Thursday, July 4, 2024


Mackay and Whitsunday Life

Mackay's Musical Link Revealed Sir Bruce Small Honoured With Queensland Greats Award

The late Sir Bruce Small who was famously called ‘Mr Gold Coast’ for touring the country with bikini models to promote Surfers Paradise, has been announced as the new posthumous winner of the Queensland Greats Awards 2024 … and Mackay musical heritage is connected with his famous life journey.

The award honours the former colourful Gold Coast Mayor for his contribution to the history and development of Queensland including donating millions to charity, with the town of Mackay included in his incredible life story, now told in the new official biography ‘Sir Bruce Small: From Malvern Star to Mr Gold Coast’.

The book - launched in February on the Gold Coast and in March at Melbourne’s MCG (Melbourne Cricket Ground) with support from the Australian Sports Museum due to Sir Bruce’s fame in cycling for making Malvern Star a household name - mentions Mackay as one of more than 30 Queensland locations in the biography linked to Sir Bruce Small.

Gold Coast journalist Rachel Syers, who nominated Sir Bruce for the award as a living legend in his lifetime for his lasting legacies to the Gold Coast and the state of Queensland, accepted the award on behalf of the Small family. She was presented with a plaque by Queensland Premier Steven Miles at a Queensland Day ceremony on 6 June, 2024, attended by the Governor of Queensland Her Excellency the Honourable Dr Jeannette Young.

Having spent nine years researching and writing the book, and conducting 100 interviews, Rachel says Queensland towns such as Mackay all play their own small part of the giant story, whether it was involvement with the Gold Coast promotional tours which travelled as far north as Darwin and Cairns, or sharing some cycling history with Sir Bruce and the iconic champion he managed, Sir Hubert ‘Oppy’ Opperman.

“Mackay must have made an impact on Sir Bruce Small when he was touring to promote tourism in the 1960s and 1970s, with groups of models in gold bikinis who showed off the beach lifestyle to be found in Surfers Paradise,” says Rachel, author of the official Sir Bruce Small biography.

“When I was sorting through the fabulous family collection of Sir Bruce’s keepsakes, I came across a tray filled with dozens and dozens of beautiful historic badges, pins and cuff links presented to Sir Bruce during his time travelling as Gold Coast Mayor and State Member for Surfers Paradise,” she says.

“He was a supporter of more than 100 clubs and organisations back on the Gold Coast and knew the value of warm relationships with towns throughout the country, so at some time he’s returned home with an attractive yellow and red badge that features the crest of the Mackay City Band - and it still looks in excellent condition today.”

The badge features a Latin motto and images including what appear to be palm trees.

“It makes sense for Sir Bruce to be a fan of the Mackay City Band because he could sing opera and was passionate about music, having played horn for 40 years in the Salvation Army’s Staff Territorial Band in Melbourne.  

“He even conducted the Salvos band by the beach when it toured to the Gold Coast while he was Mayor in 1967, captured in a photo treasured by the family from their private collection.

“The Small family would love to hear if anyone from Mackay remembers this visit by ‘Mr Gold Coast’ and if he also made a guest performance,” says Rachel.
The book ‘Sir Bruce Small: From Malvern Star To Mr Gold Coast’ is being heralded as a defining publication for the history of Australian cycling, Queensland politics and Gold Coast history, and is available in libraries and bookstores around the country.

For more information, visit

The Mackay City Band badge from Sir Bruce Small’s collection -1960s/70s
Author Rachel Syers with the new Sir Bruce Small biography.
Gold Coast Mayor Bruce Small conducting the Salvation Army International Staff Band at Surfers Paradise Beach, 1967. Photo from Sir Bruce Small: From Malvern Star to Mr Gold Coast. Images supplied

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