On September 27, 1952, the citizens of Rockhampton celebrated the opening of the new Fitzroy Bridge. The locally born Premier of Queensland, Vince Gair, was given the honour of cutting the ribbon in front of an estimated crowd of 30,000. Also in attendance were about 60 people who had attended the opening of the original Fitzroy Bridge in 1881.
Before the official ceremony, strict precautions were taken to ensure the premier would be the first to open the bridge, thus avoiding the mishap that had occurred during the opening ceremony of the Sydney Harbour Bridge 20 years earlier when an intruder cut the ribbons before the NSW premier had the chance.
During the ceremony, Rockhampton Mayor Rex Pilbeam paid his respects to the outgoing Fitzroy Bridge: “Our old friend, now coming to the end of a long and honourable career.” Sadly it was not long before the new bridge had its first traffic accident. Within three hours of its being opened to traffic, a 13-year-old girl was struck by a car while crossing from one footpath to the other. Fortunately her injuries were not life-threatening.
Despite the accident, opening celebrations continued into the evening. The river was aglow with 700 lights illuminating the bridge, and coloured lights were strung around three trees in front of the Town Hall. Rockhampton’s Morning Bulletin newspaper reported: “There was a band parade through the streets and a grand display of fireworks from a barge in the river.” A dance was held on the bridge, though the tightly packed crowds meant it was slow to get under way. Once conditions improved, the dance band started playing and the festivities continued until almost midnight.
Myles Sinnamon – Project Coordinator, State Library of Queensland