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January 24, 2011

Dululu: Queensland Pub On Top of the Flood

Sharon Catlin "We're still open for business and visitors are welcome  to stay or stop for refreshments and a meal." (Tony Walsh)
Publican and friendly host at the Dululu Hotel, Des Catlin (Tony Walsh)

by Tony Walsh

Firstly, where in the world is Dululu? Well, it's easy to find with a sat-nav. Simply zero in on the intersection of the Leichhardt and Capricorn highways in Central Queensland, 73 km west of Rockhampton.

Adjacent to the  crossroads is the classic Queenslander, timber and tin pub, the Dululu Hotel built in 1928 and the centre of the universe for the locals, all 30 of them and a few dogs. The recent floodwaters flowed under the pub which sits on timber stumps. It stayed open during the recent disastrous floods offering a friendly welcome, even in those difficult circumstances.  

The pub is run as a family affair. Arriving late afternoon, the first person I spot is 15 year-old Jayden Catlin, tearing up the footpath with a cantankerous old motor mower. He tells me later that he would rather be helping out at the local Rural Fire Brigade, "Because that's more exciting!"

Then his mum, Sharon, ambles out to check his battle with the long grass. She stands on the front porch which is tucked under the upstairs wooden verandah. "Are you the one staying the night?" she calls to me in a friendly tone.

I nod my agreement and she beckons me over and continues, "Put your port in room four near the top of the stairs then come down and meet some of the locals. It's men's tennis night tonight at the local courts and some will come in before their game and most of them come in after."

As I walk in to the bar, the first sight I see is the L-shaped timber-topped counter; its front made from vertical sheets of galvanised iron. The walls are covered in a cluttered montage of old pub signs and posters, photos of champion Brahman bulls and nasty looking circular saw blades featuring colourful country scenes and the ubiquitous pool table and dart board. A few discarded well-worn, jackeroo hats and the focal point at meal times, a giant blackboard with a chalked menu featuring a range of meals and snacks that would put a city pub to shame.


TIME FOR SOME TUCKER AND FIND OUT WHAT'S DOING IN DULULU

I smile at two women sitting at the bar enjoying a shandy after the day's work at a regional school and wander into a cavernous back room. There's the kitchen to the left; its entrance barred by a flimsy insect screen door. To the right is a counter with a young lady sorting letters and a few parcels. It's Kirsten Catlin. She and her sister Lekisha assist their parents, Des and Sharon run the pub. Kirsten explains that this pub is more than just drinks, meals and beds. "We run a small grocery service for the locals and surrounding farms.We do the post office duties, ANZ Bank agency, freight depot, and provide a bus stop for interstate coach services and are the co-ordination contact for emergency services."

Wow, this is one busy establishment, I think to myself before trudging up the flight of stairs to the back verandah. I find my room and open the unlocked door.

There's carpet on the floor, a TV with rabbit's ears sitting precariously on a stool in the corner of the room, a lace-curtained window, an antique, stained-timbered wardrobe, a double bed with clean sheets and a few blankets all tucked in under a bright bedspread; not bad value for $45.00 a night.    

It's time for some tucker (dinner) and to find out what's doing in Dululu. Sharon suggests I try the slab of grilled rump with vegies and chips. It's so big; lapping over both ends of the oval plate the locals boast that it should have its own post code!

Later, the tennis players arrive and regret that some of their top shots did not make it over the net. This leads to a discussion about some of the old characters of Dululu that have fronted the bar over past decades. Most remember 'Old Pagey' who in his later years was a regular at opening time each day at 10.00am and would stay until around  two in the afternoon before getting a lift home.

'Old Pagey' had to take his medication around 11.00am, so he would put his beer down and ask for a glass of water because as he would explain to the bar attendant each morning, "I'm not supposed to take the medication with alcohol!".

A former licensee, Nev Ferrier and now local councillor then walked into the bar and when asked how he dealt with  rowdy  drinkers, he thought for a while and said that was not usually a problem, but he did have one experience with a strange guest that bounded through.

"I was just getting ready to close one evening and heard all sorts of commotion out the back and thought one of the locals must have tripped in the dark and knocked a few empty kegs over. Then suddenly, a fairly large grey kangaroo hopped into the bar. It must have been chased by a few dingoes. It hit the wall then bounded into the men's toilet and the door swung closed behind it.

"It was obviously very agitated so I had to be careful. To make matters worse, there was only one other customer in the bar. He'd had a few and started giving me gratuitous instructions that I could have done without.

"Opening the door to the men's, I grabbed the roo by the tail and somehow pulled it out onto the verandah; its front paws thrashing about like some crazed fighter and let it go. It cleared the railing in a single bound and headed west. I have never seen anyone or anything leave a pub so fast in all my life."

Nev also recounted the occasion one Saturday afternoon when he noticed a police car with a uniformed officer parked across from the pub. "The next day, the same patrol car pulled up and the officer walked into the bar. 'Did you hear what happened to me yesterday? I was waiting to take up an escort for a wide-load vehicle from another 

patrol car further down the highway but it was running late. Then two children who had been sitting on your verandah came over to my car and said their mum and

dad wanted to know how long I was going to be sitting outside the pub, because their  parents wanted to drive home'."

As the local folk drifted off into the night, I found my way upstairs to room four. The next thing I heard to the accompanying rays of first sunlight streaming through the window was the sounds of a mob of pink galahs screeching their heads off in the Coolabah tree in the back yard of the pub.

After a hearty pub breakfast, I drove out onto the Leichhardt Highway and realised in a good sort of way that one thing is certain, life is definitely different in Dululu.

For reservations or local information, phone the Dululu Hotel on  07  4937 1288.

See: http://www.gdaypubs.com.au/QLD/dululu.html
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