At the height of the goldrush in 1864 there were 48 licensed hotels in Araluen, but by 1927 the number had dwindled to just one. The Araluen Arms was located at Redbank opposite the laneway to the Court House.
On November 28, 1927, under suspicious circumstances, it burnt down.
Araluen faced being not just ‘the pub with no beer’ but worse ‘the town with no pub’.
The lessee and licensee of The Araluen Arms was Syphrene (Si) Turnbull. The owners of the building were the Owens brothers from Sydney.
When Turnbull’s lease expired at the end of June 1927 the Owens brothers wanted Si out. They had negotiated with John (Jack) Collins, the mail contractor, to take over, but Si refused to go. The Owens issued a notice giving Si until November 30 to leave.
On November 28 the building was completely destroyed by fire. Si had gone to Sydney, but his brother William (Billy) was there and raised the alarm.
Si returned in time for the Quarterly Session of the Licensing Court on Tuesday, December 5, where he applied to have the license transferred to premises known as Alley’s Store.
The owner of the destroyed hotel objected and argued that a garage and stable still standing on their site could serve as temporary premises and that Turnbull’s lease had expired.
But it appears Turnbull still had the license which he proposed to transfer and he won the day. The Presiding Magistrate granted a temporary license at Alley’s Store for 12 months.
An inquest followed where the coroner found “the premises were destroyed by fire, but how the fire occurred, whether by accident or otherwise, the evidence did not disclose.”
Three weeks later two cottages almost opposite the burnt hotel also owned by the Owens brothers burnt to the ground. The Braidwood Dispatch commented “Fires, like troubles, apparently never come singly.”
In the following July the license was transferred from Turnbull to Jack Collins by agreement between the parties.
In October, Collins applied successfully to have the license transferred from the Araluen Arms to the present location now that the necessary improvements required under the Act had been completed.
Ninety years later the Araluen Pub still operates out of Alley’s Store. Si and his wife, May, and family moved to a dairy farm at Moruya. From 1942 to 1947 my family lived next door.
As a boy on school holidays I often stayed with Si and May. Si was a great storyteller, but he never talked to me about ‘the red steer’ going through The Araluen Arms Hotel.