The Bloke That Ran The Boozer At Shay Gap

It’s a bit of a long story, how I got to Shay Gap and I won’t bore you with it here, I’ll bore you some other time; some other blog.  For now I’ll keep it brief.

The  man that I’d worked for and who’d taught me how to run a pub had to retire; his ticker wasn’t the best and the publicans life was killing him.

I stayed on at his hotel in Waroona down Bunbury way in Western  Australia, and showed the new licensee the ropes and got him acquainted with the locals, it was a one pub town, no clubs so it was the town centre and meeting place. Once the new bloke had settled in I decided it was time to move on. This is way back in 1973, forty years ago. How time flies! 😦

An ad for a bar manager in the “West” (the only morning newspaper in Perth) caught my eye. It was for an experienced manager to take over the ‘Wet Canteen’ of a mining town up in the Pilbara.

All I knew was that the Pilbara was way, way, up north but why not?

So I rang Poone Bros., these were the people that ran the mining towns in the early iron ore boom times, and went up to Perth and had a chat with their ‘Personnel Officer’ back in the good ol’ days when the term “Human Resource Manager”  hadn’t forced its way into the language. I’m a person not a resource!

We had a bit of a chat I told him what I’d been doing and he told me what the job entailed then added that I’d probably know more about it than he did anyway so when could I start.  I told him I was ready to go in a couple of days.

I called into Poone’s a couple of days later picked up my papers and plane tickets and headed out the next day for Shay Gap way up there on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert about 70-80kms north of Marble Bar, the hottest town in Australia, and one of the hottest in the world.

Nearly 1600 kilometres north to Port Hedland, the sea port for the iron ore shipments, then inland I think it was on a Cessna 421, (I recall it was a small twin engine 8 seater) for the 180-190km to “Shay”.

Wow! Here I was some 1800km from civilization miles from anywhere stuck in the middle of a desert. What the hell had I let myself in for?

A Toyota Land Cruiser was there to take me into the township, so I collected my gear said cheers to the pilot and off we went in the Cruiser in the searing heat, with the air-conditioning full on, i.e. we had all the vehicle windows down.

I was greeted by the Shay Gap Township Manager, another Poone’s man, Poone’s ran everything except the Police, (one sergeant), bank (one bank, the ANZ) and post office, which in those days was run by the government.

He gave me a complete run down on the town then took me to my accommodation. It was literally out of this world. Shay Gap was truly a space age town.

This town was unique, in the fullest sense of the world. There’s never been a town like this before or since. It was designed by the Perth Architect, Lawrence Howroyd, who studied the way the Arabs lived and survived in the searing heat and winds of the desert and came up with the concept that became Shay Gap.

The buildings were all connected to one huge air-conditioning system pretty much in the centre of town (it wasn’t a very big town, more on this later), there were no brick or timber buildings, every house, every building was moulded, don’t ask me what the material was it looked like moulded fibre glass or the material used  to make surf boards; it had that look about it; all windows were double glazed and moulded in as well. The buildings were pretty much airtight once the doors were closed.

My accommodation consisted of a quarter of an hexagon building. Each unit  was self-contained except there were no cooking facilities and they were for single male staff /managers.

We didn’t need cooking facilities as all our meals were provided in the staff dining room. We did have one building set aside for recreation and meeting purposes where it was possible to make a cup of tea/coffee, toast a bit of bread everything we needed including a laundry. No laundry facilities we were responsible for doing our own.

But these buildings were fascinating; my unit, everything inside was moulded the wardrobes cupboards writing desk all seamless and moulded and spotless. Straight out of “Star Trek” except “S.T” hadn’t been thought of back then.

The bathroom minus a bath was moulded except for the lavatory, I’m sure if Mr. Howroyd had been able to mould that too, he would have done so.

Speaking of lavatories the sewerage system was a new style vacuum system that used  plastic type pipes, when the lavatory was flushed there’d be one huge ‘whooshing’ sound as about a cup of water flushed the pan and sent the pans contents into oblivion. (I was reliably informed by the man who should know that at the end of each day the amount of effluence that came out of the pipes was not enough to fill a milk bottle. Then again he could have been having me on I suppose).

