Royal Reels: Gambling


The advertising cover was addressed to the Manager, Commercial Bank Co. Lmtd, Hobart, Tasmania and the blue 2d New South Wales stamp was postmarked BYRON BAY/ JY 1/ 1907/ N.S.W. The stamp had a stylized ‘collar’ around it which read ‘BATEY’S/ GREAT NORTHERN/ HOTEL/ BYRON BAY (Figures 1 & 2).

The Queenslander (Brisbane) 20 December 1902 described the Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay as follows: “It can safely be asserted that nowhere on the Northern rivers is there a hotel where the requirements of the travelling public have been more carefully studied and fully provided for than at Byron Bay, New South Wales. Mr. Murdoch McLean, the enterprising proprietor of the Great Northern Hotel, has established a house where the most fastidious traveller can have his every wish supplied. The building, which is a new one, is capable of accommodating about 100 guests, and is handsomely, not to say lavishly, furnished throughout. The spacious dining room, the large airy, well-provided bedrooms, the numerous sitting and commercial rooms, show fully Mr. McLean has entered into the various needs of a travelling public, and how practically he has adapted the results of his own tour to the old country to make his hotel an ideal home for any who wish to spend a long or a short holiday at the seaside. The table at this hotel is the theme of all who once visit it, and it may safely be said that it is not surpassed by any metropolitan house. Every possible effort has been to make the house most complete, and the spacious balconies, giving a fine view of the bay and the ocean, form a feature in the home”.

“The beauties of the Byron Bay district require to be seen to be appreciated, and Mr. McLean not only knows, but is very ready to advise his visitors how and where they can see it at its best. The hotel contains upwards of seventy rooms, and is fitted up with splendid bathrooms, billiard room and every convenience and comfort that can be desired”.

The Brisbane Courier, 15 June 1903 on page 10 as follows: “Owen R. Wareham has been favored with instructions of Mr. Murdoch McLean to sell in separate Lots, on Friday , 1st June at Ten o’clock, The GREAT WESTERN HOTEL, Byron Bay, containing sixty rooms, all splendidly furnished and fitted with every convenience. Large stables, containing 14 stalls, 7 loose-boxes, feed and harness rooms, out-houses , &c”.

“These premises were rebuilt some five years ago on Lots 7 and 8, Section 16, Town of Byron Bay routing Jonson and Byron streets, the former being the principal thoroughfare of the Town, and connecting the Railway Station with the Government Wharf, thus catching all traffic by rail and sea. The Hotel is the largest, best furnished and patronised house north of Sydney, and will be offered as a going concern. In addition to the above, separate lots will be offered :

Lot No. 3 of Section 33, containing a quarter-acre, on which is erected the English, Scottish and Australian Bank and manager’s dwelling, A returning good and certain rental. What follows is a listing of Lots 2, 8-12 and 14. All the above lots are situated in good positions in the fast-rising commercial and watering Township of Byron Bay, which is situated midway between Lismore and Murwillumbah”.

“In addition to the town and large surrounding district trade, there is a considerable travelling population, both by rail and sea, which will shortly be vastly increased owing to rail connection with the cities of Brisbane and Grafton. (The lines are now being constructed).” A picture of the original Batey’s Great Northern Hotel of Byron Bay (when it was in the hands of another owner, so that it is labeled ‘McLeans Great Northern Hotel’), as is seen in Figure 3.

The Brisbane Courier 27 March 1909, states that Mr. D.J. Batey of the Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay sold his interest in the Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay to Mr.W.C. Garlick of New Zealand and Mr. Garlick paid £4,500 for the business. The Clarence and Richmond Examiner (Grafton) 20 March 1909, page 2, stated that a Mr. Garlick of New Zealand had bought the good will and stock of the Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay.

 The finding in the Sydney Morning Herald on 26 March 1928 on page 12 seemed to be foretelling the future ‘hippy” reputation that the town later developed . The SMH described opium raids on the North Coast of N.S.W. and Sue Wing, a cook at the Great Northern Hotel was one of the arrested. The Courier-Mail (Brisbane), 20 June 1936, page 17 described an aftermath (scorched bank notes) of the fire at the Hotel when a Mr. H.F. Kealy was the licensee.

These events are recorded in order, early to late date, but there seems to be an inconsistency in the dates, particularly as the cover shows that Batey’s name was still in use as late as July 1907. This might have been due to carry over of old envelopes.

The Great Northern Hotel, Byron Bay was probably built in the late 1890s and is still in action but it is best known for the musical groups that play there, and certainly not for its food and lodging. A newer version of the Hotel is seen in Figure 4.

Categories: Places