Bettina Scherer gives flowers to the Queen in 1954.
Bettina Scherer gives flowers to the Queen in 1954. Crystal Jones

That time the Queen and Prince Philip popped into Bundy

THE biggest news of the year - if not the century - was the visit by newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth and her husband the Duke of Edinburgh in 1954.

During the nine weeks before the March 11 visit, the NewsMail published no fewer than 57 articles about the impending visit in 40 days.

On January 8, there was the news that March 11 had been gazetted a public holiday.

Then there were all the updates on planning: the procession route, the ceremony, decorations and protocol, as well as the continuing bun fight over who was to be presented to the royal visitors.

"If only we had television," was the comment of many Bundaberg people who listened to the broadcast of the Queen's arrival in Sydney on February 3.

After two people collapsed and died in the crush as one million people tried to see the Queen in Melbourne on February 24, Bundaberg hotels were asked to regulate the number of people they allowed on their balconies in the interests of safety.

To mark the royal visit, the NewsMail on March 10 published a six-page supplement "devoted exclusively to the discovery, development and aspirations of Bundaberg and district in all its phases, it will constitute an enduring memento of the greatest day in our history".

 

Doug Rattray being presented to Queen Elizabeth, 1954. Photo courtesy of Picture Bundaberg
Doug Rattray being presented to Queen Elizabeth, 1954. Photo courtesy of Picture Bundaberg Picture Bundaberg

The excitement built to fever pitch as people prepared for "the greatest thrill of their lives".

The city's illumination and decorations were complete, and fine weather was promised.

"Nearly 70,000 people from the Wide Bay and Burnett gave Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh an unforgettable welcome in Bundaberg yesterday", the NewsMail read on March 12.

The big crowd was so enthusiastic that it cheered the progress of the plane after its departure from Brisbane was broadcast at 10.40am.

Ten thousand people were at the airport.

Hundreds had slept there overnight while many others began to arrive and take up their positions long before daybreak.

The airport presented a wonderful scene with six mammoth royal airliners and a fleet of 10 royal vehicles occupying the tarmac.

The 300 police on duty sweltered in their winter uniforms, but did a splendid job.

 

Mayor Fred Buss and his wife greet Queen Elizabeth II at the Bundaberg Airport for her official visit in 1954.
Mayor Fred Buss and his wife greet Queen Elizabeth II at the Bundaberg Airport for her official visit in 1954. Courtesy of Picture Bundaberg

A crowd of 30,000 people, up to 20 deep, lined the city route from Bundaberg Hospital along Bourbong, Maryborough, Quay, Tantitha, Bourbong, Maryborough, Walker and Burrum Sts to the showgrounds.

The crowd stood to see the royals enter the showgrounds and watched as the Landrover spent 15 minutes driving up and down lanes of 8000 cheering, flag-aving school children.

Then "a magnificent sight was presented as, after the Queen arrived and ascended the royal dais, the Bundaberg Municipal Band played the first verse of the national anthem... 'the great crowd sang'."

About 140 patients from Bundaberg's three hospitals were among those who caught a glimpse of the Queen, thanks to the Junior Chamber of Commerce which obtained chairs and put up barricades and a big sign near the Centaur Memorial Park, opposite Bundaberg Hospital.

When the Queen passed, those able to stand did so and cheered heartily, and others waved cheerfully from their seats and wheelchairs.

Her Majesty gave them a "hearty smile and an affectionate wave" as she passed.

The oldest Bundaberg woman to see the Queen was Ellen Clarry, who was invited with her daughter Mrs T Broom, of Moorlands, to be guests in the royal enclosure.

Mrs Clarry lived with Mrs Broom at the time and celebrated her 100th birthday on August 19, 1954.

 

Early spectators awaiting the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at Hinkler Airport, Bundaberg, 1954.
Early spectators awaiting the arrival of Queen Elizabeth II and the Duke of Edinburgh at Hinkler Airport, Bundaberg, 1954. John Oxley Library, State Librar

Bundaberg cafe owners reported their busiest day in years.

All had a least doubled, and some quadrupled, their usual staff, but found this barely enough to cope with the crowds.

Ten trains had arrived in Bundaberg that morning, carrying about 5000 people from Maryborough, Isis, Monto, Gympie, Kingaroy, Morganville, Mt Perry and Gladstone.

News coverage extended to descriptions of what the women presented to the Queen wore for the occasion.

On March 18, Ald Buss told a council meeting he had "never been prouder in all my life than on that day", as he congratulated fellow aldermen, their wives, the public generally and school children on the manner in which they conducted themselves during the royal visit.

 

 

ROYAL VISIT: Bargara's Bettina Scherer with the dress that she wore when she presented the Queen with flowers at Bundaberg Showgrounds in 1954.


Photo: Scottie Simmonds/NewsMail
ROYAL VISIT: Bargara's Bettina Scherer with the dress that she wore when she presented the Queen with flowers at Bundaberg Showgrounds in 1954. Photo: Scottie Simmonds/NewsMail Scottie Simmonds BUN241011QUE2

In 2011, the NewsMail spoke to Bettina Scherer about her royal encounter.

It was 63 years ago that five-year-old Bettina Buss politely handed Queen Elizabeth II a bouquet of fresh Bundaberg-grown gerberas.

It was the monarch's first visit to Bundaberg and thousands of residents packed out the showgrounds for a glimpse of her and the Duke of Edinburgh.

While many years have passed, Bettina - now Mrs Scherer - still clings to the tiny dress she wore during the Queen's visit on March 11, 1954.

"The bows and the sash were blue, but they have faded over time," Mrs Scherer said.

"Apart from that, it is still in pretty good condition."

With blue ribbons in her hair to match her white and blue dress, the five-year-old girl presented the bouquet to the Queen as a huge crowd watched on.

"I remember I had to hold my hand clasped in case she shook my hand," Mrs Scherer said.

"I believe she said, 'thank you, little girl'."

Looking back on the milestone occasion, Mrs Scherer said atthe age of five, much of the day's importance was lost on her.

"My father, Fred Buss, was the mayor and that's why I was given the privilege of presenting her with the flowers," she said.

"Everyone was so excited."

Mrs Scherer, 69, of Bargara, said she had plenty of photos to remember the special occasion with and fully appreciate the special opportunity she was granted.

"(The Queen) arrived at the airport and then took a certain route to the showgrounds and all the school kids were in the middle," she said.

"People came from far and wide - from Maryborough and all over the Burnett."

While she did not make it to Brisbane to see the Queen again yesterday, Mrs Scherer said she followed the coverage on the television and internet.

"I am interested in the royal family," she said.

"I most certainly watched the royal wedding (of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge), much to my husband's horror."

Mrs Scherer said she hoped to hand the dress down to her grandchildren.

"I'm not sure if they will think it's as important as I do," she said.

"I would like to pass it down, though."



#PICKQLD: New campaign to attract workers to Bundy region

Premium Content #PICKQLD: New campaign to attract workers to Bundy region

BFVG managing director Bree Grima said uptake for the relocation grants indicated...

REVEALED: The woman Bundaberg locals want in a memorial

Premium Content REVEALED: The woman Bundaberg locals want in a memorial

Readers have cast their vote on which woman they believe should be immortalised...

Meet the NewsMail’s team of journalists

Premium Content Meet the NewsMail’s team of journalists

Meet your team of local journalists living and working right here in Bundaberg.