The difficult birth of a statue

Looking grumpy about the time it took to erect

“I think I can see my brother from here”

Visitors to Kings Park can’t help but notice the memorial to John Forrest. As imposing a statue as the man was in life, it didn’t have an easy time coming into being.

Firstly, the organising committee tried to raise money from the public, both here and in England. Perth residents were mostly uninterested, and contributed very little. As a result, by 1921 the Brits got all sulky and decided to spend their cash on a stain glass window to Forrest in St Paul’s Cathedral, London.

So the committee had to go, somewhat predictably, to the government and beg some cash to get their statue. But it three more years before anyone got round to doing anything about it. And then the choice of sculptor, the England-based Sir Bertram Mackennal, caused outrage.

Perth had its own very popular sculptor, Pietro Porcelli, who had already done a good job on Forrest’s brother, Alexander. In addition, Pietro had known Forrest, so might have seemed like the obvious candidate. Instead. someone with a ‘Sir’ in front of their name got the job.

In March 1926 a large box arrived at Fremantle and was shipped to Kings Park. And there it was dumped in a shed and forgotten about. Rumours started to spread that Mackennal had created such an ugly statue no one was prepared to put it on show. No one from the Kings Park Board bothered to contradict this, so it quickly became the received opinion.

The reason for the delay is still mysterious, and it took nearly eighteen months for the memorial to be erected, and finally unveiled in August 1927.*

And then the Mayor of Perth managed to ruin in the whole event by using his speech to rant about the lack of funding for a State War Memorial. The crowd got quickly bored by William Lathlain’s raving and walked off, leaving the Mayor talking to a near empty park.

Nothing ever goes to plan, does it?

* Note to the Botanic Garden & Parks Authority. The statue was unveiled in 1927, not 1928 as your website claims. A small detail, but we historians get all worked up about such things. Please change it so we can calm down.

Bringing a touch of the exotic to Rockingham

How Rockingham imagines itself, allegedly

How Rockingham imagines itself, allegedly

The naming of beaches along the west coast has always been a bit haphazard. Sometimes it was a wrecked ship (Kwinana), or just boringly obvious (City Beach).

But two of the most inexplicable names are from Rockingham: Palm Beach and Waikiki Beach. Although we have to admit the latter now goes by a different designation.

Palm Beach got its name around 1929, and at that time it was just a barren part of Rockingham, a couple of kilometres past the township. There wasn’t a palm in sight, although there were a few bush shacks built by country folk for their holiday homes. And, more importantly, a grove of olive-green cypress pines.

Most of the local roads were badly maintained and full of pot-holes, and only a few roads were actually passable to get to the beach. A local legend says a council workman was instructed to put up a sign for motorists who didn’t want to get bogged down to follow the track to ‘Pine Beach’.

However, he misheard the order and neatly painted a sign with the words ‘To Palm Beach’, along with an arrow directing people to the cypress grove. Hence the beach (allegedly) received its new name. We at Dodgy Perth make no claims as to the truth of this legend, but it is entirely plausible.

But what excuse could be offered for calling a barren windswept part of the coastline past Safety Bay, Waikiki Beach? This was named in 1949 by the developer of a new subdivision, in order to attract buyers to an otherwise bleak landscape. It didn’t last long. Although the developer’s more imaginative name lives on in the suburb they started, by 1952 the government had decided that Waikiki Beach was far too silly and it became the far more prosaic Warnbro Beach.

What’s in a name? Well, a mishearing and a sales opportunity, apparently.