Pub yarns shared in new mural

NEW LOOK: Anakie Gemfields Hotel Motel.
NEW LOOK: Anakie Gemfields Hotel Motel. Jessica Dorey

BUILT in 1902 Anakie Gemfields Hotel Motel has a chequered and colourful history.

The stories which encompass the pub are so unique that owners Bruce and Wendy McFarlane commissioned illustrator, designer and artist James Alley to paint the building to reflect its history.

"We purchased the pub in 2015 and became interested in the history of the area and after being given some old photos we decided to redecorate the pub to reflect times past,” Wendy said.

The history of the pub dates to 1880 when the section of railway from Anakie to Withersfield was opened, and in 1887 Anakie was gazetted as a town.

Since that time, there have been years rich with good fortune, buzzing with visitors and activity and the Anakie Pub sparkling as the centre of attention in the region.

In other less fortunate years for miners - and the years that stretched across the Depression, war times and the ebb and flow of economic and social change - the pub sat quietly, waiting for the good times to return.

However, this quintessential Aussie bush pub has remained a place where travellers and locals alike could find a seat, a friendly word, cold beer, tasty meals, stories and the kind of unpretentious welcome unique to Aussie bush pubs.

Anakie itself is a speck on the map located just off the Capricorn Highway, a small township with a primary school servicing the surrounding area as well as a caravan park and a dedicated small rural community vital to the Central Queensland Gemfields.

Wendy said over the years Anakie has had many characters, one in particular named, 'Sparrow' Pacey.

"Sparrow gained legend status when after he fell off his perch at the bar of the Anakie Pub once too often in 1971, and the then publican, Mrs Pat Gregory, barred him from setting foot in the place again,” Wendy said.

"With no other pubs within 50 kilometres in any direction at the time, Sparrow decided that if he couldn't drink at the Anakie Pub, no one could. So the one-time miner got several sticks of gelignite and blew up the front of the pub. Fortunately, there was no loss of life or limb.”

The pub was rebuilt, however it was three years before Sparrow was allowed back in.

Feeling sorry for the pint-sized miner, who would beg forlornly to be allowed back in, the Gregory's let him in and not only that they erected a steel post beside Sparrow's favourite bar stool - and fitted a seat-belt to this because he said he kept falling off as his feet couldn't reach the ground to steady himself.

Mrs Gregory said "we made him wear his seat belt every time he came in.”

"He never fell off his stool again,” she said.

Sparrow's perch is still there today and if you are feeling a bit insecure on your seat at the bar you can try it out.

Sparrow is also now one of the main characters remembered on the wall of the pub.

Illustrator, designer and artist James Alley working on Anakie Gemfields Hotel Motel.
Illustrator, designer and artist James Alley working on Anakie Gemfields Hotel Motel. Jessica Dorey

The renovations continue inside the pub with a a new coffee machine and staff attending an intensive barista course.

Head Chef Rajan Shrestha has devised a café menu to add to the atmosphere and to help people relax and enjoy the many photos and items of local history around the pub. A beer garden area has been constructed in the outside courtyard and furnished with plants and bright red chairs.

Along with the pub's bowling green, the Anakie Gemfields Hotel Motel has an ideal breakout facility for conference attendees.

An Antiques, Craft and Collectables shop alongside the hotel, opening soon, will make it an ideal stopover for a coffee, a beer, wine or meal, and for overnight stays there are budget motel units.

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