History: Looking Back

Looking Back: A Hotel Dynasty

The Scarborough Hotel in 1906

The Scarborough Hotel in 1906


OFTEN overlooked in the pages of history, women played a central role in the day to day functioning of inns and hotels. The wives of the region’s pioneering publicans were often young and their duties were physically demanding.

Husband and wife teams rarely could afford to employ staff and as their children grew older they were put to work helping in the business. They were a tough breed with the hours of a 19th century publican and his family long and draining.

Pubs opened from 4am to midnight six days a week and all day Sunday for guests prior to 1862. The region’s landladies were awake at the crack of dawn tending the residential and dining needs of their guests. They carried out the laundry, cooked, pulled beers behind the bar – they were the backbone of a well run colonial inn.

One of these pioneering women was Sarah Lindsay who became the matriarch of an Illawarra hotel dynasty.
She was a landlady of at least three different pubs in the Illawarra and witnessed the industry grow from the days of the humble coaching inn to the imposing grand hotels of the railway era.

Her sons and grandsons went on to own and operate hotels and the family name became synonymous with pubs in the Illawarra for over 100 years.

Born Sarah Bryen in Fermanagh Ireland in 1838 she landed in NSW with her farming parents as a three year old. In 1854, at the age of 17 she married William Lindsay. The following year the newly weds opened the Farmers Hotel at Unanderra on the hill overlooking Kembla Grange along what would later be the Princes Highway catering for coaches, travellers and the local farming community.

Sarah and William hosted their timber inn for 25 years on the Main South Coast Road before their eldest son George took the reins. The Lindsay pub dynasty had begun.

Read the full story at the Looking Back website.

About Mick Roberts

A Sydney journalist, writer and historian, Mick Roberts specialises in Australian cultural history, particularly associated with the Australian hotel and liquor industry. Mick has had an interest in revealing the colourful story of pubs, inns and associated industries in Australia for over 30 years. He is currently working on a comprehensive history of the hotel and liquor industry in the Illawarra region of NSW. Besides writing a number of history books, Mick has owned and managed several community newspapers. He was one time editor of the Wollongong Northern News, The Bulli Times, The Northern Times, The Northern Leader and The Local - all located in the Wollongong region. As a journalist he has worked for Rural Press, Cumberland (News Limited), Sydney based, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW. He currently calls the inner-Sydney suburb of Surry Hills home.


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