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Some years ago I worked in a large private organisation that was engaged in facility management. It was a very happy workplace and we still have an annual get together like a bunch of old schoolboys.

There were about 40 of us in the management echelon and we did many trips into the Outback, then when Australia had been fully covered we did a trip down Route 66 in America and another one to Cuba.

We formed ourselves into a little organisation called The Drinking Man’s Travel Company.

We had a magnificent mobile kitchen that catered for 40 people with cooking and freezer facilities built in. We christened it The Outback Hilton. Our trips through The Outback usually consisted of 6-8 4X4 wheel vehicles with trailers in tow pulling The Outback Hilton, one to carry the beer and empties on return and another with mechanical repair gear such as welders. Our numbers included blokes who were capable of doing any mechanical repair work that was thrown at them. We were always a very well equipped expedition wherever we went.

The Leyland Brothers reunited a few years ago to do this. Enjoy!

When you get a bunch of, say, 30 blokes going as a group and having to stump up $1,000 or so there was a sufficiently large amount of money to be accounted for and to formalise our group meant that we could open a bank account and record what and how the money was spent. If $1,000 per head was not enough we all tipped in our proportion to cover the shortfall. If there was a surplus that carried over to the next trip. The $1,000 covered everything for the running of the vehicles, food and grog on the road. When we got to a town, such as Kalgoorlie, then everybody paid their own way. It was a very good arrangement and there were never any disputes about money. If the grog ran out, which happened once, it was “Aw Shit” and you paid your own way from then on because we were on the home run by that stage. On one trip we ran out of beer and the only available supply was Courage. Again it was “Aw Shit’ but the consumption of beer fell markedly until we got to somewhere civilised.

One of our regular sojourns was to the St. Patrick’s Day races at Broken Hill. It was traditionally held over a long weekend to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day and, like the Birdsville races, attracted a big crowd from all over the Outback and beyond.

Broken Hill The Shed crowd

Broken Hill St Patrick's Day - The Shed

On these trips we did not bring the Outback Hilton. We stayed at the Youth Hostels facility at Silverton, a former big mining town but now a ghost town with a population of 9 about 25kms west of Broken Hill. The Youth Hostels facility was the former court complex complete with prison cells and is still in sound condition and available to those who are prepared to “rough it”. Better than camping out because you didn’t have to erect a tent.

The other building of significance at Silverton is the Silverton Pub. A typical establishment akin to the one at Birdsville.


The races happened over two days. On the Saturday there were the horse races and we all went to the races of course. There was always a big tent put up by the West End Brewery from Adelaide. One year the brewery ambassador was none other than Rod Marsh, the famous wicket-keeper for Australia. We had a great time and, naturally all wanted to have their picture taken with Rod. A good bloke who more than once shouted the bar on behalf of West End.

For these events, and all trips, we had uniforms made to identify us as a group. We found that in some outback places the locals were prone to start trouble for visiting blokes from “down south” but when we had our uniforms and the locals could see a mob of 30 or more wearing them we never had any trouble at all. Two places where we had trouble brewing was Halls Creek and Borroloola and in neither place was it caused by aboriginals.

Race day was a real hoot even if you weren’t betting. Some of us just went along for the occasion even if we were not regular race fans. I was one of these but lucky enough to win more often than I lost.

Sunday was the big day and, traditionally, everybody migrated to Silverton which meant the Silverton Pub. They came out from Broken Hill by the bus load. On the day it was estimated that the population grew to 3,000 but who could tell? It could have been 1,000 or 10,000 for all I knew. There were no cops and the crowd was always well behaved, notwithstanding that many were dead drunk by the end of the day. I reckon that the pub made its profit for the whole year from that day.

Sadly, the NSW Racing Commission changed the calendar for NSW race meetings and if a club did not comply they were excluded from the pot of gold created by the TAB so the traditional event came to an end as did our pilgrimages to Broken Hill.

Happily, the embargo did not last long and the tradition continues to this day but sad to say, The Drinking Mans Travel Company is no longer a participant. Age shall not weary them nor the years condemn so the saying goes but in our case it did not conform. Advancing years took the thrill out of camping out for creaking bones, some passed away and the organisation was bought out by a multinational for a very large sum. 

The Outback Hilton was sold and our excursions into the Outback and beyond came to an end. At 89 I, and those of us who are still around and meet annually are content to revive those happy memories of those wonderful trips we all made together into places were travellers going alone would not dare to go unless they were naïve or reckless. The Outback is a wonderful place but a dangerous place to the uninitiated.


The Birdsville Races were a highlight of our adventures. We made two attempts to get there. The first one failed when we got hemmed in by floods tryimng to cross the Simpson Desert of all places.

The second attempt was successful but the highlight was a couple of days before.

One of our mob said he always wanted to shoot a camel. Wild camels wandering free in ther outback are part of the scene.We were going past a paddock when we saw a mob of camels. Our member got his wish.

When we got to Birdsville the following day we went to the races as intended. One of the events was a camel race. At the start of the proceedings there was an announcement that the favourite had been scratched because it had been shot. Boy, did one bloke spend the rest of the day with his head pulled right in.

St. Patrick’s Day brings back these memories as they are experiences that I would never have even dreamed of without the comfort and comradeship of the group that we had.

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