There was three other types of accommodation in town. The buildings for the larger 3 bedroom family homes, which were like two giant moulded shoeboxes the top one set at 90° , a smaller one storey moulded shoebox probably one bedroom and the single men’s quarters, which resembled a glorified moulded jail block.

Probably a jail cell would have had more room than the single men’s cell, they were very basic. A bed a cupboard/wardrobe small table and chair and that was about all. Still the men worked twelve on / twelve off seven days a week alternating between day and night shift every fortnight; they were really just a sleeping room.

The picture I’m attaching will give you some idea of the buildings, you can see the double storey cell block, the double decker 90° houses, you  can see the larger amenities blocks which housed the store and post office, the ‘Club’ and the mess and ‘Wet’ canteen. All in all it looks very bleak, but it wasn’t and I shall tell you more about “Shay” in the coming days and or weeks; I came to love this place and the people that made it and made me “The Bloke That Ran The Boozer At Shay Gap’; I was once asked by an old chum to write a book entitled just that!

A task beyond me.

 Shay Gap 02Shay Gap

33 thoughts on “The Bloke That Ran The Boozer At Shay Gap

  1. yep, just as I remember it, great place.

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  2. Well Anon I thank you for your comment, sorry I couldn’t acknowledge you sooner but I changed my ISP and I’ve been off cyberspace for some time and am still trying to catch up. Thank you for your interest.

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  3. Hi there, I am looking at possibly doing a story on Shay Gap – kind of like a then and now piece. I realise that there is pretty much nothing there now, but there are lots of photos and videos floating around online. I want to get in touch with an ex-local to find out more info about what it was like living there and to also discuss the logistics of getting a crew out there. I came across this blog and would love to have a chat. Do you have an email I can contact you on?

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    1. Hello Cass, I’m usually a bit slow in replying, as you can imagine if I was at Shay in the early days of the 70’s then I’m no spring chickeh now. I do’t have any photos of Shay, at that time I wasn’t much interested in photography. there are several posts on my site regarding Shay, I did perhaps 4 or 5 maybe more. Have you checked on those I assume that they are still available.

      You can write me at hotmail.com using the same silly fun name lordbeariofbow@hotmail.com and I shall certainly answer your mail.

      Thank you for taking the time to contact me and comment.

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  4. Hi there, I’m not sure if my last comment went through. Just wanting to have a chat about Shay Gap. Cheers

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    1. I’ve just checked the site and there are several posts that may answer all your questions just scroll down from the main page to the search and enter the name Shay Gap and they will pop up.

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  5. Thanks for getting back to me. I’ll have a look for the other posts now and will email you shortly.

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  6. Hope they are of some use to you XD

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  7. Worked at the gap in 1977 it was brilliant ,made great friends, I worked on the face on the p&h 1900 shovel ,played cricket for b shift the bludgers ,what a team and what a fantastic bunch of lads. The hole site was just designed so great,with all its high falcillaties,it was like a moon base,great memories have loads of photos of the mine the site and friends ,iam derek considine mine number 9144

    Liked by 1 person

    1. During my time there the Shah of Persia visited. He had plans for building many villages in Persia/ Iran, built exactly as Shay was; but then the religious fanatics gave him the boot and the rest as they say is history.
      Thanks for dropping by Derek, sorry I missed you at Shay. Poon Bros sent me to Gove to try sort that dump out. I chucked it after one day>

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  8. From the sound of the place, it was rather like living on Mars. That boozer was REALLY needed!

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    1. Actually it was the most brilliant place I’ve ever lived. It must have been 1973/74 the Shah of Persia,/Iran
      Mohammad Reza Pahlavi paid a ‘secret visit’; he had heard how this town had been designed especially for the desert’ he was quite taken with it and supposedly had plans to build similar towns throughout the desolate regions of Persia; and we all know what happened to him.
      The Boozer was and my word was law,The one and only policeman/sergeant didn’t like me very well.
      I often get emails from old Shay Gap people who’ve found my stories on my site, there are a few of them, and they like to reminisce. That’s what one gets if they stick their email address on their website

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      1. It is hard to carry out ambitious plans after being kicked out. Wonder why the fuzz didn’t like you?
        I can imagine fond reminiscences flowing; you must admit they do fill a Gap!

