A story as big and colourful as Australia itself
THE Accidental Australians - Harry and Jimmy Corones chronicles almost a century of rich history and will be launched in the foyer of the grand hotel in Charleville, Western Queensland on Friday, September 7.
Author Frances Harding, who owned and ran Hotel Corones with her husband Gordon from 1985 to 2001, says the book was a project that seemed to 'choose' her.
"I have always been interested in stories. During our time as owners of the hotel the incredible tale of Harry and Jimmy's accidental arrival in Australia, then Charleville and all that came after got under my skin," Frances says.
"It wasn't a case of if these walls could talk - they did talk, to me," she says. Despite a plan to seek out opportunity in America, 22 year-old Greek migrant Harry Corones and his 11-year-old nephew Jimmy arrived in Australia 1907. Two years later, on the promise of a job running a small cafe, they stepped off the Western Mail train in Charleville.
Harry began building Hotel Corones in 1924. The opulent building, running the length of an entire block in Charleville's main street, was like nothing outback Queensland - or outback Australia for that matter - had ever seen.
The hotel's construction took five years to complete. When finished it was replete with a grand silky oak staircase and custom-made furniture, marble floors, the biggest bar in the Southern Hemisphere, a Jazz Hall, and a silver service restaurant.
The more I learned about Harry - who became known as 'Poppa' - and all the things he'd done; it wasn't just a good story, it was an extraordinary story," Frances explains.
"He was a successful businessman, yes, but he also achieved so many history-making firsts," she says.
Harry Corones was the first Greek to hold a hotel license in Australia. His was the first hotel in the state (outside of Brisbane) to have ensuite bathrooms. He was the first caterer for Qantas and Charleville became the regular meal-stop for Qantas planes ferrying passengers around Queensland.
"Harry - Poppa - was also an enormous character who became famous for his comic spin on Australianisms," Frances adds.
Writing The Accidental Australians was a long and challenging, but rewarding process for Frances, who interviewed more than 60 sources, including Corones family members, hotel staff and patrons in order to recreate the vibrant stories captured within its pages.
"This has been a passion project," she says.
"I have put my heart and soul into it because I know how important it is for this story to be documented."
About the author
FRANCES Harding has been many things in her life; nurse, business owner, mother of eight, publican, and now author.
When she and her husband Gordon bought a run-down hotel in Western Queensland in the late 1980s, she had no idea of the extraordinary story that was hidden beneath the peeling wallpaper and ugly carpet.
As she and Gordon slowly returned Hotel Corones to its former glory, Fran felt herself connecting deeply with the rich history of its colourful past.
The Accidental Australians has taken nearly two decades to write. It is Fran's love letter to Harry (Poppa) Corones and his jewel - 'The Raffles of The West'.
The Accidental Australians - Harry and Jimmy Corones will be launched at 10am, Friday September 7 in the foyer of Hotel Corones, Wills Street Charleville. Copies of the book can be ordered via the website.
For more, go to www.francesharding.com.