Mr A.G. Ogilvie

Always a progressive, two world trips convinced Tasmanian Labor Premier Mr A.G. Ogilvie that Australia was a land of ‘wowsers’. He expressed his views in Sydney in 1937, after attending the coronation of George VI in London. He had called in at the harbour city on his way home to Hobart aboard the luxury liner Monterey.

Such sentiments did not go down at all well. How dare the Premier of such an insignificant little backwater suggest that Sydney of all places fitted such a description!


SYDNEY – Thursday. The Tasmanian Premier, Mr. Ogilvie, is not enamoured of the licensing laws of N.S.W. In an interview in Sydney today, he declared that Australia and its race of ‘two-fisted drinkers’ remained largely ‘a nation of wowsers’. He added that what puzzled him was that any overseas visitor bothered to stay here at all. He said it was a disgusting spectacle to see men lined up in front of a bar, with one eye on the clock and the other on their beer mug. (North West Champion June 16 1937)

‘Two-fisted drinkers’ was an allusion to six o’clock closing, with hotel patrons hastily downing a beer while reaching for the next with the other hand

The Wowser - a poem explaining the term

In another report, Ogilvie expanded on his theme. ‘Australians live in a world of their own, enforcing restrictions that scarcely any other nations would tolerate, and following absurd customs for which the reasons have been forgotten if they ever existed…..In many ways we are 10 to 15 years behind the rest of the world. We seem to be deliberately making ourselves miserable.

He talked of seeing 10 year old Parisian girls emerging from church to drink light, harmless beer at little tables while Australia was saddled with the unedifying ‘six o’clock swill’.

Note the time on the clock in the following cartoon, only 40 minutes of swilling left! 😎

Mr Ogilvie made reference to the infamous Six O'Clock swill.

Even an editorial in the tabloid Truth newspaper shot the Premier down;

Perhaps. before long, people from the mainland of Australia will be rushing to Tasmania to join in the wild night life revelry in the land of apples and potatoes. There they will find, no doubt, that no longer are Sunday afternoons ‘quiet and restful’ and with the big influx of tourist traffic when Mr Ogilvie brightens up the bright lights, perhaps the Apple Isle will be able to pay its way and not look to the Commonwealth Government to balance its books every year. (Truth, 15 August 1937)


Next stop for Mr Ogilvie was Melbourne, and residents there were certainly not spared. Some American tourists were in town and the Tasmanian Premier wanted to know, ‘What has Melbourne done for them? Ask them. Has anyone entertained them, asked them to a dance, taken any notice of them at all? Ironically, the Americans seemed quite happy. Miss Mary Zimmerman of Los Angeles said; ‘My, I should say they have. I haven’t been in bed once before 2 a.m.’

However, a different response was received from the assistant purser of the Monterey. who had visited Melbourne on ten occasions.

‘Mr Ogilvie is right, he said today.’ More night clubs, that is what you want. Smart, slickly run affairs. The kind that would make us Americans look up and whistle. The tourists think Melbourne is swell. That’s because they are only here a couple of days, but become a regular visitor like me, and realise that Melbourne is the next port of call, you might as well rest your head on a pillow and sleep the time away. I can’t find anything better to do, and I’ve looked for it.’ (Advocate August 17)

As it turned out, Mr Ogilvie did not have the opportunity to turn Tasmania into another Monte Carlo. He died after suffering a heart attack on a Melbourne golf course, aged only 48. Many within his party had hoped he would enter federal politics and possibly even become Prime Minister. Wow, I can only dream of how different the stultifying nineteen forties and fifties could have been. 😍

Funeral procession for Premier Albert Ogilvie.

NOTE – Premier Ogilvie’s first trip to Europe was in 1935. He was accompanied by his Health Minister and close friend Mr J. F.(Stymie) Gaha. Their accounts of the trip were published in 2008 by Michael Roe. The pair look like mischievous schoolboys.


  1. Well, Mr A.G. Ogilvie sounded like a barrel of laughs – not! What did the expression ‘wowsers’ mean here? It doesn’t seem to relate to what I think of it here in the UK.

    • Pauline

      You have to read the poem. Wowsers are miserable, anti-everything party poopers and Mr Ogilvie was the opposite. 😍

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.