The Different Drummer, 185 Glebe Point Rd, is the oldest of Glebe’s wine bars. Alcohol has been sold there since 1903 when shopkeeper W C Tanner added colonial wines to his stock of cakes, sweets, cigars and soft drinks. In 1922 his licence passed to Frederick Arnold Collins and then to Horatio Harris who turned the premises into a wine saloon. Subsequent licensees included Horatio’s son Gordon and the appropriately named J P Punch.

The different Drummer (Image: Peter Miller)
The different Drummer (Image: Peter Miller)

Most early wine sellers operated as general stores. Prior to Tanner’s occupancy the building was from 1897 a fruit and confectionery shop run by Denis Daniels. Its neighbour at number 183 was chemist and dentist Charles Harold Wren West.

William Charles Tanner, born in 1867 at Hartley to William and Elizabeth née March, in 1892 married Annie Millman Smith at Bathurst where William Harold (1893-1951) and Clement Charles (1894-1980) were born. Later children born at Glebe were Vivienne who died at birth in 1905, John Norman (who became a boat builder), Violet and Sydney. William snr died at the family home 11 Sheehy St Glebe on Christmas Eve 1934; his widow died at Canterbury on 28 May 1950. They were buried in the Church of England section at Rookwood.

Horatio Harris had been publican of the Emu Hotel at Cootamundra where the local constabulary dropped in regularly to check he wasn’t serving drunks or beyond closing time. He then managed the Friendship Hotel in Sydney’s Bathurst St and the Cross Keys Hotel in Surry Hills. At Glebe, Horatio and Julia Harris lived at 449 Glebe Point Rd while their sons Frederick and Gordon lived at number 185 together with Gordon’s wife Queenie Winifred née Everett. Murrumburrah-born Frederick Claude (1896-1930) was the saloon’s barman; ex-navy and barman now a hairdresser Gordon (1891-1955) its licensee. Not involved in the business were siblings Percival Harcourt (1887-1968) and Vera Violetta Vivian who died at Cootamundra as Mrs Henry Tie in 1955. Horatio and Julia moved from Glebe to Harcourt in Five Dock. Horatio died at Balmain Hospital on 15 June 1933; his widow on 2 February 1942 after being struck by a bus at Abbotsford. Both were buried at Coogee.

Continuing the work of the NSW Licenses Reduction Board established in 1919 to decrease the number of publicans, the licences of 40 Sydney wine shops were cancelled in 1924. Among those affected were the Glebe businesses of fruiterer William John Montague Rossiter and his wife Ruby Maud at 37 Ross St and confectioner John Siddens at 37 Glebe Point Rd. Ex tram driver Hugh Rohan and Mary Frances née Jackson kept a saloon at 158 St Johns Rd on its corner with Mt Vernon St, a former grocery run 1906-17 by Clara Louisa and Maurice Brown, a Glebe alderman 1904-13. After he lost his wine licence Rohan continued as a greengrocer, augmenting his income with organised betting on the premises (his defence that times were hard). A Glebe alderman 1937-9, he died at 134 Hereford St on 19 August 1941. The St Johns Rd building, which remains largely intact, was shabby by the late 1960s when it was occupied by a boot repairer.

Another Glebe wine licensee was Sydney Woodbridge, born in Windsor in 1885, educated at Marsden Public School, employed at the Riverstone Meatworks, married to Esther Louise Hunt in 1906, died at Liverpool in 1955. Like Hughie Rohan, he fell foul of the law, convicted on at least four occasions of owning an illicit rum-making still.

In 1920 Glebe’s Sergeant Kennedy paid a visit to Woodbridge’s grocery at 32 Brougham St where he found rubber tubing running from the bathroom to a boiler, white spirit in various stages of fermentation, and casks of treacle and molasses in the yard. Despite his protestations that he was looking for a new way of making benzene, Woodbridge was fined £100. In 1921 he transferred his licence to Rozelle; the following year he was fined £50 for operating a still at Haberfield. In 1931 he was fined £300 for having a still improvised from treacle tins on his brother-in-law’s property at Molong where he was living near destitute in a hut with his wife.

No doubt Woodbridge’s home-made rum was not aged but sold to be drunk rough. Some 7d a bottle colonial wines were nicknamed ‘sudden death’ and wine bars stocked more plonk than vintage, the drink of choice a fortified ‘fourpenny dark’. Cheap spirits were advertised as needing no corkscrew. Like billiard parlours, wine saloons were the haunts of petty criminals. With a one-punch hit in 1938 labourer Richard Price killed his friend Keith Somerville on the footpath outside a Jones St Ultimo wine saloon.

In the 1960s The Different Drummer was comfortably old-fashioned, providing cheap Mercury cider and an old bar to lean on. Today it sells a range of tapas and exotic cocktails, has a 2am licence, and its red mood lighting and indoor aquarium provide a ‘quirky sense of style’.

Sources: Albury Banner and Wodonga Express 30.6.1933; Freeman’s Journal various issues including 9.6.1906; Hebrew Standard of Australasia various issues including 29.7.1904; NSW cemetery records; NSW electoral rolls; NSW online registry of births, deaths, marriages; NSW State Records; Sands Directories; Sydney Morning Herald various issues including 17.12.1923, 12.9.1930, 26.12.1934; Websites: Different Drummer, Glebe Aldermen.