Queensland Opal Fields – The Eulo Queen


If you have ever driven from Cunnamulla to Thargomindah in southern Queensland you will have passed through the small township of Eulo. If you blink twice you will miss it as there is not much there.It has a cafe, post office, police station, a date farm and of course, the Eulo Hotel. While it is a fairly insignificant town now, it was quite important in the 1880’s, being a bustling township with three hotels and for quite a while it was home to one of the legends of the opal era, “the Eulo Queen”

Isobel Macintosh, daughter of James Richardson and Priscilla Wright and born around 1851, was apparently a short but sumptuous  beauty with blonde hair and grey eyes. She was the only white woman in the area in the early 1880’s and became the most talked-of woman in Central Queensland. She came to Australia as an immigrant girl around 1868 and obtained her first job as a governess on Bungiwagga Station, just out of Bourke in western New South Wales. She met and married the Station Overseer James McIntosh but he died soon after. On March 2 1871 she married Richard William Robinson and later on they moved on to Cunnamulla in western Queensland. Here they managed the local Cobb and Co store until they saved enough money to buy the Eulo Hotel some 50 miles west of Cunamulla.

At that time Eolo was the main town near three opal fields and there were over 300 miners working in the area. As mining was a very hot and thirsty job, most of these miners would gravitate to the nearest hotel when the thirst grabbed them and that was quite often, especially if they had found opal. Eulo also had a bi-weekly coach service, as it was a road junction for roads going to Cunnamulla, Thargomindah and Hungerford. This also attracted custom to the pub and hence the business thrived. Because of Isobel’s good looks and vibrant personality, she soon became the favourite of the miners. It was said that her bedroom became a scene of great activity with groups of miners having access to grog, gambling and whatever took their fancy. Payment was often in the form of opals and she soon acquired, what has been referrred to, as the finest collection of opals in the world, at that time. She used to wear  a lot of the jewellery as she served at the bar of the hotel and it was said also that she had a girdle of large opals and nautilus shells which was quite incredible. Some say she referred to herself as “the Eulo Queen” but others say the miners gave her that title. She was apparently quite notorious and had many run-ins with the law but somehow managed to keep operations going.

It wasn’t long before she became very wealthy and bought another hotel and ran the store at Eulo. She was a shrewd businesswoman but was always very generous to out of luck miners, often staking them with provisions if their luck ran out. This obviously endowed her to the mining fraternity. In October 1902, Robinson died and one year later she married 29 year old Tasmanian Herbert Victor Gray. At that time she claimed she was 35 but in reality was 53.

In 1913 she went to Europe and lived a lavish life. When she returned to Eulo she quarrelled with Gray and had no more to do with him and he died before he was due to head overseas to fight in the war. At the end of the war the opal era was in decline and Eulo’s importance had also waned as rail had taken over as the main transport alternative. Isobel’s income dried up, her hotels were destroyed by fire and she had to sell her opal jewellery to meet costs. She died in poverty in the Willowburn Mental Hospital at Toowoomba in 1929.

So ended a life of debauchery and self indulgence but also tempered with compassion for some miners facing starvation if we can believe what is said about her. She is still quite famous, or infamous, and there is an annual crowning of “The Eulo Queen” in her honour

The existing Eulo hotel is a rebuilt portion of the original.

Information about “The Eulo Queen” was mainly obtained from the book “Australian Opals in Colour” written by Nance and Ron Perry and an article on the web page “Australian Dictionary of Biography” by JCH Gill.

Images of Eulo can be viewed at Google .com.au.

Johno

Johno
johno@johnosopals.com

Johno is a retired Engineer who has enjoyed a lifelong passion for Australian Opal.

3 Comments
  • Paul D
    Posted at 12:55h, 09 September Reply

    It’s a great story Johno, thanks for sharing it. If I’m ever in that part of the world there’ll be no passing through Eulo without a stop at the pub.

  • Johno
    Posted at 23:14h, 09 September Reply

    Definately worth the stop.
    Johno

  • Donna Rose
    Posted at 07:03h, 14 May Reply

    Did the Opal Queen ever have children? My great grandmother was in Eulo when Isobel Grey lived there. My Great-grandmothers daughter, my Grandmother, bore a striking resemblance when older to the famous photograph taken of Isobel Grey which was taken of her on the street in Eulo when she was elderly and destitute.

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