IN THE devastating aftermath of the first boating accident near the Fitzroy River Barrage, Timothy Wickham's father was relentless in his opposition to its continued construction.

Timothy was just 15 when he and classmate Anthony Boyd Cook, 17, drowned in a tragic accident on September 4, 1968.

As a plaque commemorating their loss was unveiled yesterday, Boyd's brother Ian said Timothy's father "crumbled" after the death of his son.

Ian said the man he knew as "Old Man Wickham" took up a fight against the construction of the barrage, wearing an A-frame sign protesting the project.

"He used to walk up and down and try and stop the workers from coming on the site," Ian said.

"But for months and months and months he used to turn up and try to stop the workers and anyone that would listen."

When Ian heard about the commemorative plaque, he said he immediately thought of "Old Man Wickham" and the despair he suffered.

Reflecting on the loss of his brother Boyd, Ian said it was difficult to express just how much it affected him.

He said Boyd was enrolled in the Royal Military College, Duntroon, when he died and had big plans for a career in the Australian Army.

Ian said both his family and Timothy's were also badly affected by a decision to leave the boat involved near their neighbouring houses after the accident.

"It used to sit there across the road, every day you used to go past it and see the side of it was ripped out," he said.

Boyd's sister Olwyn Money said she was only seven at the time, but still remembered her mother's grief. "I remember my mum just crying and crying, just inconsolable," she said.

"Even though the other boys were gone, you still feel warmth towards Rob because he did what he could.

"If he could have, he would have saved the other two as well."

Alan Toohey, who drowned in a boating accident near the Fitzroy River Barrage in 1968
Alan Toohey, who drowned in a boating accident near the Fitzroy River Barrage in 1968

Janet Corrie, sister of Alan Toohey (pictured) who drowned in the second accident, described her brother as a "wanderer" who "loved roaming around" and enjoyed fishing.

"I think about it all the time, but today there are stronger feelings," she said. "But this brings it all back."



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