Mark McKay’s On Tap is a collection of anecdotes about Australian pubs. If someone famous⎯an actor, politician, author or gangster⎯has visited an Australian pub, McKay provides an entertaining anecdote. He’s also good at pub history, addressing such questions as what’s the oldest Australian pub (probably the Woolpack Hotel in Parramatta, a Sydney suburb) and what’s the silliest pub name (a toss-up among the Dead Rat, the Circular Saw, and the Revolving Battery).
My favorite chapter concerns stories about animals. Apparently, there have been scores of publicans’ pets that loved free beer. Publican Alec Mudie of the Federal Hotel in Bemboka, New South Wales, had trained a crow that delighted in drinking the dregs from glasses. Purportedly, the crow once said, “Put me to bed, Alec, I’m as drunk as an owl,” when he had too much brew. Mudie also trained the crow to heckle politicians.
A dog at the Swan Hotel in Richmond, Victoria, not only had his own bar stool, but would bite anyone who sat on his preferred spot. The dog, according to McKay, would routinely celebrate a victory of the Richmond football club by drinking until he passed out.
Customers, McKay recalls, have on occasion used animals to avoid paying for drinks. In the 1920s, one Jack Clancy would show up at the Wyalong Hotel in New South Wales with a bag of snakes, which he would threaten to release if he didn’t get free beer. This apparently worked more than once.