Almanac Life: Charlie Watts and the Ramsgate

Freshly painted like a Cunard ocean liner, the Ramsgate is a big, majestic seaside pub.



It puts me in mind of similarly white-washed beach-front boozers in Brighton, England and St Kilda in Melbourne. It’s Friday evening and Claire and I are about to dine with Nick and his wife, Chris.



Someone once observed that Glenelg’s Moseley Square is for kids and that you graduate to Henley Square as an adult. I’m not sure the demographics are quite this dichotomous, but it’s a curious thought. I feel lucky that we can enjoy both.



The barkeep speaks my language (a local dialect- Friday Night Thirsty), ‘We’ve imperial pints for $7’. This was welcome news indeed, but it troubles me that in our tiny colony we differentiate between pints (425ml) and imperial pints (568ml). Surely, a pint is a pint. And I, governor, vote for the big one. It’s like we’ve a South Australian minute that only runs for 45 seconds.



We’re shepherded to our table.



Port and the Bulldogs are playing on multiple screens. A few Januarys back Nick, some other chaps, and I booked lunch in the Ramsgate beer garden to watch the Sydney Test, only to discover that it was showing endless UFC fights. Unable to quickly get some neck tatts we slinked off to the front bar and the gentler magnetisms of cricket.



Nick and I’ve been mates since our Kapunda High days when we bonded over Skyhooks and the Stones’ 1981 album Tattoo You (predating UFC). Later came Midnight Oil and Dylan (for his 21st we gave him a book with the entire collected lyrics of his Bobness) and Nick Cave.



There’s sharing of family histories with ships departing from Hamburg mid-1800s and Polish Hill and the Victorian goldrush. It’s a compelling privilege to hear the remarkable yarns tracing how you all came to be sitting at the same pub table on an August night. The waiter pays us three patient visits before we’ve decided on our tucker, such is the gusto of our yak. It’s a positive metric.



Claire and Chris finish their bubbles, so Nick asks for a Running with the Bulls Grenache, made in the Barossa. The wine’s Spanish narrative, I’m sure, is designed as a point of difference from the largely German motifs of the valley. Initially, it’s a little sharp but then softens, like a 1950s hospital matron.



Nick and I have the first of our compulsory conversations about the Rolling Stones and again agree that ‘Gimme Shelter’ is their finest song. I mention reading once of its opening being characterised by ‘apocalyptic dread’ while Nick speaks in awe of Merry Clayton’s backing vocals, probably the most revered in music history.



War, children
It’s just a shot away
It’s just a shot away



Given Charlie Watts’s passing days after our discussion this chat now seems a little haunted.



Claire enjoys her butter chicken while Chris and I each settle upon the lime-infused squid. There’s no audible complaining. Nick’s steak is delayed due to human error, which philosophically, I’d argue, is the only real type of error. Ultimately, he’s pleased with it.



There would seem to be Teal-flavoured human error aplenty on the big screens for at half-time in the footy Port’s only managed a solitary goal. The pub’s front door is shut so we can’t hear the yelping from Alberton.



It’s a prosperous and lively place, this Ramsgate and our night’s replete with conversation, cups and respectable nosh.



Tomorrow night’s a full moon. We stroll up the balmy, windless esplanade for a nightcap.




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About Mickey Randall

Favourite film: The Shawshank Redemption Favourite song: Khe Sahn Favourite holiday destination: Gold Coast Favourite food: steak Favourite beer: VB Best player seen: Dogga Worst player seen: Frogga Last score on beep test: 3.14159 Favourite minor character in Joyce’s Ulysses: Punch Costello


  1. There does not seem to be much argument about Gimme Shelter’s place in the firmament, Mickey.

    F*ck I miss going to the pub, and participating in the banter within.

    In February this year, on a stealthy weekend trip to see John Schumann, my mates and I spent at a Saturday arvo at the Larg’s Pier Hotel. We should offer a moment of thanks to those forebears who were wise enough to construct these magnificent ocean-front watering-holes.

  2. Kevin Densley says

    Enjoyable, Mickey!

    I particularly enjoyed your references to big seaside pubs – they are indeed a glorious thing! My great-great-grandfather, Henry Reynolds, was publican of a number of these in South Australia – the Port Broughton Hotel in 1898-1902 and the Federal Hotel in Semaphore in 1908, for example. He also owned outright the smaller Wauraltee Hotel in Port Victoria during the first decade of the twentieth century.

    And interestingly, with regard to (Polish) Hill River in the Clare Valley, Henry Reynolds’ wife Mary Jane, my great-great-grandmother, was born there in 1861 – her family (surname Duance, which is Cornish) may have known some of your ancestors.

  3. Thanks Smokie. The Largs Pier is a magnificent pub: imposing and grand. The interior’s elegant too. That would’ve been an excellent afternoon; hoping you get into a pub again soon. If the internet can be believed the LP drive-through bottle shop is the nation’s first, opening in 1953!

    KD- the Port Broughton pub is also a huge, but welcoming old country hotel. Lots of Cornish ancestry all over SA with its history of mining. Cheers.

  4. Thanks Mickey totally agree re seaside pubs big chance of Port v WB prelim final as well

  5. Very nice, Mickey. Ahh… the pub. The pubs. I remember them.
    My column this Saturday is about Charlie, sort of. Some stolen from Keef’s obit. But a nice anecdote i got from Martin Armiger who was in The Sports, and who met Charli… kind of.

  6. Thanks Rulebook. Most would reckon Port v Melbourne grand final, but I suspect there could be a twist or two yet. Of more concern to me is why the SANFL persisted with a split round when there should be some urgency about completing the season.

    ajc- I look forward to your column Saturday. Am hosting a Charlie Watts Memorial BBQ later that day which will feature the playlist Rick Kane promoted elsewhere on this website. It’ll be cool here over the weekend so there’s talk that we might all wear suits…

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