FRESH START: Diane and Stuart Toms, Grand Hotel Biggenden's new publicans.
FRESH START: Diane and Stuart Toms, Grand Hotel Biggenden's new publicans. Erica Murree

Grand Hotel publican's strangest drinking buddy

WHO is the strangest drinking buddy you have ever had?

The story probably won't top Stuart Toms', Grand Hotel Biggenden's new publican, alongside wife Di.

Mr Toms lived in South America for several years in his younger days, working on luxurious cruise ships.

While there, every fortnight or so he would dock in Rio de Janeiro where he would catch up with an on-the-run Ronnie Biggs, one of the gang members of the famous Great Train Robbery in 1963, the "heist of the century" according to Encyclopedia Britannica.

Mr Biggs spent decades in Brazil until returning to the UK in 2001.

It's not the only great story Mr Toms has to tell.

He was involved with casinos for many years, and during a stint living in Las Vegas, he became one of the first Australian dealers to lay the cards out in a World Series of Poker tournament.

"It was a misled youth but it was good," Mr Toms said.

The Toms family, which includes daughter Maddison, 15, settled in Hervey Bay where Mr Toms managed a series of pubs, before the parents moved out to Augathella to take over the Ellangowan Hotel.

"We fell in love (with country Queensland)," Mr Toms said.

"We wanted to try something different in our lives, nine hours west is definitely something different."

Mr Toms said he loved being a publican and "showing (patrons) a good time".

He said his role was to support the community, so he has committed to sourcing the majority of Grand Hotel's food locally, including bread from the bakery, meat from the butchery, and produce from Biggenden FoodWorks.

He will also continue donating $2 from chicken schnitzels to Biggenden State School, an initiative started by previous publican Danny and Kerry Nevins.


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