Brian ‘Macca’ McDermott calls time on what he describes as a 'noble profession'


Brian 'Macca' McDermott calls time on more than two decades in the industry.

Known for his love of black beer, Brian ‘Macca’ McDermott has been the friendly face and powerhouse behind the Albion Hotel at Wickham for just short of a decade. Now, as he moves on to the next stage of his life and begins what he is hesitant to label ‘retirement’, he took some time to look back on his career, the importance of being a publican, and how climbing through the window at Fanny’s Nightclub led to a long and happy marriage.


If you spend more than ten minutes at the Albion Hotel, it’s easy to see that the locals love Macca. They greet him by name, with a smile, and are keen to sit down for a beer and a yarn. And while he agrees it's the role of a publican to make the locals feel welcome, for Macca it’s so much more than that; he also loves them back – and it shows.


“It’s a noble profession to be a publican,” he said.


“To have the privilege of being part of the community is a wonderful thing. You can do so much and really make a difference and I’ve loved every minute of it.”


“To have the privilege of being part of the community is a wonderful thing. You can do so much and really make a difference and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

Despite starting his career as a public servant, when Macca bought his first pub freehold - the Town Hall Hotel at Waratah in 1998, he knew right away that the role of ‘publican’ was a perfect fit for him.


“Once we started at the Town Hall, I knew without a doubt that being a hotelier was where I was supposed to be,” he said.


“Since then, over the years my adult children have also all worked at the Town Hall and here at the Albion, and I’m proud of what I’ve been able to achieve along the way.”


Before coming to the Albion Hotel, for eight years Macca held the freehold of Lakeside Village Tavern at Raymond Terrace. And it was there that he very publicly shared his love for a schooner of black with then Prime Minister Julia Gillard.


“In 2010, she came to the pub as part of a visit to Port Stephens,” he said.


“I got a call from the Trades Hall the night before asking if we could host her and I thought he was joking. But the next day she came in and the place was swarming with Federal Police. I had to walk her around the pub and at one point I asked her, ‘Prime Minister would you like a beverage?’ She asked for my recommendation and I suggested the local beer Tooheys Old. I told her it’s a black beer because it represents the dust and coal from the mines in the valley and the tar and industries of Waratah.


Former Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the Lakeside Village Tavern. Image - The Australian.
"She asked for my recommendation and I suggested the local beer Tooheys Old. I told her it’s a black beer because it represents the dust and coal from the mines in the valley and the tar and industries of Waratah."

“So, she had a schooner of black and the next morning I got a call from our Tooheys representative asking if I realised the front page of every newspaper in the country had a picture of the Prime Minister drinking a schooner of black. I sent him a $100,000 invoice for my marketing skills but funnily enough, it never got paid.”


While sharing a beer with the Prime Minister is a great story to have up your sleeve, schmoozing with politicians is about as far from Macca’s wheelhouse as you can get. Instead, getting in and lending a hand to support his local community either by raising money or sponsoring local sport is a role that sits better with him.


“I’ve always been strong on making locals feel welcome and coming up with reasons for members of the community to gather at the pub. It’s a good thing because doing that creates a central hub that people can access when they need it and we saw that recently with a large fire that occurred just around the corner,” he said.


“When the emergency was unfolding, members of the community came into the pub to find out what was happening and to see how they could help.


“We live in a country of drought and flooding rain and, as we’ve been reminded recently with everything that’s been happening with the floods, people are prepared to support pub fundraisers and initiatives that help others.


Andrew Johns, Brian McDermott, and Freddie Fittler at a Sportmans Lunch fundraiser at the Albion Hotel.
“We live in a country of drought and flooding rain and, as we’ve been reminded recently with everything that’s been happening with the floods, people are prepared to support pub fundraisers and initiatives that help others."

“Even back through the droughts, here at the pub, we worked alongside a group called Great Lifestyle of Wickham (GLOW) to adopt three local schools in rural NSW where the kids were doing it tough. We assisted locals to raise money for school supplies, uniforms, and a visit to a local pool for Christmas.


“We’ve also had the 'who’s who' of sport feature at fundraising Sportsmen’s Lunches here at the pub from Sir Vivian Richards, to Tommy Raudonikis, Andrew Johns, Artie Beetson, Dick Johnson, Brian Lara, and so many others.”


And while many would be content with providing that level of community contribution throughout their career, for Macca it’s just the beginning.


“Here at the pub, and at the other pubs I’ve been at, we’ve also sponsored and supported countless local sporting teams and individuals, including Swimming for the Disabled at Cooks Hill. It really hits home when you hear parents say their child couldn’t join nippers or other teams but there is a place they can participate in sport. To know you can contribute to those kinds of outcomes really means something.


“And as I said before, being a publican is a noble profession. The social and personal aspect of it comes from a time before the internet and before there were mobile phones, when people went to the pub for a social connection and to build relationships.”


“And as I said before, being a publican is a noble profession. The social and personal aspect of it comes from a time before the internet and before there were mobile phones, when people went to the pub for a social connection and to build relationships.”

And speaking of relationships, while Fanny’s Nightclub wasn’t quite a local pub, in many ways the hospitality industry was also responsible for introducing Macca to the love of his life; Sally.


“It was 12 June 1984 and there was a very long line to get into Fanny’s. I took one look at it and thought to myself, ‘I’ll skip that by climbing in through one of the windows,” he said.


“It just so happened I saw this pretty girl inside and gestured for her to open the window. Halfway through the security caught me of course and I had to go to the end of the line. It was definitely worth it though because that pretty girl later became my wife.”


In addition to meeting his wife and forming strong relationships with patrons, over the years the industry has also provided a plethora of life-long relationships with people who share Macca’s love of hospitality; one in particular who unknowingly contributed to his inevitable decision to call it a day.


“I’ve met so many wonderful, generous, and incredible people over the years,” he said.


“But I had a great friend in the industry, a hotelier who I had actually known when we were kids; Michael Leis. On my 59th birthday, we had a couple of drinks and he told me he was finishing up in the industry, that he was about to turn 60, and wanted to enjoy his family.


"Sadly, five days later he passed away. Ever since, if something happens in the industry or with the Newcastle Knights my immediate reaction is to call Michael Leis to share it, but I can’t. I feel in some way that I owe it to him to enjoy the time I have and to spend it wisely with the people I love. That has contributed a lot to my decision to retire.”


But while the Albion Hotel will soon begin the next chapter with someone new at the helm, there could be another pub and local community out there fortunate enough to one day receive a beer poured by Macca.


“In between the pubs I’ve had, I also did a bit of pub sitting, which is where you fill in for a while when a publican needs or wants to take an extended break. It was something I really enjoyed and so after I give the girl of my dreams all the time that she deserves and we do some travel, that might be something I will look at in the future.”


But for now, Macca will be taking a well-deserved break and paying tribute to a lifelong friend by enjoying the company of those he loves most.









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