Tilly Devine: The Brothel Queen Of Darlinghurst

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Tilly Devine: The Brothel Queen Of Darlinghurst

The year is 1927.  Sydney is in a post-war party that’s been raging on for almost a decade. The suburb of Darlinghurst is the beating heart of it all, and the surrounding areas of Kings Cross, Potts Point, Woolloomoloo and Surry Hills are slums of debauchery, crime and vices. It’s an underworld run by two rival crime queens. Kate Leigh and Tilly Divine. 

In an effort to stamp out excessive alcohol consumption, pubs have shut at 6pm since 1916, giving rise to what they call the six o'clock swill - where punters attempt to drink as much as they can in the final minutes before 6, before being tossed out of the pub. Thirsty working-class Sydneysiders have the money and appetite for more. So the sly-grog business is born. Unlicensed hotels and liquor-stores are concealed behind butcher shops and florists. There’s one on every corner and chances are, if you’re somewhere in East Sydney, Kate Leigh supplied the Sly Grog you’re drinking. 

As you sip that over-priced, watered down whiskey, you’re probably no more than a stone's throw from one of Tilly Devine’s parlours. The London born madam has a gift for acquiring brothels. She’s just 26 and controls some 20 brothels in Darlinghurst alone. 

Kate Leigh and Tilly Devine have a stranglehold on their respective businesses, but in a city of sin, with egos like theirs, blood will spill over and over again for control of the streets of Darlinghurst, or Razorhurst as it’s about to become known.


Host: Emma Gillespie

Guests: Larry Writer & Leigh Straw

Producer: Gia Moylan

Audio Producer: Rhiannon Mooney


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