The Meningie Hotel

We left Adelaide late on Friday January 4th, it was a sweltering 45° day and we could not load car without feigning heatstroke and running back indoors. We voted and agreed on adapting our plans to include siestas and a delicious dinner in Finn MacCool’s on Norwood Parade. Overheated and conscious of bushfire warnings we took off as the sun was setting. We drove to Meningie, straight past exits to favourites like Stirling, Oakbank, and Strathalbyn without stopping to say “hello”, further out onto the M1 than I have ever ventured before. As we passed Finnis a crosswind carried the smell of charred gum trees to fill our nostrils.

We let ourselves into Lake Albert Caravan Park [2hrs/148km] and offloaded luggage. Then, hightailed it briskly to The Meningie Hotel, the local pub, for a bevvy.

The disappointment was palpable. We had very much been looking forward to this sojourn but the hotel was a rundown pokie dominated watering hole with a too loud for human ears video-jukebox. Inebriated 18-25 year olds were the sole clientele.

Why did we go to Meningie? You may ask. To break up the drive? To join the many retirees? To share travel stories with the few backpackers in tents on the foreshore? To fish? To while away the hours watching Lake Albert do its thing? To soak up some peace and quiet as is commonly prescribed to city-dwellers?

The answer is: none of the above.

We went to have a nosey at The Meningie Hotel because my Australian travelling companion’s maternal grandfather, Thomas Peebles Menzies, owned it from 1930-1938.

We did source some information on this public house in 36 limited hours. The hotel has existed since the 16th of April 1867. It has had more than 20 owners. The physical structure has grown in stature, if not in standing, in its 146 years. The majority of Meningie residents polled voted for a return to its gentile heyday.

According to Bruce Menzies, Thomas Peebles Menzies “took over the license” of the hotel from his brother John. In actual fact, we uncovered that John Menzies was licensee from 12/1/1923 – 15/10/1928 when a man named Alfred Pitman took over. T.P. Menzies, in turn, took over from Mr. Pitman on 4/10/1930 and was succeeded by Lawrence Claude Matulich on 27/4/1938.

T.P. Menzies is such an intriguing character I’ve given him his own wee blog.

There was an evocative intergenerational moment that first night in the front bar of The Meningie Hotel. My companion, whose grandfather passed away before he was born, was sitting on a bar stool looking altogether miserable whilst viewing the ocker, bogan scene unfolding horrifically before us in slow-motion. I grabbed his attention and shouted over the din: “You are sitting where your grandfather once stood: that’s something, that’s history, that’s really rather special”. And for the one and only time that hour, my husband, smiled.

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