Eulo Queen

She won the title of Eulo Queen for her habit of letting opal miners settle their debts with gemstones. After a brilliant and colourful career that made her one of the richest women in Australia, she fell in love with a handsome wastrel and died alone and bankrupt.

GRAY, ISABEL (1851?-1929), hotelier and storekeeper was the daughter of James Richardson, an army captain, and Priscilla Wright. On her first marriage certificate in April 1869 she was recorded as being born eighteen years before in England. When she married again in 1871 she claimed to have been born in Mauritius. Said to have been well educated in Switzerland, she was sent to Australia, probably in 1868. On 29 April 1869 at Warialda, New South Wales, Isabella Richardson married the 32-year-old Scots superintendent, James McIntosh. He died soon after. On 2 March 1871 at Roma, Queensland, Isabel McIntosh, widow and governess, married Richard William Robinson, station-manager of Spring Grove, Surat.

The Robinsons remained in south-west Queensland. By 1886 they were hotel-keepers at Eulo, on the Paroo River, an important staging post between Cunnamulla and Thargomindah and coach junction from Hungerford. Eulo was thus a gathering place for travellers and others. On 1 September 1889 Robinson acquired the freehold and hotel and billiard licences of the Royal Mail Hotel, Eulo. The Robinsons also conducted a store and butcher’s shop.

About this time the legend of the ‘Eulo Queen’ began. Although short, Isabel probably possessed some personal beauty with the physical sumptuousness so esteemed by contemporary males, and a complaisant husband enabled her to operate as a successful courtesan. Her bedroom was a scene of great activity. A stock of liquor there helped her to entertain groups of gentlemen with conversation and gambling. More intimate entertainment was available. Opals were the key to her heart; she was captivated by these fiery gems. She used them as currency and for adornment, including a fantastic girdle of alternate large opals and nautilus shells. Some say she styled herself ‘Queen of Eulo’, but others consider admirers conferred the title. The 1893 financial crisis and the 1896 failure of the Queensland National Bank reduced her wealth.

On 18 October 1902 Robinson died at Cunnamulla. On 31 October 1903 Isabel married, at Eulo, a 29-year-old Tasmanian, Herbert Victor Gray. The bride was about 53 but claimed she was 35. She recouped her fortunes and in 1913 went to Europe where she lived lavishly. On her return she quarrelled with Gray; he beat her, and was charged with assault, convicted and fined £25. Isabel paid the fine but thereafter she denied Gray her bed and board. He joined the Australian Imperial Force but died before going to France.

World War I ended with Eulo’s importance lost to railways and better roads, the opal industry in a deep recession and the young men away on war service, many never to return. The Eulo Queen’s remaining enterprises withered on the vine. By 1926 she was living in poverty at Eulo, the military pension as Gray’s widow her sole support. Later she was admitted to Willowburn Mental Hospital at Toowoomba and died there on 7 August 1929. Buried in Toowoomba cemetery, she left an estate of £30.

Isabel Gray could be hard in her business dealings but, if the mood moved her, kind to genuine cases of distress. Self-willed and self-indulgent she was, but the Eulo Queen will live as one of the characters of southwest Queensland history.

Abandoned Mangalore

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Setting out from Charleville and proceeding down the river in the year 1874, the traveller at a distance of forty miles reached Dillalah, then under the management of Mr. Frederick Walter. Being upon the main road, and no accommodation near it, proved a rendezvous, where, amongst other travellers, the squatter and the drover preponderated. Opposite to Dillalah stood the abandoned station of Managalore, where much capital had been expended in buildings and yards, and it was then in the market for disposal.

The growth of Mitchell grass illustrates the tangible value of the Warrego River country whilst the mulga ridges which comprise the backcountry are grassed with what is known as the Mulga grass, beside which rich herbage abounds so that the Warrego district is not inaccurately described as the garden of Queensland. In any case, it is one of the most valuable sections.

About seven miles below Dillalah was the station of Murweh, where a few years previously the owner was murdered by a notorious blackfellow named Dillalah Jommy, who pushed his head first into the waterhole, which had very steep banks, as he was drawing a bucket of water. Jommy had his hands stained with several murders, and, only a few weeks before my entrance on the Warrego had waylaid a boy riding his pony on the outskirts of Cunnamulla, exercising a diabolical cunning by breaking his skull so that it would appear he had been kicked in the head by his horse after being thrown.

The next station down the Warrego was Claverton, formed by Messrs Bigge, of Mount Brisbane, and Geary. A large amount of capital was invested in the formation of the station which carried both sheep and cattle. The reputation which this station held in the district for hospitality was indeed well merited.