Pub Review: The Lighthouse Wharf, Port Adelaide

Lighthouses have significant symbolic power as they represent saving innocent lives, but also those lost to the infinite power of waves. Tributes to consuming love and optimistic simplicity, lighthouses are also emblematic of aspirational elegance.

 

Besides, who hasn’t entertained the thought of a month in one, just with the person of your dreams?

 

According to them internets Australia’s lighthouses are variously classified as: active, deactivated, destroyed, automated, solar-powered, survived cyclone Tracy, abandoned, struck by lightning, and my favourite, kerosene-driven. Is kerosene still available? I hope so, and might later pop down my local servo with a rusty tin and get some, just to keep in my shed.

 

With its suggestions of whale-boned corsetry Lady Bay Lower Lighthouse in Victoria is an evocative example while Malcolm Point on Lake Alexandrina features the country’s only inland lighthouse built to support River Murray trade. I can picture Sigrid Thornton frowning beneath its towering majesty in a big frock and bonnet. It was turned off in 1931.

 

South Australia has 27 lighthouses and there’s one on the Port River following its relocation in 1986. Red and white, cast iron skeletal and hexagonal, it stands 82 feet tall and is adjacent to the Lighthouse Wharf Hotel.

 

Drifting in around 5 bells as part of my now annual visit to this part of town I’m impressed by the light and breeze and welcoming mis en scene, all exposed brickwork and craft beer taps. I mention Greg Phillips the former publican, Port Magpie powerhouse and sire of Erin Phillips, herself an icon, but the bar staff reply

 

“I’m only new.”
“Check with Nick. I’ve only been here a month.”
“Greg who?”

 

Waiting for my $5 happy hour pint of Coopers Pale Ale (delicious and inexpensive) I note a poster advertising the pub’s Trivia Quiz Nights. I can only conclude that these include questions like

 

What is the most common form of trivia?
Did Shakespeare use the word trivia in any of his comedies?
What are the top five topics for trivia in Moldova?
Should pubs avoid tautology in their marketing and have either trivia nights or quiz nights?

 

Old mate Bob and his lad Jack join me out the front and we take in the Customs House, sailing ships and knots of punters (maritime metaphors are compulsory down here) who are also in their Thursday, Adelaide Test eve, chirpy cups. Jack has a Coke and a bag of chips, which is surely all that an eight-year-old needs after basketball training and with a mere month until Christmas.

 

Nautical suburbs are inescapably compelling and Port Adelaide, with its tangle of narrow streets and grand architecture, is wonderful. However, its promised rejuvenation seems a way off. Bob and I agree that a key strategy must be to increase the local population with affordable housing.

 

The Hilltop Hoods are playing in the background and urging us in myriad ways, to myriad unforeseen destinations. We have another beer.

 

Lighthouses feature in music too. British prog-rock pioneers Van der Graaf Generator have a song in their sludgy catalogue called, “A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers,” a ten-part, 23-minute concept piece ruminating on the complexities of lighthouse keeping, what with all those storms and ships smashing upon jagged rocks and sailors perishing. But it’s not blasting over the speakers in this beer garden today.

 

However, I prefer Sydney troubadour Josh Pyke’s paean to these beacons called, rather unconfusingly, “The Lighthouse Song.” It’s about the beauty of binary and the need to flee a crushing planet.

 

So we are moving to a lighthouse, you and I
While seas drown sailors, we’ll be locked up safe and dry
And though our doors may knock and rattle in the wind
I’ll just hold you tight and we’ll not let those fuckers in

 

We vow to return soon. There’s much left to experience such as a meal hopefully not featuring a schnitzel inexcusably crushing its desperate bed of hot chips; live music, and that most potent symbol of great hostelry, the giant connect four game in the beer garden.

 

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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

Comments

  1. Mark 'Swish' Schwerdt says

    About 50 years ago, my family stayed on Troubridge Shoal for a weekend, when it had a functioning lighthouse, as we knew the family that lived there and operated the lighthouse. I think we went up the top, but I don’t remember much else apart from the fact that the shoal itself was very small.

    Not every corner down the Port has a pub anymore. Did yours have fading photos of Reg Beaufoy and Kevin Salmon or had they updated to Carl Fragomeni and Paul Northeast?

  2. Mark Duffett says

    When it comes to lighthouse lyrics, Bill Oddie’s Song of the Jolly Rock Lighthouse will never be bettered.

    Never felt so old as when reading of the non-recognition of Greg Phillips in the heart of the Port, though.

  3. Swish, in the fifties my maternal grandparents and Uncle Doug live at Edithburgh on Yorke Peninsula. Grandpa and Doug often worked either on the jetty or inside the visiting ketches loading bags of barley. One day whilst busily stacking the bags in the ketch’s hold they suddenly realised they were moving. A quick look upstairs revealed they were at sea. Fortunately they were close to the Troubridge lighthouse where they were deposited until a launch came out to collect them.

    One of the first things they did after reaching ashore was to head to the Family Hotel for a few beers.

  4. Swish – a quick look at google tells me that the Troubridge lighthouse remains a rental property. That would be great. You’re right about empty pubs down the Port- the Colac and the Port Dock (had its own brewery) are but two notable casualties. The Lighthouse Wharf had no football photos or memorabilia that I saw. I suspect it now necessarily aims at a wider demographic.

    Mark- I found Bill Oddie on Julia Zemiro’s show last Wednesday a particularly haunted figure. I listened to the Van der Graaf Generator 23 minute song on lighthouse keepers. It was no Tales from Topographic Oceans or Aqualung.

    Fisho – I imagine these sort of mishaps happened more often than they should’ve. Edithburgh has a lovely nine hole golf course too.

    Thanks.

  5. “Besides, who hasn’t entertained the thought of a month in one, just with the person of your dreams?”

    Correct Mickey. I certainly have.

  6. Another delightful review, Mickey. Keep em coming.
    I have driven past that very pub, but not darkened its doorway. I also spied the lighthouse across the road and wondered about its history.

    Having grown up in the old sea port of Williamstown, I can confirm that we had our own lighthouse, but it was controversially destroyed in 1976 after being hit by a ship. Old Williamstown people are still unhappy about the circumstances.
    https://lighthouses.org.au/vic/point-gellibrand-pile-light/

    One of my sons went to primary school with a girl named Karen Van Der Graaf. I told my son that if he put his hands on her arm, his hair would stand on end. Alas, he had no idea what I was talking about

  7. Thanks Someone. Lovely idea.

    There’s a certain black humour at play when a ship demolishes a lighthouse, Smokie. I hope Karen is now working in an allied industry. Thanks for that.

  8. Luke Reynolds says

    You had me at $5 Coopers Pale pints. Wow.

    Be careful hanging around that part of town Mickey.

  9. Thanks Luke. Happily, I was heading south on Tapleys Hill Road well before curfew. However, put it on your list!

  10. Mickey I would have thought not knowing re the Phillips family down the Port was a execution offence

  11. I found it unfathomable Rulebook. I blinked and rubbed my eyes. Thought I must’ve been in the Norwood pub!

  12. Would that have been the BATH HOTEL Mickey?

  13. Any number of boozers in 5067 Fisho. I can’t imagine alighting at the Colonist and finding the innkeeper dumbstruck by the mention of G. McIntosh.

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