Pub Review: Sir John Franklin, Kapunda

Noted navy man and Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin contributes his name to this Kapunda boozer which is neither especially naval nor Arctic given the town’s dusty location in the driest state in the driest continent. I doubt this old mucker ever enjoyed a Cooper Sparkling Ale. But let’s not quibble over these minor details.


Franklin had a distinguished career before he untimely extinguished in remote Canada from starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning, and scurvy. And, I suspect, from an overly long and grim death certificate.


This should have come as no surprise to him given that his 1819 expedition ended with most of his party expiring following unpleasant cannibalism, or a shoddy diet of lichen and their own footwear. This gained Franklin the nickname of, “the man who ate his boots” which must have been somewhat embarrassing for him at barbeques and footy club progressive dinners.


Happily, neither fellow diners nor Blundstones are on the menu today at this grand old pub. Although on a recent post-cricket visit (I was probably there long enough to have been described for tax purposes as a lodger) I chose not to dine (I was afraid of getting parmigiana on my new cricket whites) while fellow guests Matt Ryan and Fergie Higgins spoke well of the meals and, as grandma would have liked, left nothing on their plates.


To provide some entirely unnecessary, indulgent context the balcony of the Sir John Franklin was the first place I saw and heard that most distinctive 1980’s artefact: the ghetto blaster. A ridiculously enormous silver affair, it was owned by one of the Hutton brothers, whose father George was the publican when I was in high school.


As various HQ Holdens and Valiants warbled up and down the Main Street we supplied the soundtrack which, of course, was the masterful 1980 compilation cassette Full Boar. My affections were torn between Mi Sex and their tune, “Computer Games” and Rupert Holmes’ “Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”. I’m still not into yoga and I have half a brain.


The front bar features Sky Channel and a TAB, both of which were splendidly embraced on our recent visit by esteemed former local Chris Hayward while he waited patiently for his similarly veteran-statused cricket colleagues. Of course, his investments were accompanied by a schooner of West End Draught, although tragically this didn’t enhance his returns.


I’m thrilled to report that this space within the pub is more than adequate for the compulsory spoofy tournament, or two. The bar stools are ergonomically perfect for this, and for competitors who use the Paul White stand as you play technique, the carpet is forgiving and offers suitable support for those tense moments when you’re in a final against Goose Mickan and you’re holding none, but have called five.


Built in 1849, the pub has a social club and my research staff tells me that among the office-bearers are former Kapunda Football Club trainer Peter Wenke (no-one ran the magic towel out to the half-back flank with more grace) who in a surprise to your correspondent, was in this very bar late Saturday morning. I continue to love the notion of the pub social club that affords its members a sense of ownership and decidedly human investment. But that’s enough reflection upon the role of social capital in contemporary Australian watering-holes.


Finally, on a personal note I must mention the superb bag-minding service run by the pub. If, like me, you left a small Auskick backpack (borrowed from your son Max) by the bar prior to rambling home late Saturday evening to the Clare Road digs of your mate Woodsy, then the most excellent staff will take care of it until you collect it, sheepishly, Sunday morning. My cricketing colleague Stef can also vouch for this wonderful facility.


So, next time you’re in Kapunda, there’s much to enjoy in my favourite pub named for a British explorer who perished in Canada from a greedy, rather excessive mix of starvation, hypothermia, tuberculosis, lead poisoning and scurvy.


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About Mickey Randall

No, instead I get out my Volleys, each with the inescapable hole, just by the little toe. What if someone bought a pair of Volleys and they didn’t develop these holes? The absence of holes would itself make a psychological hole.


  1. Mark Duffett says

    Not to mention Sir John’s stint as Governor of Van Diemen’s Land. I wonder if there was a Tasmanian connection with the establishment of the pub.

  2. Good call Mickey. Franklin and his wife gets a working over from Michael Palin in his book about the Erebus . Did all right in Antartica but looking for the north west passage had a Burke and Wills feel about it

  3. Mark- good question. I’ll investigate. I know I’ve made light of the man, but find him intriguing. As one who grew up in the area I’m guessing you may have ducked into this pub at some point.

    Nank- yes, the bravery and rich imaginations of these men is remarkable. They must’ve had extraordinary curiosity.

    Thanks chaps.

  4. Not usually a drinker, after watching the Crows perform to last season’s standard, I’m tempted to drown my sorrows at the Kapunda pub. Incidentally, my grandfather was a Kapunda lad. Can’t make up my mind to put the TV back on..

  5. Thanks Fisho. After watching that I can only recall the words of Bluto in the film Animal House: My advice to you is start drinking heavily.

    Let’s look to next week.

  6. Rick Kane says

    Great match report MR. I find on reading your pub stories that I want to visit said watering hole asap and get to know the locals. Surely you’re writing a film script or TV show about these places and going ons! If only for some of the character’s names. We all have a forgotten bag story and isn’t it a measure of the establishments we frequent. Good friend left his bag on a stool out the back of the old Punters Club in Brunswick St. Went back the next day and retrieved it. Won’t mention the Crows, I’m too much of a gentleman to drive that nail in.

  7. Earl O'Neill says

    Ghetto blasters, I bought one duty free in Fiji when I was 16, it lasted for years. Memorable feature being stereo mics that recorded many a rehearsal with surprisingly decent sound quality. Lost all my cassettes in the last house move.
    When Bill ever so politely suggested I move out of the house we shared in Surry Hills – 1991, I had many a guest stay the night but leaving the mull bowl in the loungeroom for his cats to get stuck into was a deal breaker – I left it with him. Deck was dead but it still sounded great.

  8. Thanks Rick. I do love the pub life. Be good to see you in the NFA during the season. Appreciate you not mentioning the footy. Gee, talk about bogey teams.

    Earl- I’m keen to get myself a turntable. Can you believe I don’t own one? Might have to track down a ghetto blaster as well. Surely, I could find one somewhere! I bet Goldstar made a version that sounded like it was playing underwater.

  9. I’m not one for reality tv, but I reckon I would watch a weekly show featuring Mickey eating and drinking and playing spoofy in pubs across South Australia.

  10. Thanks Smokie. Let the record show that I’d be happy to do this interstate and internationally too, if required!

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