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Families back bronzing

Tuesday, 21st June, 2011

GRAND PLAN: Peter Keenan (left) Allan Duffy, Raylee Hart and Ron Page GRAND PLAN: Peter Keenan (left) Allan Duffy, Raylee Hart and Ron Page

By Andrew Robertson

A campaign to have bronze statues erected in honour of some of Broken Hill's luminaries has won the backing of their families.

Central Darling Shire councillor and former local mayor Ron Page flagged the idea in May this year following the death of union leader Bill O'Neil.

Cr Page said life-size statues should be made of Mr O'Neil and his father "Shorty" O'Neil, also a past BIC president, in recognition of their achievements.

Initially, he said he would approach the state and federal governments for the around $100,000 in funding needed to make the statues.

However, Cr Page has since found a local artist, Geoff DeMain, willing to make up to five busts for the same money.

Mr DeMain made the Syndicate of Seven bronze busts that are situated in front of Council's Chambers.

Cr Page has five people in mind for the initially run of statues: Bill O'Neil, Joe Keenan, another former BIC president, the artist Pro Hart, singer June Bronhill, and the former council town clerk Henry "Harry" Keelan.

Yesterday Pro Hart's widow, Raylee, welcomed the gesture, saying it was about preserving the past for future generations.

"It's a really great idea. I think these people should be remembered," Mrs Hart said.

She said she was surprised that nothing has been done before now.

"There's been a lot of people that have done a lot for Broken Hill and I think they should have been acknowledged a long time ago.

"I think it's great. And when Ron asked me (about including Pro) I thought it would be a great honour.

"I just think it should be acknowledged so the next generation knows what's happened."

Pro Hart's generosity and support for causes was well known, according to Mrs Hart, who said Pro had actively supported over one hundred charities.

The son of the late Joe Keenan also welcomed the campaign. Peter Keenan said his father achieved a lot for Broken Hill and was an outstanding ambassador and a giant in the union movement.

Joe Keenan was president of the BIC from 1969 to 1985 - the second longest serving president, and was chairman of the Barrier Daily Truth Board for 16 years.

He was served as an alderman and was on the Broken Hill and District Hospital Board for 37 years, serving as both president and vice-president.

"His contribution to the betterment of this city was of great significance," Mr Keenan said.

Cr Page said the five people he identified were among many high-achieving locals, and he expected the campaign to recognize local luminaries to be on-going.

"There are a long list of people who have relatives that are worthy of recognition."

The location of the statues should be up to councillors, said Cr Page, who nevertheless had his opinion.

"They should be spread out - that was the whole concept of the (Heroes, Larrikins and Visionaries) walking tour."

He also said mining companies should make a contribution towards the project.

"The mines in Broken Hill, are making record profits and I will be approaching them as well.

"If the mining companies do support this they will be seen as a good corporate citizen."

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