Saturday, March 19, 2016

Happy Birthday, Sydney Harbour Bridge


Friend Graham has pointed out to me that today is the anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge 84 years ago. There is no special significance to an 84th anniversary, or more correctly an 83rd anniversary, but then again there is no intrinsic significance in a 50th, 75th or 100th anniversary apart from the fact that they are milestones in the public imagination.

Nonetheless, here are some fun facts about one of Australia’s, and certainly one of Sydney’s, iconic landmarks: 

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When the Bridge was inaugurated on 19 March 1932, the ceremonial ribbon cutting was supposed to be done by NSW Premier the Hon. John T. Lang. However, Capt. Francis de Groot of the New Guard paramilitary group dashed forward mounted on a horse, cut the ribbon with his sword and declared the bridge open "in the name of the decent and respectable people of New South Wales". He was subsequently arrested, the ribbon was tied back together, and the ceremonial cutting proceeded without further incident. It is reported that when George V (who was in conflict with NSW Premier Jack Lang) heard about de Groot’s sabre cutting of the tape he slapped his thigh and happily exclaimed “Well done, de Groot.” As for De Groot, he was fined £5 (later pardoned) and eventually returned to his native Ireland.

Jack Lang cuts the repaired ribbon

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The public was allowed to walk across the deck of the bridge when it was first opened in 1932, repeated 50 years later in 1982. 

The public on the Bridge, 1932

The public on the Bridge, 1982

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The bridge was load tested with 96 steam locomotives in various configurations.

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There are about 6 million Australian made rivets used in the bridge, and the largest of these would be the 395-millimeter-long rivets which weighed around 3.5 kilograms. Rivets were installed hot into holes with the non-rounded end then being being rounded off to secure it in place.

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Industrial safety during construction was poor by today's standards. Sixteen workers died during construction but surprisingly only two from falling off the bridge. Several more were injured from unsafe working practices undertaken whilst heating and inserting its rivets, and the deafness experienced by many of the workers in later years was blamed on the project.



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Paul Hogan was a rigger on the Sydney Harbour Bridge before embarking on a new career as a comic and actor.

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As many as 800 families living in the Bridge's path were relocated and their homes demolished without any compensation given when the Bridge started construction. 

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When the Bridge first opened, it cost cars six pence to cross.

Horse and rider cost three pence.

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Sydney Harbour Bridge is the world’s largest steel arch bridge.

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An interesting image for the 1932 Bridge opening celebrations: Captain Cook , a British flag, a woman in a bathing suit with an emphasised crotch area and an indigenous Australian in a pose that seems to reflect alienation and subservience.


2 comments:

  1. Privileged that my dear late Son EDWARD JAMES GUY BOULTON worked on the Bridge, firstly as a Painter and then as a Rigger for 7 years until 1999. Edward loved this Bridge and his colleagues who became his friends. Happy 84th Birthday Sydney Harbour Bridge.

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