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John Oxley Library

Queensland Places - Royal Hotel, Thursday Island

By JOL Admin | 16 May 2014

The Royal Hotel, Thursday Island has been part of the island’s history for more than 120 years, being built in around 1890 and, being part of the present day island landscape, this history continues.  During the hotel’s early years, it was managed by Mr. George Pearson who was a prominent member of the community, involved in both business and civic affairs.  Mr. George Pearson was also known widely as Captain Pearson, a term he used all his life.  This was in acknowledgement of his on-going involvement in the maritime and pearling industry and there are various newspapers reports of him buying and selling pearling and other vessels during his time at Thursday Island.  Apart from being one of the island’s leading publicans and being involved in pearling, he also served as a councillor as well as Thursday Island mayor.  His interests were obviously wide as there is also a reference to his being the president of the Thursday Island Rifle Club.


Royal Hotel, Thursday Island, 1897. John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland

The pictured advertisement dates from the late 1890s and shows the hotel building as well as the dining room with its main table formally set and ready for guests.  In this image we also see that there was a separate wing containing sample rooms, enabling prospective guests to views the accommodation on offer before deciding to stay.

The Royal Hotel has always been popular with visitors to Thursday Island and many would have had happy memories of holidays there.  One rather poignant, and perhaps not so happy an event, which involved a young guest, took place in 1893 and is worthy of relating here.  This young hotel guest was a little girl named Sissy Brown, staying at the hotel with relatives.  On one occasion, she was playing on the balcony with other children, when she fell off, breaking her arm and suffering concussion, but surviving.  What is particularly interesting about this little girl is that she was one of the survivors of the sinking of the Quetta, with her rescue from that tragic event being described as miraculous.  One wonders what happened to Sissy Brown later in her life, after these early traumatic events.

Captain Pearson eventually moved on from Thursday Island and in 1904 we find him managing the Black Horse Hotel in Richmond, New South Wales, where he continued to be a well regarded and respected member of the community.  Other managers followed at the Royal, continuing its history through to the present.

Brian Randall - Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland


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