Ahoy! Ahoy! – Her Majesty returns in 1963!

State Library of Queensland acknowledges the service given by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II to Queensland. On 6 February 2022, she became the first British Monarch to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years of service to the people of the United Kingdom, the Realms, and the Commonwealth.

In this blog post we feature digitised images contributed by the City of Gold Coast Libraries Picture Gold Coast collection and the collections of the John Oxley Library showcasing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II’s tour in 1963.

This blog post is a record of her visit at the time and our Queensland experience of her visit.

Royal Yacht Britannia in the harbour at Brisbane, R115 Finlay Colour Slides, Acc D4-2-84, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Image no: Ibp00200

HRH Queen Elizabeth II – the beloved monarch…

When Australia’s Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Robert G. Menzies announced Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II would return to Australia in 1963 for the Jubilee celebrations of the national capital Canberra, the Queen’s itinerary was prepared around the use of the Royal Yacht Britannia to convey Her Majesty to each capital city in Australia.

Having spent 8 weeks travelling to every part of Australia in 1954, the decision to use the Royal Yacht Britannia as a permanent base meant she could entertain aboard ship and rest between each port as she travelled the 9,000 miles around Australia’s coastline.

Landing in Canberra by air from New Zealand, she boarded the Britannia in Sydney, and arrived in Brisbane on 6 March 1963. A flotilla of boats greeted Her Majesty as the Royal Yacht sailed up the Brisbane River on its way to Newstead Wharf.

The Queen leaves the dais with the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, after the civic welcome on Wednesday, 6 March 1963, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. Negative: 105778.

Following her arrival she attended a Civic Reception at City Hall, hosted by the Lord Mayor of Brisbane, Clem Jones AO, in the morning; an investiture ceremony at Government House during lunch; and departed for Bulwer Island in the afternoon to unveil an impressive plaque commemorating the discovery of oil in the Surat Basin and the development of a 320km pipeline which ran from Moonie, west of Toowoomba to Bulwer Island, a peninsular situated at the mouth of the Brisbane River. The plaque inscription stated:

“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II unveiled this stone to commemorate the discovery of oil in commercial quantities in Australia and the construction of a pipeline from the Moonie field to the port of Brisbane, 6th March 1963.”

Later that same day, she attended a reception of State officials and their wives and graced a dinner party at Government House during the evening before heading to the Exhibition Grounds for a Citizen’s Welcome on the way back to Newstead Wharf. A normal day for a Monarch on tour?

Crowds of people assembled the next morning at the Brisbane Exhibition Grounds for a glimpse of Her Majesty attending the North Brisbane School Children’s Welcome on 7 March. HRH Queen Elizabeth II was surrounded by school children and onlookers, captured  in colour by amateur photographer Rosemary Spenceley.

Crowds at the Brisbane Exhibition Ground, 7 March 1963 for the Royal tour of 1963, Acc 32027 Rosemary Spenceley's colour slides of Brisbane and Southeast Queensland, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Images: 32027-0001-0010 / 32027-0001-0012

By 11:00am on the same day, she was driven to the Brisbane Cricket Ground, transferred into a land rover, and driven past hundreds of assembled school children representing the southern suburbs of Brisbane. Time spent at the ‘Gabba’ was short though because Her Majesty was expected to host a formal luncheon for invited guests on the Royal Yacht Britannia immediately after.

Sir Thomas Alfred Hiley with Queen Elizabeth II, Brisbane Cricket Ground, 1963, John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Neg: 108970

Also arranged as part of this tour, was a flight to Coolangatta so the royals could attend a Surf Carnival at the Gold Coast. HRH Queen Elizabeth II is the Patron of the Royal Life Saving Society UK.

Gold Coast City Libraries Local Studies published an interesting detail about the event in the library’s Gold Coast Stories series titled Queen Elizabeth Park:

Queen Elizabeth II arrives on an official visit at Coolangatta Airport, Queensland, 7 March, 1963. Photographer Bill Stafford. Image ID LS-LSP-CD 309-IMG0017. Courtesy of Gold Coast Libraries. For all other uses contact Gold Coast Libraries. https://www.goldcoast.qld.gov.au/libraries/Home

In the photograph above, taken by Mr Bill Stafford, Mrs Richter, wife of Local Government Minister, Harold Richter is being presented to Queen Elizabeth II.

In another entry, Gold Coast Libraries published an interesting detail about the event in Gold Coast Stories titled Queen Elizabeth Park:  

“The arrival of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on a rainy day on 7 March 1963 created much excitement amongst Gold Coast residents of all ages. A Royal Surf Carnival was held on Coolangatta beach for the entertainment of their majesties. Queensland Premier Sir Francis Nicklin welcomed the couple on arrival at a covered pavilion which was constructed in the vicinity of the Coolangatta Surf Life Saving Club. Jack Winders, Queensland Surf Life Saving Association president and former Coolangatta Town Council Mayor, and Mrs Winders, former lady Mayoress and Alderman, were the Royal couple’s host and hostess for the day. Queen Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh viewed a spectacular march past of over 500 men from clubs ranging from Cairns down to Yamba and were said to have enjoyed the subsequent surf carnival so much they overstayed their schedule by 20 minutes.”

‘Queen Elizabeth Park’, an essay published in Gold Coast Stories, Courtesy of Gold Coast City Libraries Local Studies.

A selection of images by local photographers highlighted the conditions on the day and the genuine interest by the public to catch a glimpse of the royals and the competitors who travelled great distances to be part of the event.  

Council’s Public Works division constructed the platform and dais. Builder Bill Tokely of Palm Beach recalled large amounts of water pooling in the canopy above Her Majesty. Event organisers used a broom to drain the water away from her on the dais.

 In a more sophisticated version the National Film and Sound Archives (NFSA) digitised a 28 min documentary film, titled ‘The Queen Returns to Australia’ for the 1963 tour. In the film we are treated to a short colour sequence of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and HRH Prince Philip attending the carnival on Queensland’s iconic Gold Coast (timed sequence 4:23) and the official opening of the Bulwer Island to Moonie pipeline (timed sequence 24:05) which took place the previous day.  

The Royal Pavilion for Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Royal Surf Carnival, Coolangatta, Queensland, 7 March 1963. Photographer Ray Sharpe. ID LS-LSP-CD536-IMG0009. Courtesy of Gold Coast Libraries. https://www.goldcoast.qld.gov.au/libraries/Home

Read more blogs about HRH Queen Elizabeth II and her visits to Queensland

@slqld Flickr Commons   

British Pathe Film

Construction of the oil pipeline from Moonie to Bulwer Island at the mouth of the Brisbane River. The pipeline was closed officially in 2008 by Santos.

Anne Scheu, Collections Engagement, Queensland Memory, State Library of Queensland

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