Murder, movie stars and unexploded ordnance make for some classic Top-End tales at the Adelaide River Inn.

Story By Nathan Dyer

Adelaide River Inn can hold its own among the best of them. How many pubs can boast of having a stuffed former movie star propped permanently at the front bar, and to being the site of flatulence-inspired murder? But while the hairy bovine bulk of ‘Charlie’ the buffalo is an undeniable reality at the bar, publican Jason Smith says parts of the story of the fart-related killing are not entirely true.
“Apparently it was a .22 the bloke was shot with, not a .303, as many people believe,” Jason says, outlining one such falsity about the story, which he reckons happened about 30 years ago. Calibre aside, it’s a classic Top End tale. “Apparently there were two blokes drinking at the bar, one of them the town bully,” Jason says. “The story goes that the bully walked over and farted in the other bloke’s face,” he says. “The other bloke said, ‘If you fart in my face again I’ll shoot you’. Well, the bully farted in his face again and he went outside, got his gun, came back, put it to old mate’s chest, pulled the trigger and he dropped dead just there,” he continues, pointing to a spot by a bar stool just inside the door. “Then he sat down, rested the rifle next to him and said to the barman, ‘You better pour me another beer before the cops get here’.”
It’s a story that reflects the often-wild past of this outback hotel, 112 kilometres south of Darwin. First settled in 1870 as a base for workers building the Overland Telegraph Line, Adelaide River later played host to thousands of troops during World War II after Allied forces were transferred to the area following the first bombings of Darwin in 1942. The town itself was later bombed. The plaques of 434 graves dot the lawns of a cemetery down the road from the pub, a sombre reminder of the war. Although the troops are gone, Jason says Adelaide River’s 200 residents are every now and then reminded of their stay in a rather unwelcome way. “When the wet season comes through it washes the top soil away, so you never know what it’s going to reveal,” he says. “Only last year a little girl swimming down at the river came up to her parents holding a bomb and said, ‘What’s this?’”

This story excerpt is from Issue #82

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2012