LAKE HAVASU CITY – An unusual flock of visitors crossed the London Bridge onto the the island Saturday morning to celebrate the bridge’s 50th anniversary.
The 690th Lord Mayor of London Charles Bowman, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and State Sen. Sonny Borrelli accompanied four Havasu residents as they walked six sheep across the bridge.
Bowman named the four local sheep herders – Lake Havasu City Mayor Mark Nexsen, real estate broker John Parrot, former State Sen. Linda Binder and Michael McCulloch, grandson of Robert P. McCulloch who brought the London Bridge to Havasu – “freemen” for the Saturday event. A sheep crossing is a more than 500-year-old British tradition that allowed people designated as “freemen” to herd sheep across the bridge without paying a toll fee.
Havasu residents and visitors lined up along the bridge to watch the sheep crossing after McCulloch interviewed Bowman, Ducey, Borrelli and Nexsen.
During interviews, Bowman told those in attendance about his role as Lord Mayor of the City of London Corporation, which is to support the UK’s financial and professional services within London’s historic financial district. Bowman travels often as an advocate and representative of the district.
During a luncheon after the sheep crossing, Bowman said he was “delighted” to be in Arizona “celebrating the vast history and shared culture of our two countries not least the 50th anniversary since they sale of London Bridge and its journey across the Atlantic.”
Bowman also shared more about UK history and traditions with those at the luncheon. He said historically, the London Bridge has been the scene of some gruesome sights like severed skulls.
“This was stopped at the end of the 18th century when it was decided London Bridge should be rebuilt,” Bowman said. “And in 1831 the new bridge was complete, indeed the same one that stands in Lake Havasu today, which I’m pleased to say there’s no decapitated heads.”
Bowman said the idea of Robert P. McCulloch and his business partner, CV Wood, to buy the bridge was a genius way to bring a piece of world history to Havasu. Bowman’s predecessor, Alderman Sir Peter Studd, Lord Mayor of London in 1971, helped dedicate the bridge when it was completed in 1971.
“And today my team and I are delighted, delighted to be here once again, representing the city of London and its people and celebrating the incredible story of Lake Havasu’s London Bridge,” Bowman said. “It was one last vision that brought this beautiful bridge over 5,000 miles to its new home, here in this extraordinary site.”
He said McCulloch’s vision didn’t only adjoin the city of Havasu, it also created a connection between the two countries.
“His vision has bridged the gap between two communities, between two cities and between two nations,” Bowman said. “So today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the bridge’s establishment here in Arizona and let’s also celebrate the great history of London Bridge, its story of entrepreneurs and the close relatiohnship between the U.S.A. and Great Britain, the people of Lake Havasu and the city of London.”
During the luncheon, Ducey thanked Bowman for teaching him how to drive sheep across a bridge. He also thanked and congratulated McCulloch for his grandfather’s vision for Havasu, saying the city has greatly benefited from the purchase of the London Bridge.
“The undertaking of actually shipping a bridge from London to Arizona brick by brick is an incredible feat right here in the middle of the desert,” Ducey said. “You can imagine what it was like 50 years ago to do this so your grandfather had to have quite a vision. You must be very proud.”