Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip visited Rockhampton in 1954.
Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip visited Rockhampton in 1954. The Morning Bulletin archive

Population swells from 40K to 60K for Queen's Rocky visit

FROM The Morning Bulletin in 1954.

THE population of Rockhampton increased from 40,000 to something like 60,000 yesterday when city and country folk gave an enthusiastic reception to Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh during their short stay of an hour and 40 minutes.

The welcome was spread over almost eight miles of city streets. It was conveyed in studied words of the address by the Mayor (Mr R. B. J. Pilbeam) and spontaneously in the cheering, the waving and the excited scramble for a second and still another glimpse of the Royal couple.

The main points of assembly were at the airport and the Town Hall. Great crowds waited good humouredly in blazing sunlight for hours and were rewarded with good views of the Queen and the Duke.

The Queen, mindful of the tribulations of her subjects in widespread lands, struck a responsive chord when she spoke of the recent flood in the Fitzroy River basin and offered her sympathy to those who had suffered.

Both the Queen and the Duke asked the Mayor questions about flooding in Rockhampton and were interested when told that where they set foot on Rockhampton soil had been feet under water three weeks ago.

1954-Queen-1   Queen Elizabeth signing the visitor's book at the Rockhampton Town Hall on her 1954 visit to the city.   Photo supplied by the Rockhampton and District Historical Society.
1954-Queen-1 Queen Elizabeth signing the visitor's book at the Rockhampton Town Hall on her 1954 visit to the city. Photo supplied by the Rockhampton and District Historical Society.

Daybreak found hundreds of people in place along the barricades at the Town Hall after their long wait through the night. As the sun rose higher the heat increased, but the crowd, growing larger every minute, settled down more or less patiently.

Umbrellas were folded when the Royal plane passed overhead and radio commentators described the arrival of the Queen and the Duke.

Excitement mounted as the people listened to the start of the Royal Progress from the airport.

The next move was the arrival of the Mayor and Mrs Pilbeam by car with a police escort from the airport to receive the Royal visitors at the Town Hall. Mr Pilbeam wore the mayoral chain over a light summer suit Mrs Pilbeam was frocked in silver-grey self embossed tie-silk, with a white baku hat featuring a scalloped edge.

A wave of cheering preceded the Royal procession of cars from William Street into Bolsover Street and the crowd near the Town Hall took it up as the open tourer carrying the Queen and Duke approached.

At the Town Hall steps, adeparture from the usual procedure was the opening of the Royal car door for the Queen and the Duke by a girl in uniform, the skipper of the Rockhampton Sea Rangers, Miss Jean Allan, in her smart navy and white uniform.

The Queen and the Duke both appeared to be slightly sun-tanned after their visit to North Queensland.

The Queen's cornflower blue silk frock, worn over a stiffened underskirt, was patterned in finely traced white flowers, outlined with black.

Her tiny matching hat featured a folded brim and her handbag shoes, and three-quarter length gloves were white.

People surged from East and William Street like a tide to fill the area in front of the dais to the far side of the street.

That was the cue for the Rockhampton City Band to play the National Anthem and for the Royal Standard to be unfurled on the highest flag pole above the building. The crowd joined in and then added a mighty cheer.