Patsy and Peter Price have rejuvenated the iconic Silverton Hotel.
Story and photos by Stuart Walmsley
When Patsy Price first came to Silverton in 1947 women weren’t allowed in the hotel. So it’s probably fitting that in 2016 she owns the joint. Patsy and husband Peter have breathed new life into the outback New South Wales pub since buying the freehold six years ago from another Silverton ‘original’, Ines McLeod.
“The ‘originals’ are those who grew up in Silverton,” Patsy says. “There are only four of us left.” That’s still not a bad strike rate in a town with a population of 35 and, while they have made a raft of improvements to the pub, the couple says that link to the past is at the very core of everything they do. “Changing it wouldn’t work,” Peter says. “People have got memories of this place: that’s why they keep coming back.”
That balance of catering to the region’s established tourism industry but keeping the pub acceptable to locals is important to the Prices, because this is where they say they belong. “Even today, I still can’t explain it, but when I turned off that road at Broken Hill and headed out this way something happened,” Peter says of the first time he came to Silverton in 1967. “That feeling is still there today – when we go away and come back,” he says. Patsy points to her ‘Miss Silverton 1966’ photograph in the bar as proof of her past connections.
Built in 1884, the pub has been the one constant in a community that has seen plenty of boom and bust times. BHP was formed there in 1885 and the discovery of silver, lead and zinc deposits once supported a population of 3000 people, 10 hotels and three breweries.
When the mining giant relocated to Broken Hill, Silverton became a virtual ghost town. But agriculture, smaller mining operations and, in more recent times, an association with the film industry, have kept things ticking over.
“There’s been 22 name changes for movies and commercials,” Peter says. “God knows how many coats of paint it’s had on it over the years, but they’ve always put it back.” The town has featured in films such as Mad Max II, The Adventures of Priscilla – Queen of the Desert, Mission Impossible II and, in the past 12 months, hosted The Today Show and popular HBO series The Leftovers.
This story excerpt is from Issue #110
Outback Magazine: Dec/Jan 2017