THERE was a time in The Ashton’s history when it rose from the ashes – quite literally.
The historic Long Pocket pub was built almost 100 years ago, and has been the local watering hole of four generations of families in Abergowrie.
When the original bar that was constructed in 1926 burnt down in 1941, it was rebuilt within a year.
The iconic country pub was immortalised in verse by the great poet Dan Sheahan, whose song ‘The Ashton’ hangs on its wall.
But the boarded up Ashton of today is a stark contrast to the bustling community hub that it was when Sheahan drank there from the late 1920s through to the 70s.
In fact, the former local of the man who wrote the ‘Pub with no beer’ has been dubbed the ‘Pub with no bar’.
Having been closed by the Covid-enforced lockdown more than a year ago, its doors have failed to reopen.
The pub had been up for sale for some time before the global pandemic hit.
Recently a false rumour swept that it had been sold.
But the ‘For sale’ signs have only been removed as the property is now in the hands of a sole vendor, Ingham Real Estate (it was previously listed by a number of agents).
There is a fresh push to get The Ashton sold as a pub, but if that does not happen soon – it could be sold as a house.
Owner Doug Senior said: ‘The Ashton is still licenced and we’re still paying rates as a going concern.
‘So yes, it is still available for sale – and we want to keep it local.
‘We want someone to buy it and keep it as a hotel.
‘The downside is if they don’t, it could possibly turn into a house – and we don’t want to see that happen.’
‘It could possibly turn into a house – and we don’t want to see that happen.’Owner Doug Senior
The picturesque pub is situated in the lush Herbert River Valley, surrounded by mountains and regulars who are pining after the only hotel within 40 km of Abergowrie, the inland valley community that is home to around 500 people.
It was previously listed for sale at $350,000 and now expressions of interest are being invited by Mark Spina, of Ingham Real Estate.
Abergowrie can get cut-off in the wet season, when the Herbert River floods the bridge.
With The Ashton sitting just over the water in Longpocket, locals would take ‘tinnies’, or small boats, across the crocodile-inhabited river to stock up on their essentials – whatever they could get to oil their throats until the flood subsided.
For the first time in nine decades, that was not an option this year.
While other hotels reopened after the enforced Covid-lockdown, The Ashton has remained shut.
Doug said: ‘There are bigger hotels with bigger turn over, and from what I can understand, they can wear the fines.
‘They’ll go through the Covid restrictions, they’ll have people sitting alongside each other. They’re prepared to cop a fine if it happens.
‘If it doesn’t – they’re making good turn over.
‘We can’t do that.’
He added: ‘We would have had to get rid of every other chair in the bar. People can’t just wonder around like they used to, they’ve gotta stay there.
‘If someone else turns up, they’ve gotta sit outside.
‘I’d need extra staff, because they’ve gotta sit there. I’ve gotta go out, get their drinks, get their change. Go back to the bar while people are waiting.
‘You’ve got the cigarette area. We’ve got a dining area. We’d need more staff than what it’s worth.’
Doug caught the attention of media statewide when he attempted to make history by raffling the pub, with the support of Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto.
And despite reports to the contrary, the licensee says that could have happened if Covid had not hit.
He said: ‘It was all go until Covid started, because part of our package was we were going to sell packages of $60 for a meal and accommodation.
‘Covid stopped that – all those tickets would have been null and void.
‘I was pursuing it and Nick Dametto was kind enough to help me through parliament and that.
‘We think we could have got it through in the end, but we run out of time when Covid started.’Ashton owner Doug Senior on his attempt to make history by raffling the pub.
Kitrina Tomba (45) has been a local at the pub for 20 years.
She said: ‘The amount of history that pub has and how many years it’s been going – it shouldn’t be shut.
‘We’re gonna be stuffed now at flood time.
‘I’ve been going there for 20 years – or it would be 20 if it was open the last year.
‘I’d be devastated if it got turned into a house. It’s the only social thing we have to do out here.’
Fourth generation cane farmer Bryan Martin (38), whose great grandfather George ‘Digger’ Martin, a World War I hero, used to drink at the pub, said: ‘It’s pretty upsetting [seeing it shut].
‘My family have been going there for four generations.
‘The sad thing is we’ve got used to seeing it closed now.
‘It’s bad ay.’
According to Douglas R. Barrie’s ‘Panorama of Pubs from 1875-2017’, the name Ashton was thought to have been from Henry Stone’s property.
Stone selected 1,000 acres in 1869 and named his property Ashton. His land was between Ingham and Trebonne.
By the early 1930s Ingham had the largest immigration of Finnish settlement in Australia.
Many farms had been purchased by the Finns west of Ingham, between Trebonne and Abergowrie.
Eino Edvard was just one of these Finnish people.
He was the owner and licensee of The Ashton Hotel from 1932-36.
The pub became the area of sports in the days before television. Tennis and bocce’ courts were built and photos show evidence of a variety of athletic events, from running to jumping, and even gymkhana of horse jumping with rough log cross bars.
This charming valley bar has risen from the ashes once. Now The Ashton needs to rise from the ashes of the global health pandemic.
Will somebody save us from a ‘Pub with no bar’?
Anyone interested in saving The Ashton should call Mark Spina at Ingham Real Estate on 07 47765222 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The historical information about The Ashton is provided with the assistance of historian Dr. Bianka Vidonja Balanzategui.