Believed to be Australia’s oldest surviving music hall, Queensland’s historic Apollonian Hotel was reborn when it was divided into four sections and moved to a picturesque location.

Story By John Dunn

A grand old timber building stands at the top of a substantial, sloping lawn, backed by a rainforest of palms, Moreton Bay figs, pandanus and quandongs, and coloured in front by a spreading mauve bougainvillea at Boreen Point in south-east Queensland. It’s the Apollonian Hotel, believed to be Australia’s last surviving music hall, built in the goldfield days.
It filled the diggings around Gympie with the sound of its music 140 years ago, and today, remarkably, it all continues. The lilting tunes roll instead across the shores of nearby Lake Cootharaba, as the gold-rush relic was relocated in 1987 to Boreen Point. The hotel continues, however, to uphold the part it has played for many lifetimes in entertaining the district.
The Apollonian, which was also known in the past as the Apollonian Vale, took its name from the Greek sun god Apollo, god of theatre and music, and it has lived up to its title for most of the time since 1868 when English comedian and vocalist Billy Barlow built it so he could play to the miners after a long day’s prospecting.
And it is still doing today one particular program that was so popular all those years ago. One of its features was the ‘Free and Easy’, a sort of variety get-together in which anyone could sing a song, tell a yarn or do some comical or physical feat. Interestingly it survives, albeit under a new name. Now it’s known as BYOM (bring your own music). The structure is a little different but the basis is the same. And the theme is just as popular now as it was then, as those with their instruments turn up to play for audiences just as appreciative as they were in the past.

This story excerpt is from Issue #61

Outback Magazine: Oct/Nov 2008