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  9. Reblogged this on LordBeariOfBow and commented:

    This was posted the same day as the last one 🙂
    The day before Guy Fawkes Day 2013

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  10. “The Bloke That Ran The Boozer At Shay Gap” sounds like a book title, a book about a very colorful place. The Shah of Persia! Wow, he traveled all that way, to a little place like that? Amazing.

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    1. It is/was the most amazing place I’ve ever loved PT, I’ve lived in London, Melbourne, Perth, and visited many big cities but there’s never been a place comparable to ‘Shay”. On some of my later posts there were comments from some that lived there too, and they feel the same.
      Yes indeed the Shah heard about this town and paid it a visit. How much better the people of Iran would be today had they have kept him

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  11. What an amazing experience

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    1. One of many Derrick, I’m going to reblog a few more, getting lazy a bit like Andrew

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Hey M’Lord. I bet you thought I’d dropped you off my favourites list – as if. Been ultra, ultra busy and due to a last minute cancellation tonight I found myself with a free hour to skim through all your posts this year. You HAVE been busy. I was visiting with friends these last two days and discovered they were scheduled to swap to NBN, and guess what? It switched over like a dream. Glad I was there with them as I had so much experience from ours a couple of years ago that took ten years off my life. Perhaps there is hope on the horizon.
    I remember you writing about Shay Gap a while back. We are in for an interesting story.

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    1. It was way back in 2013 Gwen I’m doing an Andrew, reblogging cos I’m lazy 😈
      My connection is buzzing along quite well at the moment, and I’ve stopped complaining and whining.
      Ive checked your site regularly to see what you been doing and nothing since December, so I thought you were tied up with your next book. and didnt want to distract you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I wish I was writing! But no, I just keep prioritising other projects. Off to a high school reunion in Bellingen in a few days, and that will lead in to a road trip, so I guess I will at least blog about that.

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  13. Fascinating! Today we (over here) could use this kind of thinking about construction. I love the reference to Star Trek before Star Trek. I always thought the good ship was a creative masterpiece. What an adventure to live in Shay Gap! Thanks, Brian, for re-posting it. Your life was/is way too interesting! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m going through some old stuff and thought I’d give it a re-run as it missed out on readers the first time around.Theres a few more posts on Shay that i’m going to re blog, then I might write a few new ones.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. What an interesting and fascinating place to live and work. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes indeed, I consider myself very fortunate indeed to have had that experience, our ABC (think BBC) came whilst I was there and filmed a doco for TV, we did get to see it up there, I did get into it, but not in my Wet, they never came and filmed there, which is a small story in itself, that I never got around to writing. There are a few more that I could write and I probably will but not for this site, just for my Ruby & Poppy May

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I see you’ve picked up the Australian habit of shortening words too! It never caught on much here, despite the one time popularity of ‘Neighbours’. Except for shortening the word university to Uni and that came from Neighbours too.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I don’t think I’ve entirely caught up on reading your posts. I was so far behind I’ve had to skip some posts from others, but I want to read each one of yours.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks Sue, I shall post a couple more see how they go 🙂

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  15. Derek Considine 27/04/2019 — 00:49

    Just read your life at the gap ,i worked there in 1977 , what a brilliant place to work, i was a shovel oiler on the 1900b shovel,i met great friends from all over the world,i was on (b ) shift,and played cricket for the bludgers,lost contact with great mates have magic memories of the “gap”

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello Derek and welcome.
      You can tell me perhaps, how was “My Wet’ in 1977? Was it still running well as I left it in ’74 when I was transferred to Gove/Nhulumby?
      I’m well in my 80’s now as you can imagine and still have the fondest memories of Shay, it was unique in the true sense of the word.

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  16. I called in to Shay Gap to see younger bro, Oct ’78 while hitching round Oz
    Sydney, Cairns, Alice, Darwin, Broome etc..stayed 7 months. went back to NZ .. I’ll never forget the place..one adventure after another..

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    1. It must have been nearing it’s end then Rob

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