The locals of Balldale in the NSW Riverina are loving having their pub open again.

 Story John Dunn  Photo Julie Lavis

They’re having a ball at Balldale and it’s all because the Booth brothers, Leigh and Glenn, sparkies from Melbourne, rode like white knights into town, bought the only hotel and ended an eight-year drought. Since 2011, times have been tough in this tiny settlement of 150 residents in the NSW Riverina. Almost simultaneously, the store, school and pub all closed, leaving the post office the only remaining business.

“We were devastated,” says Peter (Jacko) Wilson, who runs a grain-processing business with brother Don. Their great-grandfather arrived when the area was opened up more than a century ago and the Wilsons have been here ever since. “It was as if the soul of the community had disappeared, leaving us all with a very empty feeling,” Jacko says. “We missed the pub particularly because that’s where we’d always meet for a chat and a beer and to find out what was happening round about.”

The hotel had opened in 1905. Megsie Fahey, a former shearer and farmer, and his wife Rose bought it in 1988 and then their daughter, Marie Misic, took over in 1995.

“It went well for a while, but gradually became unprofitable,” Marie says. “I was working at a school as well to help the finances, but finally it just got too much. There were some break-ins, too, so it was time for last drinks. I tried to sell through the years. There had been plenty of tyre kickers and I thought Leigh and Glenn were more of the same when they came along – but they were genuine. They’ve done a magic job; it’s just wonderful for the town.” 

This story excerpt is from Issue #133

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2020