliant in the performance of 'My Party Dress!

The Broken Hill Orchestra, boasting many young musicians and under the baton of Mark Curtis, were very, very good singularly, with arguably one of the top three items of the night taking place when the orchestra accompanied the Philharmonic Choir in 'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring' (Bach), immediately after the Choir had rendered a 'Les Miserables' medley with distinction under the baton of Dianne Cotterill.

As is the custom, the evening concluded with 'Highland Cathedral' with the BIU Band under the capable leadership of Ross Mawby playing in tandem with three Caledonian Pipers and drummer.

The disappointment of the night was the attendance - significantly less than that formerly in attendance when the Proms were first produced at the Cathedral. Surely the best way we can support our two bands, the Orchestra and Philharmonic Society, is to attend their concerts.

3) Hello, is anybody there, is anybody listening? I am astonished at the lack of debate in the BDT columns concerning the triple back flip with pike by local member JohnWilliams concerning his avowed support to save the Darling and his current support of irrigation communities.

4) Last Saturday week the City paid its last respects to Pat Nestor at the Cathedral. He would have been pleased to read in the order of service "WAKE: Immediately followingburial at South Broken Hill Football Club....refreshments will be provided."

Whether he was buried at the Club or the Cemetery I was informed by my local newsagent minutes after the church mass was irrelevant - in that he had already had St Peter at the Pearly Gates bailed up for hours seeking his advice on the operation of heaven.

Vale Pat, the city has lost far too many of its best A-Groupers, and you were surely one of them.

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