My first encounter on the internet was with Paul Stevens. As we shared life experiences it became increasingly obvious we had ' met' on numerous occasions. At Surf City, in and around the Cross and also at Taylor Square's leatherwork shop, Frank's Cafe. We enjoyed many friends in common. Sadly Paul Has passed away, such a shock to me as I always thought we'd meet up one day. Paul had many interests first and formost he was a teacher, a leatherworker, a poet and a larrikin, part of Sydney Royal George Push. He endeavoured to write as many encounters in his blog 'Tales of the Royal George', this gave me the idea for Taylore in the 60s. I would hate for Paul's work to go to waste, and as my dealings with the Royal George were minimal I will bring to you Paul's efforts to capture the 'time and place', 'The George.
This blog is an attempt to gather and preserve documents, photographs, narratives and other materials concerning to The Royal George Hotel, Sydney: particularly those items which relate to the "Young Push" who started frequenting The George in the 1960s. I am interested too in their further adventures beyond The Royal George, and also in their antecedents, the Push (or the "Old Push" as they came to be called). Any readers of this journal who have memories, photographs, documents or tales of this era are invited to contact me at the email address listed beneath the Links section in the left-hand column of this page.
My involvement in producing this blog is very intermittent. There are many more stories that I can, and hopefully will, write about this era. But I have to earn a living, and on top of that I edit three online literary magazines (The Flea, The Shit Creek Reviewand The Chimaera) which seem to snaffle up most of my spare time. I will do my best to add to Tales of The Royal George as I find time or occasions.
The intent in preserving these tales of the past is to help preserve them from disappearing into the foulness of time, and to entertain. Both the Old and Young Push represented significant eras in Australian social and intellectual history, and from their ranks sprang many of those individuals who were important influences on the way Australia has developed. As for me: I was not a person of any significance, but I did observe and participate in a fair slice of the activities at The George, and I did meet some of those who went on to contribute to Australian culture. About others whom I did not meet, I heard intimate (if sometimes apocryphal) stories, for The George was, if nothing else, an incubator of steaming gossip. Perhaps collecting this material here will preserve some that might otherwise have been lost, and provide an interesting read for casual surfers-by. I hope too that some of those who lived through the Roaring Days at The Royal George might have their memories jogged, and be reminded of their friends and exploits from that now ancient era.
Pail Christian Stevens
Tales of The George: Clive and Germaine
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2005
How unreliable is this memoir? But it makes an amusing tale......Slightly older than I and already equipped with a degree from Melbourne, Germaine Greer had descended on Sydney University in the early 1960s while I was still a second year. Tall, striking and already famous for her brilliantly foul tongue, she had pursued graduate studies, libertarian polemics, and, for a brief period, me. At the risk of sounding even more conceited than usual, it is important that I record this fact, for a reason which will shortly emerge. At the time I was having published, in the literary pages of the Sydney University student newspaper honi soit, a lot of articles, poems and short stories conveying omniscience, poise and worldly wisdom. Publication was not difficult to arrange, because I edited those pages. Correctly intuiting at a glance that I was grass-green in all matters and emerald-green in the matter of sex, Germaine, at her table in the Royal George Hotel, took bets with the Downtown Push that she could seduce me within twenty-four hours. Next day the news reached me before she did. When she appeared, striding like a Homeric goddess, at the door of the cafeteria in Manning House, I cravenly escaped through the side entrance and hid behind the large adjacent gum tree. The rumour that I hid up the tree was false but slow to die. ....... Clive James, May Week Was in June, mutatis mutandi.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 18, 2008 If you blow into this site in quest for the days of The Royal George, you will also love Lynne Komidar's blog Musical Notes -- it's chokka with yarns, memoirs, snippets, photos and goss about that era, and does a particular focus on the Taylor Square scene. If you were there in that era then like me you probably don't remember much -- until you start looking at the names, faces and yarns at Lynne's place. Starting to come to you back now? So -- lurch on out of The Royal George and begin the long but adventurous Odyssey up to Taylor Square... but watch out for The Chimaera along the way. And make sure you don't find yourself Up Shit Creek!
