SYDNEY’s oldest barmaid Lil Miles, 91, is still turning sailors’ heads and giggling with locals, four decades after she started pulling beers at The Bells Hotel, Woolloomooloo.
In between telling stories the 150-centimetre, Irish-born great-grandmother packs fridges, counts change and serves drinks for three hours from Monday to Friday.
”It’s fun I tell you, I like it a lot,” Mrs Miles said. ”I feel I am a bit of help to some of the old blokes that come in here. They are lonely, have no one to talk to, and I am quite a good listener.”
Mrs Miles and her late husband John opened the Bourke Street pub in 1973. The family business is now run by her daughter Erin Petersen and three sons Danny, Rory and Patrick.
She said Woolloomooloo has changed drastically in her time, as had people’s ability to do what they wanted and enjoy a good time.
Although not a drinker herself she said she loved watching people let off steam and do ”funny” things, including a naval initiation many moons ago called ”the dance of flames”.
”The sailors would strip, get a newspaper wrapped up very tightly, stick it in their arse and then they would light it,” she said in between spurts of giggles.
”They would run around the block and get blisters on their backsides and we thought it was so very funny.”
But laughter and good humour were drained from the hotel for some time after her son Shane died during a brawl in December 2004.
He died from severe head injuries after he was hit in the head with a bar stool.
Police charged four Tongan-born men with his murder but they pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2007 after the Director of Public Prosecutions downgraded the charges.
”Every day, every time the door opens I think it is him,” Mrs Miles said.
Her daughter Erin Petersen described her mother as a terrible cook but fabulous worker who was often chased up and down the bar by locals. ”She is that strong, old-school type of women who keeps powering on and the sailors just love her,” Ms Petersen said.
Mrs Miles said she would continue to catch two trains and a bus from her Kingsford home to the hotel each day for as long as she can.
The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.