The Wyndham Town Hotel in the Kimberley, WA, has a commitment to its patrons that stretches even into the afterlife.

Story By Fleur Bainger

The hallmarks of a good pub are not always how cold the beer is or how big the meals are; more often it comes down to the people inside it. And that’s particularly true when it’s an isolated watering hole where the residents number only in the hundreds.
There’s no doubting how much the locals love the Wyndham Town Hotel in the far north of Western Australia on the edge of the Cambridge Gulf. One of the regulars is even buried there, just in front of the bar where the stools sit on top of small, square green tiles; a jagged slab of them has very obviously been removed and replaced.
Owner Susan Mathews says she suggested the ashes of devoted bar fly, Les Anderson, be planted in the place where he spent most of his time. “Les always sat in the corner every day and had his two or three stubbies,” she says. “His daughter was going to throw him off the Bastion [the Five Rivers Lookout]. But I said, ‘He’s going to be much happier with us at the bar’, so we put him in there with a red rose, and that’s where he lies.”

Susan and her husband Ken have run the pub in the frontier port town for 20 years, swapping Yalgoo in Western Australia’s mid-west for an even more remote location, more than 3000 kilometres north of Perth. “Each time we have a hotel, it’s normally in an isolated area,” she says.
Susan has been in the pub game since she was 28 and says it’s the people who have kept her enthused. “I love people’s company – you get all walks of life,” she says while rushing off to serve a couple of locals who “look like they’re about to die of thirst”.

Susan has watched a swag of people come through the doors at the Wyndham Town Hotel, from mine workers to cruise boat tourists, cattle station owners, Indigenous artists and, of course, the local townspeople, who are predominantly Aboriginal. With the pub a constant meeting place at the heart of the continually evolving export hub, she says she’s served multiple generations of beer drinkers. “We used to have a lot of old regulars but a lot of them have passed away,” she says. “Recently I did an event and all the young ones who were kids and have been born since we’ve been here, they were all drinking schooners as though they were grown men, which they are, really. Now they’re all old enough to sit at the bar like their families used to.”

This story excerpt is from Issue #79

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2011