IT’S a moment forever etched in the psyche of a nation.
On March 19, 1932, in front of a crowd of more than 300,000 people, Francis De Groot upstaged NSW Premier Jack Lang’s grand opening of the Sydney Harbour Bridge when
he galloped in on horseback and cut the ribbon with a ceremonial sword.
Captain De Groot now holds a notorious place in Australian history, but few know what ever became of the ribbon.
Tamworth businessman John Swift might just have the answer.
Mr Swift, whose grandfather, Edmund Swift, was the undersecretary for the NSW Minister of Works at the time, believes he could be in possession of the fascinating piece of primary source history.
A stretch of the ribbon, which was given to his grandfather on the day, has been handed down to Mr Swift and is currently in high-security storage in Sydney.
“I’ve known we’ve had it since I was a kid but since my father died in 2012, it’s been in my possession,” Mr Swift said.
“It’s such an important part of Sydney’s history.
“The Harbour Bridge is so iconic and it’s one of the most photographed structures in the world.
“It identifies Australia to the rest of the world.”
Written on the ribbon are the words: “Sydney Harbour Bridge Official Opening. 19th March, 1932”.
Mr Swift said he had “absolutely no doubt” it was part of the same ribbon slashed by de Groot, part of a right-wing paramilitary organisation disillusioned with the “progressive” Lang government.
“It’s part of the main ribbon, I have absolutely no doubt about it,” Mr Swift said.
“From my understanding there was only one ribbon and they just sewed it back together once it was cut.”
He said he had spoken to experts from Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and they were confident it was the real deal.
Mr Swift remains undecided about what he will do with the ribbon.
“I just thought it’s such an important part of history that people should at least be aware it’s about,” Mr Swift said.