Four pubs and a funeral

I love the week between Christmas and New Year, and know I’ve achieved happy levels of festiveness when I forget what day it is. Someone like the wife will say, “Don’t forget we’re going to X and Y’s on Thursday.” Then I’ll feel a frisson of panic and reply, “Right. What day is it again?”




Yesterday I went to the funeral of my dear mate Bob’s brother Jeff. We all went to Kapunda High with Jeff. He’d passed away too soon. He left a young wife and two daughters. He was 48.


The service was in Gawler and closed when the casket was draped with a Hawthorn footy club flag and their team song was played on a loop. Training as a junior with Central District he’d idolised Johnny Platten.


Jeff was laid to rest in the church cemetery where a couple decades’ prior he’d married a local girl. Atop this hill just outside of Saddleworth, the wind roared in from the north in that menacing, apocalyptic way, as the temperature screamed into the hundreds. Fahrenheit, as always, seems more appropriate for these plaintive occasions.


In the interim we called into the Gilbert Valley pub. It’s one of those places that has the take-away drinks fridges in the bar itself. Puggy and I had a quick pint of Session Ale. In a corner below the tele two chaps wearing farming equipment hats were slumped. For some reason the screen was showing an old movie, and not the cricket. They were drinking West End Draught cans.



There was a reception at the bowls club. While the party pies, sausage rolls and scones were all in attendance the sandwiches, of course, were uniformly excellent. For the first time in ten years I saw Gert, a girl I went to school with, and her husband Kempy, against whom I’d played footy and cricket. Again, I was reminded of the indissoluble bonds of school and growing up. On a day of mixed emotions this was a lovely moment.


Mid-afternoon our convoy of two conveyances set forth towards Marrabel and its singular pub. I reckon I’d last been inside in 1986, and as near as I could tell all was as I’d left it. Most of us opted for a West End from the keg, largely on account of it being the only draught option. It may have been the same keg.



Marrabel is a town known for its eponymous rodeo, and so we searched the pub wall photos for Kapunda’s champion bull rider and colourful identity, the late Les Cowan. One of the Hayward brothers and I reckon we spotted him clinging to a vertical beast, frozen dynamically, but waiting for the eight-second horn. However, the memorabilia had no caption so we couldn’t be certain.


Among the flow of cricket stories, both recent and antediluvian, we then paused to toast Jeff, while Chris also hoped that 2019 could be funeral-free.



We pushed on through Hamilton where there are four churches and a now vacant shop. I wonder how many kids live there today and go to Kapunda High. There was once a dedicated school bus. The earth is desperately brown and scorched.


As always it is a treat to call into the Allendale pub. It is cosy, welcoming and inn-like in its charisma. Happily, Greenock Creek ales are on tap. Indeed, two of the four offerings are from our old school mate Chris Higgins and his thriving micro-brewery. A trip home, even amid awful circumstances such as these evoke much, both upright and uneasy.



It was time to continue our cricket reminisces. Of course, we spoke of the Lyndoch Cricket Club which at tea breaks provided the most gentlemanly afternoon tea, all scones and egg sandwiches and pleasant conversation.


First experiencing this as an eighteen-year-old- the day Wocko took a hat trick – made a mark on my young self. Of course, once this culinary interlude concluded and the locals again stepped across the white line psychopathic hostilities resumed. Both accompanying cousins, Froggy and Puggy nodded.


I then dragged out the chestnut concerning Rodney Hogg and his debut appearance at Mildura’s Willowfest. Handed the ball the recently retired Australian quick heard from the boundary, “Bowler’s name?” The captain answered only to hear, “One ‘g’ or two?”



Finally, we adjourned to Kapunda’s Prince of Wales. It was the natural conclusion to our day. Although only six in physical number our party expanded courtesy of the anecdotes. Froggy and Hayward the Elder had a moment of faux disappointment over some confusion among the beverage orders.


Night was gathering when we then heard of the night at the Mickans when Paul E. White, having slayed the brothers in poker, starting counting the cash. One of the brothers Mickan admonished him saying, “You know it’s not etiquette to count your money while still at the table.” His voice rising its customary couple octaves, Whitey retorted, “I’m not counting my money d**khead, I’m counting yours!”


And so homewards.


The good that comes of funerals is community and connection and the silent vows we take from these to live well, to stride with purpose and to take care of each other.


It is how we can honour the deceased and ourselves.


Vale Jeff.


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. craig dodson says

    Really enjoyed the read Mickey. Sometimes it is not until we stop and have a few ales with mates to look back over time do we realise how much fun we have had along the way. Condolences on the loss.

  2. Condolences to you and your mates Mickey. The place names made me realise that the mid North is a little pocket of SA that I have never traversed. Kapunda trots back in the day, but none of the other names you mentioned. All the pubs on the way up to Clare, but this is a little east of there. All the pubs in the Barossa and along the Murray and on the way to Renmark – but you are a little north of there.
    Can you please add the itinerary to your Pub Crawl agenda for up Croweater completists.
    Your conclusion is very apt. “Community and connection” is the glue that holds us together. As much as individuals as in a community. Loneliness, isolation and fear are killers – and at the core of mental illness and addiction that no psychiatrist or anti-depressant will ever fix. Keep on keeping on and thanks for sharing.

  3. As always, a wonderful read, old mate.
    Vale, Jeff.

    I swear that next time I am in South Australia, I shall not leave without enjoying a beer at a pub with you somewhere…

  4. G’day Mickey,

    Sorry to hear the loss of Jeff. My consolation goes towards you, Bob and Jeff’s family.

    It’s good to have home away home where people can talk about the old times, sports and etc. As human beings, we all need connections, don’t we?

    We need time to leave smartphones and engage in conversation, I really think.



  5. Mark Duffett says

    It’s not often that a tale of this many pubs can be called sobering. As a bloke exactly the same age who probably played footy against Jeff while wearing the big V of the Riverton-Saddleworth Hawks, this piece is melancholically resonant on a number of levels. My former piano teacher Mrs Tralaggan hailed from Hamilton and once showed us inside the church with the stupendously outsized pipe organ there. Can’t remember which denomination. She was another who passed away far too early.

  6. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    I’m a bit like PB re my paucity of experience in this area, despite its links to the Schwerdt family history. Thanks for bringing it to life Mickey.

  7. Thoughts are with you and the crew Mickey.

    That region is populated by many small churches of numerous denominations – many of them Lutheran. The pipe organs and old pedal organs are so evocative. Turning up late and hearing a hymn making its way across the churchyard and cemetery and then into the paddocks is a powerful memory.


  8. Lovely piece MR, notwithstanding the sadness of losing a friend. And so young. The counterbalance of such a sad day into the meandering jouney you and your mates took is really evocative. As others have noted, community is the thing. Cheers

  9. Thanks to everybody for reading and commenting. As a number of you mentioned connection and community are vital, and this site provides much of both. It generates significant good.

    I alerted my friend Bob to the comments and he enjoyed them. Thanks again.

  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Mickey, condolences for the loss of your friend.
    Love your journey through the pubs as you no doubt celebrated Jeff’s journey.
    Community and connection. As there is here on The Footy Almanac.

  11. Thanks Luke. Appreciate your comment. To be confirmed but will lock in an Almanac lunch for next footy season. Hope you’ll front.

    PS- keep it quiet but a few old mates and I are likely to soon return, after a significant hiatus, to our boyhood Kapunda cricket club. Industrial ice baths on order.

    Yes to connection and community.

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