Bronze our legends
Monday, 2nd May, 2011
By John Casey
Prime Minister Julia Gillard will be approached to support a campaign to recognise some of Broken Hill's finest citizens who have recently passed away.
The project is the brainchild of former BH Mayor Ron Page who was prompted to initiate the campaign by the recent passing of local union legend Bill O'Neil.
Mr Page wants to raise funds to erect a life-size bronze statue of former BIC president Bill O'Neil and his father William ("Shorty") who preceeded him at the helm of the BIC from 1957 to 1969.
"This is a way of recognising all the great achievements that this father and son team did for Broken Hill because a lot of their efforts have never been documented," Mr Page said.
World-renowned opera singer June Bronhill should also be remembered with a life-size replica and if enough support is forthcoming a series of statues could eventuate according to Mr Page.
"I am going straight to the top with this idea and can't see how the Prime Minister and the NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell can say no to a request for support," Mr Page said.
"On merit alone I believe the federal and state governments should be obligated to provide funding - particularly when you consider the amount of money that has been generated in mining royalties out of Broken Hill over the years.
"These politicians will find it very hard to refuse a request along these lines, especially if the entire Broken Hill community gets behind it," Mr Page continued.
While happy to shoulder the burden of raising funds for the project, Mr Page is hoping the community will become involved by nominating appropriate locations for the statues, provide suggestions on how they should be designed and contribute any other ideas that can assist the project.
"I have an idea that Bill O'Neil and his father "Shorty" should be dressed in their work clobber because of their association with the mines," Mr Page said.
"Bill spent some 27 years working in the mines before taking on his union roles and his dad began on the line of lode as a 14-year-old," he added.
Ms Dallas Bartley, the partner of the late Bill O'Neil, said she agreed whole heartedly with Mr Page's vision.
"It would be lovely to have Bill acknowledged in this way because he never sought recognition for anything he did," Ms Bartley said.
"To be honest, Bill was a very quiet achiever and gave his all helping people in the Broken Hill community," she added.
The cost of producing a life-size bronze statue of the O'Neils is expected to be in the vicinity of $100,000 but Mr Page said he had no doubt that he could raise that amount.
"Bill O'Neil made a lot of friends in high places and if they all get behind this campaign then the costs will be covered," he said confidently.
"Bill had lots of runs on the board in the area of health care and did a lot of favours for a lot of people and I am now calling on each and every one of them to return the compliment."
As one of the most famous mining cities in the world, life-size statues of Broken Hill's high achievers are something that are well overdue according to Mr Page.
"We have the "Heroes, Larrikins and Visionaries of Broken Hill Walk" for tourists and the Syndicate of Seven are remembered outside City Council's offices, but our best deserve better," Mr Page said.
"In my opinion Bill and Shorty O'Neil were more important to Broken Hill than the Syndicate of Seven, so let's recognise that," he added.