The local pub in Ballidu has remained central to its community, despite fire and mishap.

Story By Kerry Faulkner

Annette Sermon says she is like many of the married women in Ballidu, WA – for a long time she wished the local pub would burn down. Then when it did, in 1980, she wished it hadn’t. The pub had been the bane of her existence because her husband Terry spent too much time there. Later, her four sons helped prop up the bar as well.

But when it burnt down she didn’t see Terry for three days. He was fire captain at the time and although the blaze took just four hours to bring under control, it took much longer to mop up the mess.
Ballidu is 217 kilometres north-east of Perth in the Wheatbelt. It’s off the main road, a big yellow arrow pointing to a circuit road where the tavern sits.

Annette’s grandfather once owned the hotel and she was a waitress in the dining room in the 1950s when she met Terry. He asked her out to the pictures. “The second night out he asked me to marry him and I thought, ‘Geez I betta get outta here pretty quick’; 57 years later, we’re still married,” she laughs.
No-one is sure what started that Christmas Eve blaze, but current tavern manager John Gould says both Wongan Hills (34km away) and Dalwallinu (39km distant) brigades arrived before Ballidu, whose station was just 300 metres down the road, because its truck wouldn’t start.

The bar was moved to the sportsground until the watering hole was fit for patrons again. And it was a very different pub that emerged from the ashes.

John’s brother, Neil, has a farm in the area and bought the pub at the fire sale. He put a new roof on the ground floor rather than rebuild a second storey and it re-opened as the Ballidu Tavern. Despite being a less grand building, the tavern continues to host just about every sporting team grand-final celebration or commiseration in the tiny town, whose population is now just 70.

This story excerpt is from Issue #106

Outback Magazine: Apr/May 2016