Posted On 09 Apr 2024
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This entry is part 40 of 26 in the series AusMotorcyclist Issue#27

Tattersalls pub not long after it was built … …and today.



The more you ride around this country the more you realise the mines have a lot to answer for, good and bad.

It’s pretty bloody hard to find a pristine beautiful panorama that’s not framed by signs alerting you to the voracious plans of some mining company.

In the small towns that are the life-blood of the bush, the pubs and shops, in fact their entire cultures, are struggling with the absence of their young men who’ve gone seeking much better money as FIFO’s in donga infested holes in the ground.

If Gina Reinhart had her way she’d revise Banjo’s work to sing praises of ‘the vision splendid of the charcoal plains extended, and at night the boundless beauty of the everlasting scars*.’

But way back when, it was the mines, the rushes that really opened parts of the country. It was the dirt and what often lay just below it that drew the masses and populated a lot of our interior.

Dot and Robbie behind the bar.

It’s ironic how so many of the towns that were founded by hordes of hopeful diggers and scratchers are now struggling under the loss of their young who’ve gone off in search of other minerals: towns fossilised by distant fossil fuels.

The creative gold rushes have been replaced by destructive coal rushes.

I got to thinking all this as I wandered around the excellent Mining Museum at Emmaville, a town of just 400 a bit off the New England Highway north of Glenn Innes, a town founded on tin and silver and zinc and gold rushes over a century ago. I’d woken at the Tattersall’s Hotel across the road and as I had my morning brew on the east-facing balcony in the unfiltered sun, a crowd of over twenty had been waiting for the place to open at 10.00am.

Huh? A couple of dozen folks waiting for a museum of rocks to open in a tiny backwater town on a weekday morning?

The comment, ‘Must have rocks in their heads,’ is too cheap and obvious so I won’t make it!

Anyway once I’d finished my heart starter I wandered over to see what all the fuss was about and ended up with Ron taking me under his wing.

Rooms are basic but comfortable.

But first I’ve just gotta backtrack a bit.

I’d not aimed to be at Emmaville. Before yesterday I knew nothing about it. I’d seen the signs for it but never bothered going in. This time I was exploring cameo off-piste options for riding the NEH and on a spur decided to detour north west from Glen Innes, intending to then cut back east to spend the night at Deepwater where I heard the pub was being rebuilt and was open for business.

(See breakout).

Now in these rambles, one of the themes I keep coming back to is the way towns have an instant vibe, an immediate character. You can feel many towns as you ride in the first time. Emmaville is one of these. It exudes a friendliness and pride from the moment you hit the 50km/h signs after 40km of very, very enjoyable riding up from GI. (The road back out to Deepwater is only slightly less enjoyable).

The old bloke in pyjamas in the hospital garden gives a wave, two kids playing their pushies look up, smile and give a thumbs up, you notice every house is neat and surrounded by well tended gardens and the guy havin’ his durry out front of the pub says, “G’day” the moment you get your helmet off.

Ron at the mining museum.

I wasn’t going to be seeing Deepwater tonight!

Inside the pub, there’s a couple of groups of blokes having an after work lube and behind the bar is Robbie.

“Of course” he can fix me a room upstairs.

“You want to put your bike around the back and lock it in the garage?” he asks before telling me when tea’s on (just as soon as Dot’s back) and then getting me a drink. This first drink comes free like it does to all riders checking in. It’s no surprise to later find out that Robbie and Dot are good friends with Helen Rush at the Stockman Hotel in Texas who first started the idea of free first drinks for riders booking a room.

It’s not a bad chardy I get so I take some in and then take in the bar.

Trophies reflect glory days gone by.

Nothing fancy here, just an honest fair dinkum country pub. Photos of old footy teams on the wall together with trophy fish heads and a shelf of indeterminate sporting trophies, all testifying to the connection of the place to the community. Good signs.

I decide to leave the bike under the cover of the front balcony and I take my stuff upstairs. The rooms are basic but with everything you are going to need.

Strong hooks for the armour wear, bedside table, accessible power sockets for the rechargers and all below original pressed iron ceilings.

There’re ten rooms in total able to take 24 guests: 3 twin singles, 3 queen doubles and 4 rooms with a queen double and a single. Cost is a pretty average $45.00 per head per night. Out back there is a massive lawn area where riders can swag for just 3 bucks to cover the use of the showers and toilets.

(Towels are not provided.)

The record overnight stay is 172 for a massive fund raising ride a couple of years back and they’ve also ‘comfortably’ handled 92 riders all swagging and camping out the back for a 21st. So don’t go thinking your group may be too big for this pub, it’s obviously a homely place where there’s always room for one more!

