Campbell Bridge – 125th Anniversary

October 26, 2011

The Bridge finally opens

The following extracts are from the report by the Bingera Correspondent, dated 8th November, which appeared in the Maitland Mercury & Hunter River Advertiser on 19th November 1886. The correspondent was present on the opening day and gives a very detailed account of proceedings;

As a frequent reader of the Maitland Mercury, it has surprised me very much to find so little information regarding the town and district of Bingera appearing in your columns; and having been fortunate enough to be in the place on a recent interesting occasion, I have much pleasure in dotting down a few impressions taken during my rather brief visit.

The main township of Bingera is situated on the eastern side of the Gwydir River, which at the present time is a large and imposing looking body of water swollen by late heavy rains, flowing rapidly on to join the waters of the Darling.

[……] In the prefatory portion of this communication I mentioned my having been in Bingera at an interesting time, viz., the celebration of the opening of the magnificent iron bridge just completed for the N. S. Wales Government by Messrs. G. H. Royce and Co. This structure is one of, if not the finest,in the Northern districts, and fulfils a want long looked for by those who have business on this road. The two most dangerous rivers are now spanned—one at Manilla (which opened a few months ago), the other at Bingera (which was opened on Friday, the 5th instant.

The day was Gazetted as a public holiday in the Bingera, Barraba, and Warialda districts, and the inhabitants of Bingera, and visitors from the two latter and other places turned out in force to do honor to the event. The committee spared no trouble to make things go off successfully, and considering the uphill battle they had to fight, they have cause to be congratulated on the success of their arrangements.

The Hon. James Fletcher, Minister for Mines, had signified his intention through Mr. Hassell, M.P. for the Gwydir, of being present, but was unfortunately precluded from being present to the bitter disappointment of those who had assisted in the affairs of the demonstration.

At a very early hour on Friday, Bingera manifested signs of great animation, Buggies and vehicles of all descriptions rolling in, beside horse and footmen, to be present. By ten o’clock, the time fixed for the “Christening,” a very large number of people were assembled. A procession was formed at the School of Arts headed by the Moree Brass Band, followed next in order by about 300 children from the Public and other schools, then the general public on foot.

The members for the district and the lady selected for the honor of performing the christening ceremony, Mrs. Corbett Lawson, and other ladies, driven in a four-in-hand by W. Corbett Lawson, Esq., the worthy Police Magistrate of the district next followed, and the remainder of the procession was composed of a numerous cavalcade of vehicles and horsemen.

Maitland street was paraded and the bridge was reached, and on reaching the centre a stoppage was made and the ceremony of christening in champagne was performed in an able manner by Mrs. Corbett Lawson as the “Campbell Bridge,” amid considerable enthusiasm.

Alderman Hassell followed in a short and pithy speech, congratulating the northern district in general on the possession of such a magnificent piece of work, which though regarded as a white elephant by many, could not but be productive of incalculable benefti in facilitation communication, and giving a short outline of the origin of the various claims of previous members in obtaining this boon to the residents, and concluded by declaring the bridge open for traffic.

The whole body of people, to the number of over a thousand, then moved over the bridge to the other side, dispersed, and reformed, returning in procession to the town side, when they dispersed, wending their way to the race ground, where a programme of sports had been provided for their amusement, which was carried out apparently to the satisfaction of all.

A generally pleasing feature in the day’s amusement was a picnic to the public school children by Mrs. Corbett Lawson when a n attractive spread and special programme of sports suitable for the little folks was gone through, to their evident enjoyment.

The public luncheon in connection with the day’s proceedings was held in Wearne’s Assembly room at noon. About thirty gentlemen sat down to it, Alderman C. A. Bayly in the chair, Alderman T. Conolly, vice-chairman. The toast to the Queen and Governor being duly honoured, the Vice-Chairman proposed the health of Mr. Hassell, which was received and drunk with enthusiasm.

In a speech of some half-hour’s duration, Alderman Hassell responded, reviewing his political life since becoming the member for the Gwydir, explaining his motives for supporting the present Government, condemning the Opposition for delaying the business of the country, and stating his intention of giving the country a fair trial, which he contended they had not yet received.

He further expressed his intention to gain further amendments in the Land Bill, and concluded by apologising for and explaining the absence of the Hon. The Minister for Mines at the Demonstration, and stating that the Minister had promised to visit the district of Bingera, Moree, and Warialda during recess, and concluded his speech amid considerable applause.

The following toast were also proposed:– The pastoral, Commercial, Mining, and Agricultural interests, by Alderman Wearne, and was responded to ny Alderman C. E. Bull for the pastoral, Mr. J. Byrnes for the commercial, Mr. Court for the mining, and Mr. Degotardi for the agricultural interest.

“The Ladies” was given by Mr. Hassell, in a humorous speech, and was responded to bt Mr.  H. R. Munro. “The Contractors,” by Mr. L. S. Mackay; seconded by Mr. Smith, superintendent for Royce & Co. “The Engineer in Charge, and Superintendent of Roads,” by Rev. A. Brown, and responded to by Mr. Bassett. “The Press,” by the Vice-Chairman, and responded to by Mr. Veness, of the Bingera Telegraph, who took the opportunity of reading a telegram just received from Sydney, announcing the death of the late Chief Justice, Sir James Martin, the intimation of whose demise was received with profound regret, and in deference to a suggestion of the chairman, the proceedings terminated after a vote of thanks to chairman had been proposed, seconded, and carried. The company then dispersed.

A ball in the evening completed the day’s proceedings, at which the members and a large number of citizens were present. A lengthy programme of dances was carried out, and in the early morning the whole proceedings terminated.

The weather on the opening day was intensely hot and close, and fears were entertained that a thunderstorm would interfere with the day’s proceedings, but fortunately held off till Saturday, when several very severe storms of rain fell making things very uncomfortable for returning visitors. A cricket match was commenced between a team from Barraba and Bingera had to be indefinitely postponed, it being found impossible to play. The total rainfall for the last seven days is 401 points.

By Peter Jones
Bingara Historical Society

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