CELEBRATION: Chief of the Lower Clarence Scottish Association, Peter Smith, leads the procession across McFarlane Bridge.
CELEBRATION: Chief of the Lower Clarence Scottish Association, Peter Smith, leads the procession across McFarlane Bridge.

100 years of service

By JULIA ILES

julia.iles@dailyexaminer.com.au

THE steadfast structure of McFarlane Bridge, which connects Woodford Island to Maclean, outlasted all of the people who attended its opening 100 years ago, but yesterday a new generation celebrated.

A pipe band, vintage cars, politicians on horses, scouts, tractors and emergency services vehicles were in a street parade with around 400 members of the public that followed behind them over the bridge to Woodford Island.

They congregated at the same spot where the bridge was opened 100 years ago on April 9, 1906 by visionary, long-serving MP and bridge namesake John McFarlane, who had lobbied hard for it.

His great grandson John McFarlane cut a blue ribbon yesterday but due to health and safety was not able to break a bottle of wine on the bridge like his great grandmother had done all those years ago.

"I never knew him, as he died in 1912 and I was born in 1935 but my father would tell me he never wanted to become a minister as he said he wouldn't have the freedom to properly represent the people," John McFarlane said of his great grandfather.

"He started off as an independent but ended up learning towards the Liberal side, but was always a protectionist."

A new plaque on a nearby rock was unwrapped to commemorate the occasion.

McFarlane Bridge is the Clarence Valley's contribution to the National Trust's Heritage Festival for 2006.

Representing the trust was Justice Barry O'Keefe, who did not stay for the entire day as he had to fly to London at 5pm from Sydney.

Mr O'Keefe said it was important that the bridge was part of the trust as it meant it would be protected for future generations and ensure it stayed part of the Clarence Valley's history.

Clarence Valley mayor Ian Tiley said the bridge changed the life of his family.

"My grandfather went to the bridge opening, he was 19 at the time and my grandmother may have as well as she lived on Woodford Island too; it must have made such a great difference to their lives," he said.

Cr Tiley said the bridge had cost 15,060 pounds, took 13 years to build and 400 cubic yards was built on each side.

Before the bridge, the cost to cross on the ferry was nine pence, a lot when the average wage was five shillings a day or less.

Many said NSW Public Works engineer Harvey Dare, who designed the curved track bascule bridge, must have been a man of foresight. The bridge was originally intended for a horse and carriage but today can support a semi-trailer.

Harvey Dare's surname was spelt Darle in The Daily Examiner's page one pointer on Saturday. The Examiner apologises for the Lismore production error.



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