A chance meeting with band members when she was cranky one hot afternoon has led to the immortalisation in song of hotel owner Shirley Girdler.

Story By John Dunn

Chris Rieger, a musician and songwriter with the band Simply Bushed, was on a tour with a group through the outback when they rolled into Thargomindah in far south-western Queensland one sizzling afternoon. They had been playing across the top of New South Wales, had battled a series of indifferent dirt and gravel roads and they were, in Chris’s words, “hot and hungry, dusty and dry”.
So it was to the town’s only pub – the Bulloo River Hotel Motel – that they headed. What happened next is mostly lost in the mists of memory, perhaps because this was back in 2008, but what is certain is that there was a disagreement. The group’s assessment was that their reception was “less than welcoming”. Hotel owner Shirley Girdler says: “I don’t remember the details. Maybe I was a bit cranky. I might have been having a bad day … you can get days like that in this game.”
The group moved on, off in a cloud of dust – which, coincidentally, is the Aboriginal name for the town – back to their Sydney base, where Chris related the happening to band partner Paul Grierson.The pair decided there was a song idea in the visit to the Bulloo bar, a good old outback yarn that could be presented in a fun way. They got to work to write ‘Surly Shirley’.

This story excerpt is from Issue #94

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2014