Friday, May 14, 2010

Gateway Bridge (now Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges)

On 11 January 1986, Brisbane's Gateway Bridge was thrown open to pedestrian traffic in a special inauguration which will be repeated on Sunday when the duplicate bridge is accorded the same honour. Apparently there will be entertainment and a giant fish and chip fryup, so it should be a ton of fun. I remember the construction and opening of the first bridge for a couple of reasons. I was an avid golfer at the time, and the bridge spanned the Royal Queensland Golf Club where I played every Saturday. The course had to be shortened with some of the holes redesigned to allow the construction of the bridge. There was a deal of satisfaction when the bridge was completed and the course was free of obstructions like contractors' huts and vehicles, and it was returned to championship length. There were still some issues with local rules being created to allow for balls hitting the bridge pylons and so on. Most of us amateurs lobbed the occasional mishit tee shot from the 12th hole onto the bridge - I don't know what that would have done for the nerves of motorists traversing the bridge at the time. When Greg Norman played there, he just hit his shot straight over the top of it, so I heard - an option not available for mere mortals. One of the other issues was a most unfortunate one. The bridge became a prime site for suicides until special barriers were constructed to prevent them from occurring. Here is a photo of that bridge from 14 May 1986, the day it was officially opened by Prince Philip. The golf course runs along the river underneath the pylons on the far side of the bridge.
(Photo: State Library of Queensland and John Oxley Library; #78999)

I'm not playing golf these days, which is most disappointing, because I really miss it. Some sort of inner-ear issue has created havoc with my balance and I can barely stand up while swinging a golf club. My friends down at the club tell me that the course was completely redesigned for the new duplicate bridge and it is now better than ever. The bridges are also getting a new name - they will be known as the Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges, named after a senior Queensland public servant who has just retired. The word is that the name is not popular with the populis, probably because most would never have heard of him. That's a shame, because he is a thoroughly nice man and has done a lot for Queensland in his completely understated and modest way - much more than many of the grandstanding politicians we have been lumbered with over the years. Just Google him and you'll see what I mean. Anyway, here are the Sir Leo Hielscher Bridges, side by side - the new one is on the left.(Photo: © 2010 the foto fanatic)

Postscript: Here is a Courier-Mail photograph of thousands of walkers crossing the new bridge - some estimates say that over 100,000 Brisbane walkers took part.
  (Photo:; 16 May 2010)

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