They’ve got some bloody good drinkers down under

Australians have a reputation for loving their beer. I had no idea of the depth of their passion until I recently acquired a few CDs that features Australian drinking songs. These are not songs like Waltzing Matilda that are easy to sing and thus popular at parties and in pubs. They are songs that directly and fulsomely praise beer and the act of drinking to the point of venerating both and the Monty Python troupe added to the narrative of the Aussie passion for beer (and their supposed preference for the name Bruce) in these sketches here and here.

This CD collection contains of course the classic song The Pub With No Beer that tells the tragic story of a remote town whose only pub has run out of beer. Here’s Slim Dusty, the person who first recorded the song in 1957, in a live performance.

The title of this post comes from another paean to beer and drinking by Ted Egan. He refers to drinkers in the Northern Territory but the song in my collection replaces the phrase “in the Northern Territory” in the chorus with the more encompassing “down under, yes sirree”.


  1. Silentbob says

    The title of this post comes from another paean to beer and drinking by Ted Egan. He refers to drinkers in the Northern Territory…

    There is (of course) a dark flip side to Egan’s jolly song. The Northern Territory has had to introduce special laws restricting the availability of alcohol because of the devastating impact of alcohol on Aboriginal communities.

  2. Silentbob says

    @ 2 John Morales

    Silentbob, there is no “had to”, but rather “chose to”.

    Thanks for that John. Rest assured your pedantry critical adjustments are as welcome as always.

  3. hyphenman says


    In 1978, while serving on board the USS Bainbridge, I made my first visit to Australia. We pulled into Darwin and I was tasked with duty on our first day in port. I drew Shore Patrol and went ashore in the first boat.

    I walked off the pier and onto the main street and I thought I was on the set of High Noon. The street was deserted at 10 o’clock in the morning.

    As I walked down the sidewalk I heard sounds coming from a building on my left; a saloon. I stuck my head in and saw men (no women in sight) standing three deep at the bar. When they saw me, in my dress whites, they pulled me in and I was surrounded by friendly faces. (Darwin, where General MacArthur made his stand in 1942, still remembered and treated American military service personnel very well.

    That what, by all appearances looked to be a significant number of Darwinians, were three-sheets to the wind at mid-morning on a weekday was, to say the least, telling.


  4. Holms says

    Yep, that’s Darwin true to reputation. However, it should be noted that your 1978 visit came during the rebuilding of the city, as it was almost entirely smashed flat in ’74 by Cyclone Tracy. The mojority of the population had been resettled elsewhere, and those that returned faced widespread unemployment. So, hard to hold the drinking against them really.

  5. dick durham says

    I loved Australia and will never forget hitch-hiking from Darwin to Sydney in 1973. I am close to completing my book which includes this journey: ‘Turnip Road, beyond the hippie trail from Southend to Sydney,.
    If anyone can help me find this man dead or alive I’d be grateful:
    This is a very long shot indeed, but I am wondering if you or any of your customers can help me find an old friend who helped me out with a loan of 100 Australian dollars back in 1973!
    The circumstances are these: on 12th August 1973 I arrived in your bar having failed to get a lift along the Barkly Highway where I had stood for most of the day. The previous night I had spent sleeping on some scaffold boards, set up on oil drums, over a brushwood fire. I was with two Scottish back-packers. Later that night we were joined by four female backpackers (all Australian I think) who bedded down in sleeping bags to share the warmth. Even later on two drunken road-train drivers then appeared and were angry that the girls – who were travelling with them – had joined us and threatened to beat me and the Scottish guy up. We feigned sleep and all was well!
    In the morning the road-train left with the girls and also with the two Scottish back-packers (one of whom was female) and I was left solo.
    That’s when I arrived in the Threeways Roadhouse. In the bar, playing pool was a bespectacled giant of a man: 6ft 3ins tall, broad-shouldered with thick, curly, sandy hair, and a red, freckled complexion. Think of an Australian Michael Caine and you get the picture.
    His name was Mark – I never got his surname – and he was a seasonal worker, dressed in shorts, military shirt and thongs. He had a pack of Marlboro cigarettes in one breast pocket and a roll of dollars in the other, the rest of his belongings were in a sailor-style kitbag.
    He saw I was fed-up and when I told him I couldn’t get a lift replied that he was hitch-hiking, too but as all drivers called in at your roadhouse there was little point in waiting outside!
    When he realised I had only 30 or so dollars left and was desperate to get to Townsville to get work, he insisted I borrow the 100 dollars from him so that we could share beers!
    Eventually an elderly man stumbled in and Mark arranged for both of us to get a lift in his car to Mount Isa.
    At Mount Isa, Mark and I parted company – he wanted to see the rodeo there -- I wanted to press on and get a job.
    I did so and Mark caught me up a week or so later in Townsville and I was able to pay him back.
    The only other things I know about Mark is that he was a Vietnam vet – whose pal was killed in a fire-fight alongside him just as Mark was asking him for a light for his cigarette – and that he came from Lismore, NSW.
    He was a big drinker and became very emotional about the war when in his cups.
    I have tried, without success, various Vietnam Vet organisations, so I thought I’d write to you: I am writing up my travel diary for this time which will be published later this year.

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