It was a great moment for members of the NSW Dickens Society when, on 7 February 2011 – the anniversary of Dickens birth – Her Excellency Marie Bashir AC CVA, Governor of NSW unveiled a long lost statue of Charles Dickens in Centennial Park.
Sydney’s Centennial Park was officially opened on 26 January 1888 by the Premier of NSW, Sir Henry Parkes, who commissioned a marble statue of Charles Dickens which was placed there in c1891. Sydney’s Dickens statue remained in Centennial Park until 1971 when a ‘university prank’ saw Dickens lose his head. The following year the Dickens statue was removed, placed in storage, moved locations both known and unknown, and eventually lost for over 40 years!
In November 2006, the then NSW Dickens Society’s President, Sandra Faulkner, wrote to the Sydney Morning Herald’s Column 8 asking if anyone knew whether the statue still existed and if so, where was it? With no response the request was republished in February 2007 at which time the Column 8 editor stated that “We must find Mr. Dickens”. This time someone contacted the newspaper – the statue was finally found!
Once retrieved again, work to restore the statue to its former glory began as stonemasons from the NSW Department of Public Works were engaged to reconstruct Dickens’s head and other missing parts of the statue, including a finger, scroll and quill. High quality white marble from Carrara, Italy was obtained, taking 12 months to find a perfect match. Then the carvers used old photographs of the original statue, producing various models for approval before the real work began.
Finally on 7 February 2011, the 199th anniversary of Charles Dickens birth, the unveiling ceremony took place. The NSW Governor Marie Bashir spoke of her love of Dickens and of childhood memories of visits to Centennial Park and the statue of her favourite author. Also speaking at the ceremony were Ms Sandra Faulkner, former President of the NSW Dickens Society whose detective work finally found the statue, Board Member of the Dickens Fellowship London; the Hon Kevin Greene MP, Minister for Sport and Recreation; Ms Susannah Fullerton, literary historian, author, Dickens Society Member; and Mr Paul Thurloe, Senior Stonemason, NSW Public Works. Much to the delight of the NSW Dickens Society members Mr Dickens is once more back in Centennial Park!