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History Lesson – King O’Malley

By Loose Brown 19 July 2008 18

Are people aware that Canberra was once a place where alcohol was prohibited?

Canberra was a dry community for the eighteen years from 1910 to 1928. This was all due to the influence of King O’Malley who passed this legislation through the Melbourne parliament as soon as the ACT was established. Imagine working all day on the new federal buildings (lots of big stones, etc) and not even being able to crack a coldie at day’s end!

Interesting of course that when parliament made the move up to Canberra, one of the first pieces of legislation they passed was the repeal of O’Malley’s prohibition laws (and no – it took us until 1992 to legalise prostitution).

O’Malley used to rant on and was quite the firebrand speaker. He lobbied for laws to be passed that required barmaids to be a member of a publican’s family. This was to avoid barmaids being “hired for their physical attributes rather than their prowess in drawing ale”. Nooo!

He was also responsible for the American spelling of The Labor Party – being an American by birth himself, he thought that it was far more modern than the English spelling of Labour.

We immortalise O’Malley with the suburb and of course, King O’Malley’s in Civic.

Another bit of prohibition trivia – The Helm Winery in nearby Murrumbateman features a tasting room that used to house the ACT’s temperance society! Ken Helm of course is the owner – who was unsuccessful in his bid for the Senate in 2001, but has found his niche growing a lovely white moustache and making delicious rieslings.

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18 Responses to
History Lesson – King O’Malley
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Loose Brown 8:02 am 21 Jul 08

I wonder if King O’Malley helped dig the holes? Being sober they all would have been quite energised, or at least not prone to ducking under a nearby tree for a nap.

johnboy 7:50 am 21 Jul 08

Yep, York Park.

My understanding is it was quite a day.

Last time I was there the National Museum had their gold plated shovels, which dug the holes on display.

ant 11:51 pm 20 Jul 08

Is that the oaks in York Park? They have those fences around them now, to protect them from rogue parkers. When they build the new Climate Change building in the DFAT carpark, I bet the builders use them for parking and kill the lot. Betcha.

There’s quite a few oaks in that plantation, they must have been a vigorous couple. Someone should’ve told them the Royal in Qbn was just a few miles away.

johnboy 10:14 pm 20 Jul 08

Slight curio:

At the opening of the first parliament the Duke of York (later King George VI) and his wife (the recently departed Queen Mother) were offered wine but noticed they were the only ones being served.

They inquired why and discovered it was O’Malley’s prohibition which had been waived for the royal couple.

They declined the wine and drank water with the rest.

That was the same visit where they planted all the oak trees at the bottom of Parliament House (next to King’s Avenue).

ant 10:07 pm 20 Jul 08

Yanks are always on about banning grog, yet you can buy beer at servos over there! In Utah, they are against grog (mormons run the state), yet the liquor stores are run by…. the state government! Grog in the US is cheap, plentiful and easily got. They say one thing, and do another.

Gungahlin Al 7:29 pm 20 Jul 08

Always thought it the height of irony that a prohibitionist got a pub named after him!

On “dodgy evangelist” – what other sort is there?

Bassman 5:37 pm 20 Jul 08

I agree with Thumper. Prohibition is no laughing matter….

Pesty 1:19 pm 20 Jul 08

Thumper said :

There is nothing funny about banning grog….

Particularly by a blinkin yank! The bugger was probably moonshining so it was in his best interest!

Thumper 11:16 am 20 Jul 08

There is nothing funny about banning grog….

Loose Brown 10:53 am 20 Jul 08

Very good example of the Australian sense of humor I thought.

Pesty 10:47 am 20 Jul 08

So, he was a fibbing, bible bashing, American who banned grog, and got a pub named after him?

AussieGal83 8:20 pm 19 Jul 08

Thanks for the post. Very interesting.

johnboy 6:34 pm 19 Jul 08

The old girl’s probably earned it.

ant 6:14 pm 19 Jul 08

so we’ll be seeing a suburb called “House” before long.

johnboy 6:07 pm 19 Jul 08

Become a minister or an approved minority.

SamTSeppo 5:50 pm 19 Jul 08

When do I get a suburb named after me?

ant 3:58 pm 19 Jul 08

My grandparents remember having to go to Queanbeyan for a haircut, and a beer.

simbo 3:46 pm 19 Jul 08

King O’Malley got his start as a fireband speaker by being a dodgy evangelist in the US – in fact, it’s pretty much assumed he fudged his way into Australian Parliament since he wasn’t actually born in the Commonweealth (he came up with a narrative that involved a birth in Canada, but he admitted to his biographer late on in life that was bogus).

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