Australian Screen

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A Pub With No Beer (1957)

  1. Gordon Parsons and the Pub with No Beer, Part 1

    Some years ago I returned to Taylor’s Arm NSW at Easter after an absence of 50+ years. The sleepy village was alive with country music to celebrate the ‘Pub with No Beer Festival’ which had been revived after a break of 20 years. Long has the controversy reined between the supporters of Dan Sheahan who wrote a poem called The Pub without Beer about the Ingham Hotel in Queensland and Gordon Parsons’ song based on the Cosmopolitan Hotel, Taylors Arm, New South Wales. Recently it was claimed that Slim Dusty wrote the song, and another publication in the Bellingen library credits Dan Sheahan with no mention of Gordon Parsons.

    At Taylors Arm I met Gordon’s wife Jeanette who gave me some old newspaper cuttings from the 1980’s. Gordon had worked cutting timber with Joe Cooper for many years and became friends of the family. He had visited Joes daughter when she was hospitalised for six years at Randwick Hospital in the 1940’s bringing his records and a gramophone for her use.

    My family had moved to Taylor’s Arm Butchery in 1948. My uncle, red cedar cutter Joe Cooper lived in Bowraville 15 miles away. He would stop for a cup of tea and fresh meat to take to their camp over 20 miles further up the river at Sheet-o-Bark, where the wild dingoes roam in the mountains. Gordon and young Joe Cooper were not interested in family conversation and they would visit the hotel to wash the dust from their throats.

    It’s not denied that Gordon got his inspiration for the song from the first verse of Dan Sheahan’s poem. Joe’s son Alick ‘Slugger’ Cooper remembers the small piece of paper with part of the poem as they sat around their camp fire at night. Gordon would play his guitar and sing songs as they relaxed after a hard day in the bush. The men would camp out until they had a load of cedar logs ready to take down the dusty winding road to Macksville. They always stopped at Taylors Arm to break the long drive and my uncle would have a cup of tea with my parents and get fresh meat to take home. Gordon would again visit the hotel.

    The people in Gordon’s song were well known in the village and the pub did run out of beer when the river was flooded in the 1950’s. The blitz truck which bought the beer from Macksville couldn’t get through.

    End of Part 1

    Posted on behalf of Jennifer Preston, Moorooka

  2. #1 from Editor – 3 weeks, 4 days ago.
  3. Gordon Parsons and the Pub with No Beer, Part 2

    The headline in the Guardian News April 25 1986 said it all. ‘It’s my Song’. Gordon could never understand how the Ingham pub received a grant to erect a sign claiming to be the original ‘Pub with No Beer’ when he had written about the Taylors Arm hotel. In the article Gordon admits that he used the first verse from the poem, changing the words to be more suitable for a song, but made the rest up himself. The Ingham hotel is the pub without beer, different words about different happenings, and a poem not a song set to music. Gordon was recognised as the writer of the song and music and received the royalties after his record company took the matter to court. Gordon even took action about an American version called The Bar with no Beer. Slim Dusty made the song famous. Jeanette Parsons laughed when she told me ‘Gordon always said Slim got the gold plate for his song and Gordon ended up with the tin plate’.

    Gordon born on Christmas Day 1926 was adopted, the family had moved to the Cooks Creek, Bellinger area in 1929.. His song ‘Where the Bellinger river flows’ commemorates his time there. Another song ‘The Passing of Cobber Jack’ written at the cedar cutting camp, tells the story of Joe Cooper’s brother Tom who was killed by a falling tree branch in the 1920’s. Gordon also loved Tasmania, writing a song that Tassie is a holiday makers dream. Gordon died in 1990 and has been remembered as an Australian Country Music pioneer.

    The road from Macksville to Taylors Arm is all sealed now, so different to the winding dusty road of the 50’s but the Pub with No Beer remains the same quaint hotel that Gordon used for his song.

    Posted on behalf of Jennifer Preston, Moorooka

  4. #2 from Editor – 3 weeks, 4 days ago.
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