A family vibe and hearty country fare are all part of the charm at Victoria's most outback pub.
Story By Nathan Dyer
As far as parents go, Sue and Leigh Jewson would have to rate among the coolest. After all, how many parents would buy their kids a pub? “Our eldest daughter, Nerida, had married up this way and was working on an almond farm and our second daughter, Megan, had just finished a hotel-management course in Bendigo,” says Leigh, recalling how the former wheat farmers from Quambatook got roped into buying the Werrimull Hotel in Victoria’s grain-growing Millewa district in 2008.
“The pub had been on the market for a while and Megan said, ‘How about you buy a pub for me, Mum and Dad?’” Leigh says. With a drought making life difficult on the family farm, the Jewsons decided, “Why not?”
With zero experience running a pub, the Jewsons learnt on their feet. Four years later, their daughters have moved on but Leigh and Sue say business is brisk and the once rundown watering hole is again the centre of community life. The local football season and the grain harvest are two of its busiest periods. “We sort of have two harvests here,” Leigh says. “At harvest time we have all the contract truck drivers, and then during the year when they’re unloading the bunkers, we’ve got them back again.”
Located in the state’s far north-west corner, with a population of 48, Werrimull is about as remote as it gets in Victoria. Close to the 633,000-hectare Murray-Sunset National Park and a stone’s throw from the Murray River, Victoria’s most outback pub has all the hallmarks of a typical bush watering hole. A bucket of avocados sits on the front bar for drinkers to take, a pin board on the back wall displays photos of giant Murray cod, and a glass cabinet at the far end of the bar holds tennis, football and golf trophies, and a cricket bat signed by Allan Border. There’s a darts competition in the summer and pool competition in the winter. A map on the wall shows a district dotted with the names of now unpopulated townships: Murrnong, Merrinee, Karween, Karawinna and Yarrara.
Sue says the vintage tractor club, the Werrimull Magpies football club, the local branch of the Victorian Farmers Federation, the kindergarten committee, the book club and the volunteer fire brigade all use the hotel for their meetings. “But most of them forget to let us know when they’re meeting, so we keep an eye on the local community newsletter to know when they’re coming,” she laughs.
This story excerpt is from Issue #89
Outback Magazine: June/July 2013