Coffs link to Dickens statue

COFFS Harbour pensioner Wal Pike has been watching with interest the celebrations in Sydney over the return of a rare statue of Charles Dickens to Sydney’s Centennial Park.

The statue, one of only two-life sized statues of the famous English author in the world, was commissioned in the 1880s by Sir Henry Parkes and erected in 1891.

It mysteriously disappeared about 40 years ago and did not resurface until a determined hunt for the monument finally located it in a private garden in the Blue Mountains.

After a four-year process of restoration and reconstruction the statue, which had lost its head and a few other bits and pieces along the way, has been returned to Centennial Park with much fanfare.

Mr Pike, now retired and living in Coffs Harbour, was driving trucks in Sydney 40 years ago and saw some unusual treatment of civic statuary in the city at the time.

“I was involved in trucking while they were building the Cahill Expressway,’ Mr Pike said.

“They dug up the park near Macquarie Street which was part of the Botanic Gardens and removed at least half a dozen big statues while they built the foundations for the Expressway.

“They just put them anywhere in the bush out of the roadworks and out of sight,” he said.

“They were parked all over the place - it looked very queer.

“They were floating around for a couple of years and a couple got pinched.

“Whoever wanted (a statue) had all the machinery available to remove it.

“I don’t remember seeing Charles Dickens but I remember one statue of a horse and rider lying on its side in the bush – it looked most peculiar.”

The history of the Dickens statue is murky, but at one stage it was in the custody of the Botanic Gardens.

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