WILLIAM BEDE DALLEY

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Bianca Faye has designed and fabricated a suit for William Bede Dalley, blending him into the natural environment around him. She took photos of the trees around him and used them as the printed image on his jacket.

Today Dalley is virtually unknown to passers by. Few people know who he is and the statue is also hidden from view by the enormous Port Jackson figs growing around him. The statue has a greenish patina which  increases his camouflage. Although he is the only Australian born statue dressed for this project, Dalley has been all but forgotten by our modern audience.

Bianca saw Dalley, the green man, as a man of the people. Dalley’s outfit and its oversized asymmetrical print also references the big bold print style of the 1980’s as well as the Austalian textiles movement of teh 1970’s which often depicted nature or the immediate environment. The design is a mixture of a dapper gentleman with an 80s rock edge … sunglasses, shoulder pads, beads and bling!

Bianca was also interested in the statue being the character of a man who was very public in work, socialising, dress and style, yet who after the death of his wife became somewhat of a recluse with his children, returning to the public eye later in life. She tried to capture a man who was both extroverted yet reflective, who had to find a way to balance his public and private life. Both blending in and standing out.

About William Bede Dalley

William Bede Dalley ‘patriot, scholar and statesman’ was born in George St, Sydney in 1831 and was the son of two former convicts. He studied law and became a barrister at the age of 25. His stirring street-corner speeches on the Constitution Bill thrust him into prominence, and he was elected to Parliament late in 1856. His parliamentary career continued for 18 of the next 32 years and he was at different times Solicitor-General, Attorney- General and Colonial Secretary. Dalley’s eloquence won him many legal victories, particularly on the criminal side. In two notable cases, however, he did not succeed. One was his defence in 1864 of the part-Aboriginal bushranger Frank Gardiner, the other in 1868 of Henry O’Farrell for shooting at Queen Victoria’s grandson the Duke of Edinburgh. Apart from his extraordinary power as an orator, he was also known for his love of banqueting, and for setting trends in colonial dress with his colourful cravats and buttonholes. In 1885, while acting Premier, he offered Britain a New South Wales contingent to help in the Sudan campaign and in return was the first Australian-born person appointed a Privy Councillor. Throughout his life he suffered from extended bouts of illness, made worse by some of the political battles he fought – notably around land reform and the defence of Chinese residents in the colony. He died suddenly at the age of 57, from, according to his death certificate, cardiac disease, renal disease, and uraemia. From convict stock, Dalley had been an ardent nationalist and exerted a wide-ranging influence during his life. His funeral, across the road from the statue in St Mary’s Cathedral, is reported to have been packed with 6000 people, while a further 10,000 waited outside. While Dalley is virtually forgotten these days, he was an enormously popular figure during his lifetime.

About the Sculptor

James White was born in Liverpool, England in 1861, and emigrated to Sydney in his early 20s. He worked for Achille Simonetti on the monument to Governor Arthur Phillip in Sydney Botanical Gardens. Technically versatile and ingenious, in the early 1900s White became the busiest sculptor in Australia and created a large number of statues and memorials around the country.

About the Statue

The bronze statue is a life size representation of Dalley wearing his buttoned up frock-coat (which he wore habitually). Sculptor James White used the lost wax method to cast the statue, an ancient process of casting used for the famous bronzes of the Renaissance in France an Italy and derived from the Aztecs and Incas who used it to create their fine filagree jewelry and icons.It was the first time the method had been used in Australia. This was also the first statue of an Australian-born person to be erected in Sydney’s streets.

The statue was built by general public subscription after Dalley’s death in 1888. His friend and colleague Sir John Robertson set up a public fund to achieve this. Many Protestants and Catholics contributed to its subscription, reflecting the deep affection many held for him across sectarian lines. The statue was unveiled on 20th April 1897.

The statue’s green patina is the result of the bronze’s exposure to the elements and the oxidisation of the copper within the bronze …this has led to many fondly calling this statue ‘the green man.’ Bronze statues can ‘colour’ in many different ways, ranging from penny bronze through to golden colours, greens, browns and even bright blue. There are varying views as to what colour an aged bronze statue should be, so conservators tend to approach each statue differently. They often allow the transformed colours to remain on the statue as the public tend to grow quite fond of them, representing the passing of time.

Free Speech in Hyde Park

Dalley was famous for his stirring speeches and was a fabulous orator. Official outdoor ‘free’ speech first appeared in the hustings and hanging grounds of Hyde Park in 1874. A hustings was a platform where speakers would stand to address a crowd of listeners.

The Governor of NSW, Sir Hercules George Robert Robinson, banned free speech after a serious riot between Catholics and Orangemen. However in 1878, when England legalised free speech in Hyde Park London, the NSW Governor decided that The Domain would be the place for free speech in Sydney.

Archive research by Anne-Maree Whitaker

Additional research by Brendan Phelan and Imogen Semmler

With Thanks

Bianca Faye would like to thank Leonie Grace and Lynette Robertson for helping her on this project.

Sources

  • Lehane, Robert William Bede Dalley: Silvertongued Pride of Old Sydney (ACT; Ginnindera Press, 2007)
  • Sydney Open Museum History Survey (1994), No. 5 – William Bede Dalley Statue

Further Reading

  • O’Connor J G National Memorial to the Late Right Honourable William B. Dalley (Sydney, Steam Printing Works, 1889)
  • Scarlett, K Australian Sculptors (Thomas Nelson, Melbourne, 1980)

Articles

  • Sydney Morning Herald, 21 April 1897, p 5
  • The Australian Art Review, (Sydney) 1st July 1899
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