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Readers’ letter from Australia: Alexander Goor, studied civil engineering and built bridges in rural NSW

Readers’ letter from Australia: Alexander Goor, studied civil engineering and built bridges in rural NSW
Hungarian-born Alexander Goor was interested in bridges and construction from an early age. After arriving in Australia and completing his studies in civil engineering, he moved to rural NSW, started his own company and built several bridges and other structures still in service today.In memorian ALEXANDER GOOR 1927 – 2017

Alexander László Goor was born on June 27, 1927, in Nyíregyháza, Hungary. He was the second son to George Goor, a army captain, and wife Charlotte.

He went to school in Székesfehérvár, where his future wife was born, but they were only to meet years later in Australia through Hungarian community circles.

Goor’s interest in mathematics and bridges was nurtured by very good teachers and his own patient persistence in wanting to understand and create. He was given a place in the Military High School and later Military College for Engineers. After World War II he enrolled in the University of Graz in Austria in the faculty for bridges and tunnels, a challenge given his limited command of German.


Happily the language of mathematics is a universal one. To supplement his studies he worked in a tunnel with a jack-hammer in his free time and gave blood to the Austrian Red Cross who paid for donations.

Having applied and being accepted for a new life in Australia his studies were curtailed. With parents and elder brother George, he boarded the Swedish Ship Anna Salen in Naples, Italy, in May 1949.

The family arrived in Port Jackson on the June 21, 1949 and, informed Australia was a hot country, they were dressed in summer clothes.

They were taken to holding camps in Bathurst where the temperature at the train station was minus 6 degrees. They gorged on bread, butter and sausages and made themselves quite ill having been hungry for days.

Goor was granted permission to study at Sydney University despite having poor English. After successfully completing two years of study the dean of civil engineering called him to his office and asked him if he was in the army. Goor said he was a cadet in the Royal Hungarian Military College for Army Engineers. The dean told him to fill out an application for an ex-Army Personnel Scholarship. He repeated that he was in the Hungarian Army. The dean explained the application papers didn’t specify which army and told him to fill out the form.

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The two final years Goor finished his studies on ex-army scholarship which paid for his studies and even left a little over for pocket money. He was the first migrant to complete the four-year civil engineering course in the specified time.

The day after his graduation he asked for the hand in marriage of Ilona (nee Heltay). He also applied for a position in a large civil engineering firm. Upon discovering his interest in bridges, he was asked to prepare a design for a bridge for which the company had been invited to tender. Unfortunately the tender was unsuccessful. After one year he applied for a supervising engineer’s position in rural NSW. He got the job, married Ilona and moved to Gunnedah shortly after.

He started a civil engineering company in Tamworth in 1962 and the following year began production of prestressed concrete items for bridge girders. The largest was 27m long and weighed 30 tonnes and cast in one piece. Such products were used in the construction of Tamworth’s Peel River Concrete Bridge which opened on August 14, 1965, at a cost of $208,000. On the 50th anniversary of construction in 2015, Tamworth MP Kevin Anderson said the Peel River Bridge was built to provide a vital link in the state’s road system and had clearly stood the test of time. Concrete sections were also supplied for the construction of the Copeton Dam near Inverell.

In 1971 Goor completed the new Jewry Street Bridge in Tamworth – a four-span, 47m bridge for two lanes of traffic specifically designed to be above the known flood heights.

Goor was a migrant who was determined to make the best of the opportunities afforded by his new life.

He employed many people and provided a comfortable life for his family. He is survived by his wife Ilona (Ili), daughters Eva, Judi and Samantha and grandchildren

Source: Samantha Goor

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