The Ulster Hotel in Ipswich during the 1974 flood.
The Ulster Hotel in Ipswich during the 1974 flood.

Ulster Hotel under again

WHEN it comes to floods and footy, few are better qualified to talk than Norma Flannery.

Mrs Flannery is the wife of Queensland rugby league winger of the century Dennis, and the daughter of Kangaroos legend Dan Dempsey.

She has also been involved in running and owning the Ulster Hotel on Brisbane Street since her family moved into it when she was six in 1933.

She watched it go under water in 1974 and again last week. On both occasions the ramifications were potentially devastating.

Mr Flannery is the licensee but is ill and unable to run the pub. Mrs Flannery still does the books while their daughter, Megan, has been running it without pay, despite having a full-time job.

After last week’s floods the clean-up began, revealing some interesting finds.

“When we pulled the bar out we found the 1930 bar in behind,” the Flannerys’ other daughter, Bev Johnston, said.

That was because, following the 1974 flood, the priority was just to get the place up and running to earn an income again, so they knocked up a new bar over the top of the rain-damaged one.

There is little income this time to warrant a fast-tracked recovery, however, placing the future of the grand old pub, which turns 100 this year, in doubt.

In recent years the pub’s takings have struggled to pay the bar staff’s wages and Norma has been propping it up from her and Dennis’ savings.

In the days when Mr Dempsey ran the pub he supplemented his income as an agent for an SP bookie. Those days are long gone, however, and there seems little prospect of making money in an area where most pubs are struggling.

“I don’t know if the old girl can come back this time,” Mrs Johnston said.

She estimates it will take $150,000 dollars to modernise it.

“It’s shattering,” Mrs Flannery says of the situation.

The pub is heritage-listed so they can’t knock it down and sell the land, not that Norma would allow that to happen if they could.

In its current state it would not fetch much, particularly as it has flooded twice in 40 years.

Yet Norma remains optimistic.

“We’ve got to look on the bright side,” she said.

“We’re hoping to eventually get it back into working shape. I’d hate to see it not a hotel.”

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