Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

24 October 2009

The Dudley Arms, Mangatainoka

I wrote and illustrated ‘The Good Old Kiwi Pub’. It was published in 1995 and was a snapshot of some New Zealand pubs as they were at the end of the 20th century. I have decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.

Closing the bar in any pub, especially at times when the conversation is coming thick and fast and the world’s troubles are on the point of solution, is a delicate moment. The time-honoured words used to be ‘Time, gentlemen, please!’, other stratagems being a rapid flicking on and off of the lights or the harsh rasp of an electric buzzer. Perhaps one of the most original, though, is attributed to Mrs Connell, the diminutive but dominant wife of Wally, proprietor of the ‘Dudley’ before and after the second world war, who, at 6.00 p.m., would cast her eye sternly around the patrons and announce: ‘Mr Connell’s tea is ready.’

Most historic country pubs that have been brewery-owned have been spoiled by ‘improvements’ but the Dudley Arms, probably because of its simple, unpretentious shape, looks original. It was owned by Dominion Breweries for a few years before reverting to private, independent ownership in the 1980s. It’s of no great age, having been built in 1920 to replace the even squarer (and much more forbidding) 1888 ‘Dudley’, a plain, mainly corrugated iron affair, nicknamed ‘The Tin House’, which had joined the long list of fire-razed New Zealand pubs.

The first Dudley Arms was established one year before its neighbouring Wagstaff’s North Island Brewery, later to become better known as the Tui Brewery, the distinctive tower of which dominates the landscape beside the Mangatainoka River.

One of Tui’s notable achievements was the licence to brew Guinness stout, which it did for seven years from 1960. The complex was taken over by Dominion Breweries in 1969 and is now the DB Central Brewery.


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By Don Donovan