The Days of The Royal George
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 17, 2005
A song of the Young Push, The Royal George Hotel, corner of King and Sussex Streets, Sydney, 1964
I You'd walk in the bar and enter the realm of the bright and the heightened soul, where the wild boys drank and the wild girls too, and the decks would tip and roll, as we voyaged in schooners and glass canoes down rivers of words to the sea, set our course by the stars to fabled shores where the myths that we made could be:
in the days of juice and certainty such legends we did forge - in the roaring days, the invincible nights, in the days of The Royal George. II The Young Push ruled the Royal George, where wharfies and Nazis brawled, where Libertarians chased nymphettes; where Larry, and English Paul, Dimitri, Daphnette, Kate, and Chris, and Newcastle John, and all, would drink and sing the days away, and the nights, till the final call -
in the nights of yippee beans and truth, such legends we did forge - in the roaring days, the invincible nights, in the days of The Royal George.
III The folksingers in the backroom, sing, banjo and guitar, and romances stir and blaze in the lounge, and the Beatles blare loud in the bar, and the Lads at the side-entrance steps - tourists gape from passing cars at their flying hair and Edwardian gear as they hoist up their ale-filled jars;
all the singing and fighting and loving, such legends we did forge - in the roaring days, the invincible nights, in the days of The Royal George.
IV Oh, Rick O'Hara, and Zita and Jeff, Terry Stanton, Swiss Walter and me, played cricket in Hyde Park, free as lords, which the populace gathered to see: and I clean-bowled Paul, who threw down his bat, for he thought that it could not be done! Then back to The George, to weave our tale of an epic lost and won,
in the hero-days, when we strode like gods, such legends we did forge - in the roaring days, the invincible nights, in the days of The Royal George.
V We turned our speech into poetry, the universe into our own; and many a pair of flirting eyes met mine, and, challenging, shone; and many a smile made promises as the evening's glow wore on, as the beers were poured, and the parties planned, as the hours passed, and were gone: till the barman called out, "Time, gents, please!" and we drifted off, one by one,
away from the songs, and the hero-tales, and the romances we once forged - in the roaring days, the invincible nights, in the days of The Royal George. VI The pub in my mind is empty now, all the wild boys and wild girls - gone; and I say their names over like a spell, whose faces and voices I knew so well, whose friendship is some old story I tell, whose handshakes and kisses I once could touch, who smile to me now, just beyond my reach -
for we've finished our drinks, walked out to the night, no heroic myths left to forge - and the roaring days have faded and gone, the days of The Royal George. The Old Push here, here, here, here, here and here.
Update: I went back to The Royal George recently, but you never can go back. The old bare floor-boards pub with Rugby League or Cricket Reschs and Tooths Lager signs has been gutted and renovated, gentrified, carpeted, up-marketed: a safe haven for corporate refugees, not the roaring, rioting, racketing reality-theatre of the wild men and women of yore. Sic gloria transit mundi. Où sont les neiges d'antan?
SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 02, 2008 ''...McGuinness's contribution was a different one and, to those of us in the Labor Party, deliciously counterproductive. He was part of a group - I call them the Angry Right - who locked John Howard into policies that ensured he was, by early 2007, seen as out of touch and out of date: climate-change denial, support for George W. Bush in Iraq, loss of workers' rights...
"McGuinness was haunted by ghosts. I always had this feeling in conversation with him. Women from the Push days, his Labor Party buddies from the past, above all the imaginary leftists who seemed to occupy a large part of his mental space. The truth is, in reality they barely existed. But he's given them the last laugh anyway."
"...It would be hard to imagine a more diverse crowd than the one that gathered yesterday to farewell a man who was described as a loyal and loving friend, and as a writer whose influences included anarchism, libertarianism, the sexually liberated beliefs of the Sydney "Push" of the 1950s, and free-market economics.
"Among the politicians present in the 300-strong crowd were former prime minister John Howard and his leading consigliere, former health minister Tony Abbott. From the world of newspapers came a gallery of noted hacks, including Frank and Miranda Devine, Bob Ellis, Piers Akerman, Bettina Arndt, Paul Kelly, Max Walsh and Ross Gittins.
"Distinguished Australian poets included Les Murray—poetry editor at Quadrant, which McGuinness edited for the last decade of his life—and Geoffrey Lehmann...
[Photo caption in print edition: "In attendance: movie producer and former member of the Sydney Push, Margaret Fink..."]
"...It would be no stretch to argue that McGuinness's funeral marks a kind of terminus in Sydney's intellectual history.
"He was possibly the last living embodiment of the free-thinking tradition of ideas associated with John Anderson, the Scottish philosopher and Sydney University professor who dominated the city's intellectual currents from the early 1930s to the late '50s..."