Threatened with demolition a decade ago and described by the hopeful developer at the time as, 'worthless of preservation', the Balgownie Hotel, affectionately dubbed the 'Fountain on the Mountain' celebrated a centenary of trade on Monday December 20th 2004.
Balgownie Hotel was designed by architect Alex Elphinstone and built for Francis Caldwell, early last century, providing a social and sporting home to many of the typical mining settlements of the time. Pubs were usually one of the first places of business in mining villages, and the miners quickly made Bally Hotel their base.
32 year old Edward Percy Clout was granted the first license of the newly completed Balgownie Hotel on Monday December 19th 1904 and start of trade commenced the following day. Born in Camden, Percy Clout had at least two brothers in the hotel industry who advised him that tradition requires him to provide free beer on opening day. That opening day was clearly remembered a half century later by residents, and in an interview, in the 1990s, local historian Vince Ward told how the local mine produced little coal that day. A large number of men were absent from work and the following day was just as bad due to the miners "suffering a self inflicted illness".
Balgownie Hotel soon became the hub of social life in the village, particularly amongst the sporting community and Mr Percy Clout was largely responsible for establishing a football ground in Balgownie and sponsored sports such as soccer and cricket. An inter-pub quoit competition became a favourite sporting past time at the hotel and Mr Ward said. The 'miners' game of clay quoits is a very highly skilled game and several champions emerged from Balgownie. One of these champion quoit throwers being a Mr Bob Vardy, who at the turn of the century, was also a top sportsman in soccer and cricket.
The Bally pub was nearly lost to developers in 1995 when a deal was struck between the then owners and a developer to buy the site for a retirement village on the condition the pub was levelled. Regulars and the local community rallied together and the 'Friends of Balgownie Hotel' was formed to save the pub. Proposals were made for a heritage listing which was backed and supported by the South Coast Labour Council. The community knew the social, cultural and historical worth of the corner pub and the developers, seemingly shocked by the overwhelming support, backed off, eventually scrapping their multi million-dollar plans.
The Balgownie Hotel has seen and undergone a lot of changes and still stands strong and affectionately known as "The Fountain Mountain".
Written by Mick Roberts