History: Looking Back

New book reveals the colourful tales of Bellambi and Bulli pubs

Bulli Family Hotel Bulli ANU 1949

The Bulli Family Hotel, now trading as the Heritage Hotel, in 1949. Picture: Noel Bultin Archives, Australian National University

THE barmaids serving-up the beer in what is today’s Heritage Hotel at Bulli must have looked on in sheer horror as thousands of thirsty drinkers began filling the public bar on Christmas Eve 1940.

To help celebrate the 130th anniversaries of the Heritage Hotel, Bulli and the Bellambi Hotel, Bellambi, ‘Time Gents’ presents the history book, ‘Sister Pubs’, featuring stories of their colourful characters, amusing yarns, and plenty of beaut pictures. This is just one of the stories featured in the book:

“Publican, Matthew Ryan had reduced beer prices by one penny on 17 ounce schooners, 10 ounce mugs, and 6 ounce glasses. Ryan’s Bulli pub was the first of 23 in the Illawarra that capitulated to strikers’ demands after hotels were declared black by unions due to a hike in beer prices.

The miners had a proud tradition of demonstrating their opposition to increases in beer prices by boycotting hotels, picketing and imposing fines on unionists or co-workers daring to drink at ‘black’ bars.

With just 40 minutes before closing time on Christmas Eve, Ryan declared that he would meet the unions’ demands. Around 5,000 miners and steelworkers from Port Kembla converged on mass to the Bulli pub by foot, bus, car, or bicycle – anyway they could find – forming queues, waiting to breast the bar.

​In the days before liquor stores, when the pub was the only outlet where take away liquor could be purchased, many brought bags and suitcases to carry away bottled beer.”

Bellambi Hotel and Bulli’s Family Hotel, now known as the Heritage Hotel, opened seven months apart in 1889 to service an infant tourism industry, and the social needs of the surrounding communities.

Sister Pubs can be purchased online only within Australia for $34.95 (including postage, packaging and handling), or purchased from the Black Diamond Heritage Centre (eastern platform of Bulli Railway Station, Franklin Avenue, Bulli) open Sundays from 1pm to 4pm (The Heritage Centre will be closed over the Christmas/New Years break on Sunday December 29 and January 5). The book can also be purchased for $30 (cash only) by calling 0412 095 969 and arranging to pick up from the author in either Surry Hills, Sydney or Bulli. Or simply purchase online by visiting the Time Gents website here.


YOU can also make a small donation towards the running of The Bulli & Clifton Times and/or the Looking Back websites through Paypal. If you would like to support my work, you can leave a small tip here of $2, or several small tips, just increase the amount as you like. Your generous patronage of my work and research, however small it appears to you, will greatly help me with my continuing costs.


About Mick Roberts

A 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 Australian pubs and associated industries for over 30 years. He is 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 managed several community newspapers. He has been 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), the Sydney city newspaper, City News, and Torch Publications based in Canterbury Bankstown, NSW.


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