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Through the Generations


The Parap Village Tavern has been an iconic landmark in Darwin for more than 80 years, and no family has had a longer association with it than the Dowling’s.

Four generations of this long standing Darwin family have operated the tavern over the past six decades.

The Dowling’s love affair with ‘The Parap’, which is known as one of Darwin’s “traditionally favourite hotels”, started in 1947.

That was the year George and Evelyn Dowling – who arrived in the Northern Territory with their four children (George, Mayse, Ted and Jim), a one-tonne Ford ute and Dodge in 1927 – took over it’s operations from original owner George Searle.

In those days, ‘The Parap’ – which was actually established in the 1930’s as a private club known as ‘The Palmerston’ – was a classically tropical, wooden building on stilts.

It was run down after being used as a canteen for RAAF personnel based in Darwin during the war.

However, during the next 20 years as the town boomed around it, the Dowling’s made continuous improvements to the hotel, including building in it’s underneath area and introducing refrigeration and accommodation.

Both George and Evelyn Dowling passed away in 1954, after which their son Jim took over the operation.

Through the years, the Dowling’s continued to work on the hotel’s alterations and by the 1960’s, it had 30 rooms, four bars, a dining room, two beer gardens, six staff rooms and a drive-in bottle shop.

Most of it’s clientele came from the nearby railway yards and single men’s Ross Smith Hostel, while travelers and bush folk used it’s accommodation.

Jim and his wife Dot continued to operate the hotel through the 1960’s, in conjunction with long time managers Bob and Carmel Blacker.

Jim and Dot’s son Terry then took over operations of the hotel in early 1970’s, and ran it through to the 1980’s.


Jim and Dot’s son Terry took over the hotel in the early 1970s, and continued to be involved in its operation right throughout the 1980s.

In 1974, Cyclone Tracy hit, destroying most of Darwin and 70 per cent of the hotel’s original building.

But, it was not enough to close it down and while accommodation was limited to just seven rooms and a flat for management to live in, within a very short period of time, the hotel’s main bar reopened and the building was re-roofed.

Since then, Terry said he has seen the hotel evolve from a frontier pub to a modern hotel.

“When I came back from a hotel management school one year, I said to my father, we need to update this pub,” he said.

“It was a real man’s pub back then and women had to drink in a separate lounge called the Virgin’s Parlour.

 “I said to Dad, ‘we need to put in a bistro, where people can get good wine and good food,’ and he answered ‘what’s wrong with knuckle sandwiches?’

But we went on to make changes and put in Jessie’s Bistro, and it became an icon of the town for 20 years.

Today while he is still involved in its operation, it is Terry’s children – Dan, Matt and Luci who run the hotel which is currently undergoing its fifth round of renovations.

The restaurant has since changed names twice, from Montego’s, under which is took out the NT Gold Plate award for ‘best bistro’ three times running and an AHA award for best bistro in Australia, to the Raging Bull Steakhouse, which is what it is known today.

The Raging Bull has also won the NT Gold Plate award for best public hotel dining twice.

“We have always had a reputation of running good quality restaurants,” Terry said. “We are currently undergoing another renovation to update our bars, and our award winning bottle shop also carries one of the widest ranges of wines in the town.”

The Dowling’s Parap Village Tavern has four bars in all – the Heroes and Legends sports bar; the Punters and Collectors bar; Bar Havana, which boasts late-night entertainment, including live music, karaoke, jam nights, quick and trivia nights an the hotel’s restaurant; and the Raging Bull Steakhouse, which seats 130, has a dedicated function room with its own bar facilities, and a wine cellar with about 100 lines of red, white and sparking wines,

The hotel is open from 10am daily, while the bottle shop is operates until 10pm every day.

All in al, 60 years on and Dowling’s Parap Village Tavern really is still going strong.

While Dowling’s Parap Village Tavern boasts a long history in its own right, the special characters that have worked and played there over the years have certainly added plenty of color to it. Three characteristics that have stood out in particular are:


Born in Larrimah, Elizabeth Lovegrove started work at the Parap Hotel as a member of the domestic staff long before it belonged to the Dowling family. She helped raise the Dowling children (who run the pub today), and described herself as a jack of all trades.

Elizabeth, who celebrated 40 years of working at the then ‘Parap Hotel’ in 1981, saw the building change dramatically over the years.

She told The Advertiser that year that she remembered what the pub looked like in 1939, and was “rather proud of the way in which the building stood up to Cyclone Tracy”.

Elizabeth passed away in the late 1980s.


A household name in Darwin during the 70s and 80s, Jaffa was the renowned head chef of Jessie’s Bistro and winner of four Queltaller Estate Bulletin Awards for the finest steaks in the Territory.

Sitting the front-bar of the hotel in 1988, he told the Northern Territory News that the secret to his fabulous steaks was “the green frog”.

“My alarm clock is the green frog – he wakes me in the morning, and says ‘work, work, work’,” he said.

“You must love life and people and work hard every day – it’s simple. People talk of secret ingredients; there are no secret ingredients.

“it’s all to do with the experience of life. “The heat of the charcoals, the smell, the sound, the feel of the steak. And, if you understand and respect people, you will cook well for them.

Jaffa was a Malay from Singapore, who after 12 years as an indentured labourer on pearling boats in the NT, was almost sent home.

However, more than 20 per cent of the then Darwin population singed a petition asking the Government to cancel the order, and some 400 rallied in protest.

The deportation proceedings were dropped and Jaffa was able stay. He handed over the reins as head chef to Wivie Bjobij on March 24, 1988.

Jaffa passed away early 2010, aged 84.


Jessie Bell was a former employee, who can lay claim to the ‘Jessie’ in the former name of the hotel’s restaurant ‘Jessie’s Bistro’. Ms Bell was one of the first barmaids in the Territory.

She came to Darwin in the early 1950s and took on a job at the then Parap Hotel.

At the time, women were not allowed to work behind bars, but the laws soon changed and Ms Bell was given the job of being in charge of the pub’s saloon bar and lounge. Renowned for her uniform of a ‘professional looking’ starched white dress, Ms Bell did a ‘terrific’ job at the hotel until she left for Western Australia after Cyclone Tracy.

The Dowling family thought so highly of her that when the pub was rebuilt after the cyclone, they named the bistro after her. Ms Bell died in 2004, aged 89.
Story courtesy of NT News