With maybe one caveat: There’s no town water in Emmaville, everything runs off rainwater tanks and so when you’re using the basic but clean and well maintained showers, do so sparingly and maybe with a friend!

After checking out the facilities I wander around the town and again am blown away by the obvious pride everyone has in their home patch. At the far end of town is the ‘bottom pub’ which also looks very friendly and in the middle of the block is the extraordinarily beautiful old Post Office.

Back at the pub it’s Thursday night, the opening of the NRL season and my beloved Rabbitohs, the pride of the League are playing. It’s live on TV but the telly’s not on and I don’t care. Half a dozen locals hang at the bar, actually talking to each other!

Dot’s now behind the bar with Robbie and we get chatting. These childhood sweethearts, both born in Emmaville, have been married for 45 years and spent every day of their working lives together. About 15 years ago they sold their 36-year-old earthmoving business on the Gold Coast and were retired for six years before coming back to Emmaville for a bit of a break. The pub was pretty run down and one night Robbie got on the turps with Warren Barnes, the owner.

Dot disappears to cook me up a standard but tasty schnitzel as Robbie explains how they stripped the place, threw everything over the balcony onto the street and began to get it all a bit more respectable.

And now, 8 years later, they’ve got a pub that was 100 last year that is showing its age considerably less. It’s warm and welcoming, reflecting the town which surrounds it but it’s a quiet night so around 9.00 we pack it in and I pass out quickly on a very comfortable bed.

Which brings me back to Ron.

Remember Ron? We left him in the Museum across the road some 20 paragraphs back. So, anyway, Ron leaves me to wander ‘round the place at my own pace, offers me a coffee and biscuit from the Arnott’s Assorted Cream Selection and then answers every silly question I have with patience, knowledge, humour and understanding.

The Conargo Pub as it used to be.

The place is a bit misnamed though, as there’s a pile of stuff that ain’t rocks but more general history of this boom and bust mining town and dominating one wall, tellingly, is a spread of photos of the local rugby teams. You soon notice that, like at the pub, there are no current teams, the last local derby against arch rivals Tent Creek was in 1994.

The Club, like the cricket club and the tennis club, folded as the mines here dried up and the pits in distant parts beckoned the young men of the town. The old butcher shop is now a mining office and shopping is mostly done in ‘Glen’.

Like the pubs in many such towns, The Emmaville Tattersalls is putting the welcome mat out to bike riders. Unlike many of them though, Dot and Robbie don’t see motorcyclists as a resource to be simply mined, they see us as alluvials who can enrich their town on many fronts and who are prepared to provide for us.

Deepwater Inn rising from the ashes indeed.

Their ‘first drink free’ policy, their huge secure parking, their welcoming of swaggers all reflect their incredible goodness and their ‘fair go’ philosophy.

If you’re riding up the New England or just wanting a destination for a group ride, the Tattersalls at Emmaville will give you a simple, basic good welcome. Go there, you’ll dig it!**

The Tattersalls Hotel, Emmaville, buoyed by the specials for riders, rated 4 helmets on our scale and had a value rating of 180 where 100 is standard.

Telephone 02 6734 7309 (Robbie and Dot)

*That’s pretty good, isn’t it? A big hand for Colin! ** Well, you can’t win them all – The Bear

Mt Warning Hotel at Uki under construction.

Pub News

If you’re into epic comebacks and phoenix-like resurrections from ashes, and if you are into classic Aussie bush pubs, this has been a month with two, hopefully three pieces of really good news. A trio of pubs in disparate parts of NSW is rising from the remnants of devastating fires.

Luckily unlike the bird, the gestations period is somewhat less than 1400 years!

Just on two years ago the Mt Warning Hotel at Uki out from Murwillumbah burnt to the ground in a massive loss for locals and for riders. It’s now about one third rebuilt and looks like the new version is going to be very close to its predecessor. Brett Harley, the builder, told me that he reckons the first beers will be pulled in July or maybe August. I think we can take him at his word coz we all know how reliable Harleys are!

I’ll keep you posted here and no doubt we’ll organise a run out there for the reopening.

A bit to the south, the pub at Deepwater,destroyed by fire back in 2011, is due to re-open a couple of months earlier in the middle of May with owners Andrew and Linda well into the reconstruction of what promises to be a unique and welcoming hostelry.

And there’s a strong rumour that down south in the MIA, the iconic Conargo Pub which went up in flames just last November is also about to be rebuilt. We can only hope that the locals and anyone else with memorabilia to replace the unique selection that burned in the fire will come forward and help decorate the place. It deserves nothing less!

Meanwhile, the local chamber of commerce has applied for a license to sell alcohol in the Conargo Town Hall on Friday nights. With free camping at the oval across the way and the most ornate public toilets in all of regional Australia on hand, it would make for a great start to the weekend. Stay Tuned! CW

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