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Long Sleever

A ‘Long Sleever’ is, in brief, an outdated Aussie term for a long draft of beer.

The word ‘sleever’ itself originally referred to a Welsh measure of liquid; about three-quarters of a pint. I had never come across the term ‘long sleever’ but found it common in Australian newspaper articles in the latter half of the 19th century. The earliest reference I found was this, from 1879….

It’s not often that I take any notice of Yankee notions, but the other evening, while looking around my attention was drawn at Coen and Dunn’s to a sort of Windmill with two arms which went round at the rate of knots an hour. Naturally I enquired its character and found it was a patent mosquito and fly exterminator. Not a fly or any other insect will come within a rod of you while this thing is playing about. Placed on a dining table, it wards off blow-flies and all other creeping insects. It does all is said of it, and as I have given the thing a trial, I look upon its maker as a public benefactor. If ever he knocks, about up up this way, be can indulge in a long sleever at my expense.

Armidale Express and New England General Advertiser (NSW), Friday 7 February 1879, page 5

The ‘ Long Sleever’

A Bishop wearing ‘lawn sleeves’

The late W. B. Dalley* was the last and perhaps the best— barring Deniehy — of Australia’s great post-prandial speakers. And mentioning his name reminds me of the origin of the term ‘long-sleever,’ as applied to a straight 18 inches of colonial beer. Everyone knows the late Bishop Barker was a very tall man, and like all other Bishops, he had the privilege of wearing lawn sleeves. One very sultry summer’s day, Edmund Barton, Dalley, Butler, and other legal luminaries of this State were travelling on circuit in the West, and putting up at a wayside inn, Mr. Barton said,

This ‘shout’ is mine, so what will you have, Butler?
Oh, I’m no bigot! said the witty Q.C., so I’ll have a Bishop Barker
Very well, said Barton, and yours, Mr. Dalley?
Well, replied the genial W. B., I think I’ll have a lawn sleever, too!
Lawn Sleever is good, said Buchanan ; I’ll have another.

The term lawn sleever caught on, and was passed round, and of course when it got down among the shirt-sleeved crowd it soon degenerated to a ‘long sleever.’

Richmond River Express and Casino Kyogle Advertiser (NSW : 1904 – 1929), Friday 1 June 1906, page 5

[Note: William Bede Dalley was a lawyer and politician who served in the government of Sir Henry Parkes. Short and thickset, with a jovial and often glowing countenance, Dalley set trends in colonial dress: colourful cravats and buttonholes reflected his unique flair and style. He was a life-long opponent of the death penalty and in 1864 he  defended the bushranger Frank Gardiner. He was described by the Argus as ‘one of the pioneer statesmen of the new world’.

In time and place there are variations in the described volume of a ‘long sleever’…..

Hurrah for the proprietor of Tatts. ; he has lowered the price of a small beer to 3d., but, as stated in the advertisement, if a fellow has to bring his own glass it will be rather, awkward, and perhaps cause disputes as to the definition of what is a small glass. For myself I like nothing but ‘long sleevers,’ though unfortunately some of the publicans have a knack of holding the glass about a yard from the tap, thereby causing nearly two inches of froth in the widest part of the glass, which is a very unwelcome sight to a lover of a glass of good beer, like myself.  A ‘long sleever’ is supposed to hold a pint, and for that quantity of first quality beer few would begrudge sixpence. It is not the length of road, but the pace that kills a horse, so with liquor, it is the quality that kills not the price.”

Hawkesbury Chronicle and Farmers Advocate (Windsor, NSW : 1881 – 1888), Saturday 22 October 1881, page 2

The Southern branch of the Tasmanian Licensed Victuallers Association has joined in the ‘high price epidemic’ and an amended retail price list notifies an increase in the cost of liquor to the consumer. In the indoor trade the “Long sleever” of beer (8oz to 12oz glass) has gone up from 3d to 4d and the small glass (not exceeding 8 oz.) is 3d.

THE “LONG SLEEVER.” (1919, September 4). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 – 1954), p. 4.

A correspondent tells me that one other has been added to the list of colonial drinks. In addition to long sleever, Bishop Barker, Queensland-lay-me-out, and others, “an Eli Johnson,” has now a significance and a name. And yet there are those who assert we are an unimaginative people.

Notes for Town and Country. (1882, August 12). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 – 1907), p. 17.

A sandy-whiskered individual named Charles Leonard ordered a ‘long-sleever’ at the Exchange Hotel, Bridge street, yesterday, and refused to pay the necessary equivalent. He then used about a cwt of obscene language, and the whole trouble cost him seventeen days, or £2.

WATER. (1889, November 21). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 – 1931), p. 2.

A Continental experimenter has discovered a means of reducing alcoholic drinks to the form of tablets or small lozenges, so that a man may carry a respectable drink in his vest pocket. A tablet the size of a pea dissolved in a big glass of water will produce a foaming deepsinker, or tbe individual can take his long sleever in the form of pills, and be gloriously drunk in two twos. This discovery should greatly facilitate Sunday trading, as the police would have considerable difficulty in proving a case when a man could hide a deepsinker in a hollow tooth.

PUNCHERIES. (1894, December 20). Melbourne Punch (Vic. : 1855 – 1900), p. 387

A man from Home who was a witness in case before the City Court the other day got hopelessly entangled in our straight drinks, and mixed liquors and the names we know them by. His ignorance of the terms applied to popular pints in this progressive young country should have rendered him liable to be hung for contempt of our Democratic institutions did those things receive the consideration they deserve at the hands of the Government. The long beer, long sleever, deep sinker, nobbier, whole dose and pewter were alike unknown to the benighted foreigner from round the globe, and he proceeded to demonstrate the extent of his drink by tape measurement and cubic inches and he rose with riotous indignation to protest that sleeves were no longer than common and mixing the nobbler with the gobbler, he proved with angry fury that he drank no turkeys in spite of the insinuations of the lawyer ; furthermore he swears he didn’t consort with deep-sinkers being a good  Catholic himself and averse to heresy in every shape. By-and-bye the Bench rose with suppressed ferocity and told witness to go outside and be ashamed till the rising of the court, and congratulated itself that such deplorable ignorance could not be laid at the door of our State education system, and business was resumed.

PUNCHERIES (1889, May 9). Melbourne Punch (Vic. : 1855 – 1900), p. 2

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