LEGEND has it that a there was once a pub in the town of Hungerford that sat ‘slap-bang’ on the border of Queensland and New South Wales. As a consequence the pub’s bar was half in NSW, with the remainder in Queensland.
Last century the two states had different pub closing times – NSW, 6pm, and Queensland, 8pm. After 6pm, it was reported that patrons of the pub would walk to the Queensland end of the bar, where they could literally drink until 8pm.
While this story cannot be substantiated, there’s the story of Hungerford’s Royal Mail Hotel, which was established in 1874. The border between NSW and Queensland was not officially surveyed until 1879-1880. When the Royal Mail was built, it was thought to be in NSW and licence fees were paid in that colony from 1874 to 1879.
The survey eventually revealed that the pub was indeed in Queensland, and from 1880 the licence has been issued in this state. The Royal Mail continues to trade in Hungerford, Queensland (2019).
THE New South Wales-Queensland border runs through the middle of the bars of the hotel in Hungerford.
After 6 o’clock, patrons walk to the Queensland end, where they can literally drink until 8 o’clock.
Mr. Les Bullock, school teacher, of Toowoomba, Queensland, said this in an address over the wireless.
“The paddock at the back of the hotel is about one and a half acres, and it is six feet deep with beer bottles. The freight is too heavy to return the empties,” he said.
– The Port Macquarie News and Hastings River Advocate (NSW) Saturday 21 January 1939.
The Royal Mail: A History…
The Royal Mail Hotel was granted its first license in 1874, a year before Hungerford was gazetted as a township. The town lies on the border between Queensland and New South Wales, on the east bank of the Paroo River, and was a customs post on an important early stock route running between Queensland and the markets in Victoria and South Australia.
The first license for the Royal Mail Hotel was issued to John George Cooke on November 6 1874. He was also the postmaster following an earlier attempt to set up a service based on a property at ‘Hoodsville’, a few miles away.
The name of the hotel is particularly apt as several publicans served in this capacity over the years, besides supporting a later Cobb & Co mail and passenger service. The first post office was established at ‘Hungerford’s’ on January 1 1876.
The border between New South Wales and Queensland was not officially surveyed until 1879-1880. When the Royal Mail was built, it was thought to be in New South Wales and licence fees were paid in that colony from 1874 to 1879. The survey revealed that the land was part of Queensland and from 1880 the hotel licence has been issued in this state.
Isaac Foster acquired the hotel from Cooke in 1876.
Hungerford was one of the 14 settlements along Queensland’s borders used as customs posts until the colonies were federated in 1901.
The route officially ran between post offices in each settlement, but nearby hotels were commonly used by coach companies to change horses and accommodate passengers and this was the case with the Royal Mail hotel. Isaac Foster died in 1882 and the license passed briefly to two other men before being taken up by Charles Wethered who held it until 1889, when it was taken over by Thomas G. Foster, who was possibly a relative of Isaac. By this time the Royal Mail had competition in the form of the Commercial Hotel, built in 1885. The railway had by then reached Cunnamulla and with the coach link, provided access to larger centres.
Writer, Henry Lawson described Hungerford in a short story of that name which appeared in While the Billy Boils in 1896:
“The town is right on the Queensland border, and an interprovincial rabbit-proof fence – with rabbits on both sides of it – runs across the main street… Hungerford consists of two houses and a humpy in New South Wales, and five houses in Queensland. Characteristically enough, both the pubs are in Queensland. We got a glass of sour yeast at one and paid sixpence for it – we had asked for English ale.
The post office is in New South Wales, and the police barracks in Bananaland. The police cannot do anything if there’s a row going on across the street in New South Wales except to send to Brisbane and have an extradition warrant applied for; and they do not do much if there’s a row in Queensland. Most of the rows are across the border, where the pubs are.”
John Logan died in 1907 and his widow, Margaret, became the licensee. By this time, the town had passed its peak when it had a population of over 100 and a magistrate’s court, police station, post and telegraph office, a school, four churches, several shops and three hotels.
The Cobb & Co service to Hungerford was discontinued in 1904 and by 1915 Hungerford had been bypassed and was merely a turn off on the Cunnamulla to Thargomindah coach route.
The hotel was sold in 1928. The Royal Mail has since had several licensees, the current owners having purchased the hotel in 2000. The town population has in recent years been as low as 10 and the Royal Mail has been the only hotel for most of the 20th century, drawing custom from local people and seasonal pastoral workers.
Following the opening of nearby Currawinya National Park, custom is being increasingly drawn from tourism.
– Courtesy: Environment Queensland
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