Brisbane’s Queen Street Mall is beset with busy cleaners. The café latte set prize their first (or second) hit. Look up and you’ll see the magnificent 1885 façade of the Carlton Hotel. It’s a reminder of 125 years ago when the Queen of Eulo came to Queen Street.
That majestic title was bestowed upon Mrs Isabel Robinson by the Outback town 900 kilometres west of Brisbane. She was a voluptuous beauty educated in Switzerland, fluent in three languages. Soon she owned three hotels, the butcher and general store. From Cape York to Adelaide, the Queen was the town’s most famous resident. This was no mean feat, considering Banjo Paterson’s Clancy of the Overflow lived there.
You see, her bedroom was a scene of great activity. It was also a gambling den where Yowah opals were the currency. The fiery stone was the key to the Queen’s heart. It was rumoured she had a fantastic girdle of huge opals and nautilus shells.
Moreover she had a darker side quite apart from her bedroom pleasures. She brought cheap female domestics from Brisbane. If they didn’t suit, the poor lasses were belted and thrown out in the street. One of the girls mysteriously disappeared. Her remains were discovered in a creek bed 12 months later.
In the 1890s the Queen reckoned her riches and moved to Brisbane as landlady of the salubrious Carlton Hotel. Like Clancy of the Overflow, the Queen didn’t suit the city. In 1897 she sold up and returned to Eulo.
Another fortune and a third marriage. He was 29, the new Mrs Gray was 53 but said she was 35. The following year he was arrested for bigamy. The Queen was more than happy to pay the sizeable £100 bail with furious wife number one just days away.
Earlier this month I stood outside the 1882 Eulo Queen Hotel. Emus crossed the main street. Cattle strolled down the middle. Then today I looked up in the Queen Street Mall. There was the Carlton Hotel. All I saw was the Queen of Eulo in her grandeur. It’s amazing what you see when you look up.
Click here to see Emus in the streets of Eulo