Most Australians know of Slim Dusty’s famous song of the pub with no beer. A song inspired by a farmer poet who arrived at a pub needing to quench his thirst only to find the pub had run dry.
Lee’s Hotel in Ingham is the Original Pub With No Beer. Well, kind of. The original pub was Day Dawn Hotel which was later replaced by Lees Hotel around 1960.
While the site offered cool drinks from 1875, The Day Dawn Hotel started serving drinks and warm smiles from 1900. It wasn’t until 1943 during World War II, and rations on beer supplies during the war, that events led the pub to run dry of beer.
The USA 20th Bomb Group were on their way from Brisbane to Rabaul. From Townsville they had travelled 96km taking 14 hours and 70 crossings over rivers and creeks to reach Ingham at 2am. Exhausted and thirsty, the USA 20th Bomb Group drank at the pub until it ran out of beer.
This is were the farmer comes in to the story. Dan Sheahan, a local to farming and poetry, rode by horseback for 20 miles (32 kilometres) the following morning… to get a cold beer. Instead, he had a warm glass of wine and proceeded to pen the poem “The Pub Without Beer”.
The poem was published in 1944 in the Ben Bowyangs column of the N.Q. Register. In 1956, song writer Gordon Parsons was handed a scrap of pater at Taylors Inn in NSW with the poem as a verse.
Gordon Parsons revamped the poem and presented it Slim Dusty, who subsequently recorded it and released in 1957.
There was confusion over the origin for the song for many years. It was from Slim Dusty’s book, “Walk A Country Mile” that Dan Sheahan’s claim to the origins of the song was acknowledged by Slim Dusty.
The hotel looks nothing like the original Day Dawn Hotel when the poem was first penned. It was partly demolished and renovated with flats. Later, Rupert Lee Senior built the Lees Hotel on the site.
The hotel for the first time in decades has been put on sale, for both the building and the hotel business. The business and building have been sold a few times individually but not together as a single sale.
The event was seen significant enought to Karl Stephanovik from the Today Show, who was due to present from the hotel the following morning we were there.
To Get There
From the Ingham Visitor Information Centre, head north on Townsville Rd towards the centre of town. Follow Townsville Rd for 550m and at the lights turn left. Head to the right lane and turn right into Hawkinns St and immediately right again to go back (sort of a u-turn). The Lees Hotel is on the left.