In the same year Ned Kelly was hanged and Australia opened its first telephone exchange, a small pub opened on the Tablelands to service a new mining town.
142 years later the Royal Hotel in Herberton remains open, slinging schooners and welcoming locals and visitors alike, though it’s recently changed hands.
Experienced, long-time local hospitality guru Rick Sheriff reopened the venue this year with a mission to showcase the hotel’s spirited past.
The Royal Hotel was established on Herberton’s Grace Street in 1880 by well-known proprietor George Parker Hides, an Englishman who followed the gold rushes to Victoria, New South Wales and New Zealand, and later to the Palmer Goldfield in North Queensland at the height of the rush in 1873.
He operated as a teamster, miner and storekeeper in partnership with Duncan McColl, before building a hotel to service miners in Hodgkinson and later, Herberton’s Royal Hotel.
Originally a small timber building, it was the first of 20-odd hotels in the area at the peak of the tin mining boom.
A second story was added to the Royal in 1912.
Shortly after its inception, Mr Hides and Mr McColl also opened the now Heritage-listed Hides Hotel.
They kept The Royal for many years, and Mr McColl remained in Herberton until his death.
According to an article in The Queenslander, it’s thought to be the oldest pub on the Tablelands as well as one of Queensland’s oldest continually-licenced hotels.
It was only two decades prior to its opening that Queensland broke away from New South Wales and became its own colony, thus beginning to issue its own liquor licenses.
“As well as the building itself, the whole area attracted me,” Publican Rick Sherriff said.
“The place is full of creative characters and amazing historical figures.
“I did hear about a policeman who was called either the Irishman or the Scotsman and you had the option of either facing the fine or fighting him.
“If he beat you, you got the fine but if you beat him, you were off the hook.”
Rick is now setting about transforming the establishment to highlight its historical attributes.
“On a Friday night, we’re three or four people deep,” he said.
“The bar was renovated back in the 60s and early 70s so it’s now being reconfigured to suit more of its proper age in the 1800s.
“The lounge bar is being turned into a bit of a lady’s tourist business bar.
“In the dining room, the silky oak windows are still there and we are bringing back that nice red colour.
“We’re also doing slow cooked barbeque items like briskets, live music and we support the local Wild River Mountain gin distillery and Billycart Brewing.”
The Royal Hotel trades seven days a week, 11am till late.
This story originally appeared in Tropic magazine Issue 37, in partnership with the Cairns Historical Society.