The Eulo Queen and Other Outback & Opal Stories

"Isabel Gray (c.1851-1929), the legendary ‘Eulo Queen’ was a notorious hotelier, Opal collector and advocate. She spoke fluent French and German and had been educated in Switzerland before she arrived in Australia in 1868.

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By 1886 Isabel and her second husband Richard William Robinson were hotel-keepers at Eulo (on the Paroo River) in Southwestern Queensland, an important Cobb & Co. staging post between Cunnamulla and Thargomindah and the coach junction from Hungerford. A few years later they had obtained the freehold, hotel and billiard licences of the Royal Mail Hotel and acquired the Empire Hotel. They also ran a store and butcher's shop in Eulo and thus controlled most of the town’s economy. Eulo had fast become a gathering-place for travellers, graziers, Opal miners and merchants.

An astute businesswoman; Isabel became a shrewd dealer in Opals - particularly from the burgeoning Opal fields nearby at Duck Creek, Yowah and Koroit. She even engaged a German Opal cutter to process the gems. It was not uncommon for her to advance sufficient money or goods from her store to anyone she thought worthy so as to keep them Opal mining. Conversely, she might make sure a miner had spent the value of his parcel of Opal and then oust the lingering drunk from her premises.

Although short in stature, Isabel was a voluptous beauty possessed of great sex appeal, she was ‘larger than life’ and desirable to men of all ages. A complacent husband enabled her to operate as a successful courtesan. A good stock of liquor and attractive young females helped her entertain groups of gentlemen with conversation, gambling and more intimate entertainment. In 1902 Robinson died and in 1903 Isabel married 29-year-old Tasmanian, Herbert Victor Gray, she was 53 yet claimed to be 35.

Opals were the key to her heart; the 'Eulo Queen' was captivated by these fiery gems, which she actively promoted as currency and for adornment. Her collection included a magnificent necklace, armlets, rings, pendants, an Opal studded belt and a fantastic girdle of large opals set alternately with nautilus shells."