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Book review

Here’s Cheers: a pictorial history of hotels, taverns and inns in Hobart.
by C J Dennison
272pp large format paperback. Illustrated, colour and black & white
Published by Hobart City Council
ISBN 978-0-9750909-6-1

cheers cover

Hobart was once one of the toughest towns on earth. In the high days of whaling and sealing, you took your life in your hands if you strayed into many a city or waterfront pub.

British colonists were noted for their formidable capacity for grog, both sly and legitimate, and at one time the town boasted one pub for every 16 houses — there was a drinking establishment on just about every corner.

Part of this can be explained by a large transitory population of sailors, whalers and adventurers in a port that, despite its remotest, was one of the world’s busiest for many decades. Scores of hard-headed and necessarily hard-fisted publicans were always ready to help a sailor part himself from months — and sometimes years — of wages hard-earned before the mast.

But the real reason for the proliferation of pubs was social. Housing was primitive and often overcrowded; home offered little in the way of amusement or space to relax and so the pub functioned as the people’s loungeroom, providing warmth, cheer, free entertainment and a respite from cramped living quarters, noisy children and nagging spouses.

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