When the artist who made the sculpture of the Grieving Mother for Ballarat’s newest memorial asked his own father about his service in the First World War, he was told stories about the beauty of Paris: the magnificent food, the wine, the beautiful women in the streets, of listening to Debussy’s music.
Sculptor Peter Corlett has made memorial works for Australian sites of remembrance across the world.
It left a lingering question in my mind, in my heart.Peter Corlett, sculptor
His sculpture of Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop stands near the Cenotaph on St Kilda Road; his ‘Cobbers’, the moving shape of one soldier carrying his wounded mate over his shoulder to safety, stands in Fromelles, France; his Australian Light Horse Memorial charges through the desert in Be’er Sheva, Israel; his ‘Bullecourt Digger’ stands guard on the site of the infamous WWI battle of the Western Front.
Mr Corlett’s father was in a machine gun company at Bullecourt. The casualty rate among his fellow troops was 95 per cent.
“Somehow I knew that there was more to it, to his story, than the beauty of Paris,” Mr Corlett reflects, standing in the shade of a gum tree near his latest work.
“It left a lingering question in my mind, in my heart. It drew me to do memorial works that represent the compassion and the pain of war, to somehow address my father’s obvious grief and stress.
“He was the Field Ambulance person that had to scrape them up off the ground. Of course he couldn’t talk to his eight-year-old about that, about what he’d seen.”
Peter Corlett is 73. His career as a sculptor and artist spans almost 50 years. Yet he is on his hands and knees polishing and cleaning the Grieving Mother and its plinth as energetically as if it were his first work.
He says he enjoys greatly the practical and physical aspects of his work making sculpture, as much as the aesthetic outcome.
But its subject is more solemn, he says.
“It must have been awful, horrendous. It’s the same in current wars. I think they were more naive then, protected. The battle of Fromelles was hidden until recently.”
The Garden of the Grieving Mother was inspired by letters written during the Great War, and in the knowledge that at least 42 pairs of brothers had been killed in Ballarat alone – that the mothers of those boys suffered doubly the aching grief tens of thousands of bereaved families bore.
HOW TO ATTEND AND COMMUTE AROUND BALLARAT
The national commemorative service to mark the 75th anniversary of the Fall of Singapore will be held on Wednesday, February 15 at 11.00am, at the Australian Ex-Prisoners of War Memorial in Ballarat.
A service to dedicate a new memorial to the families of servicemen and women who have been killed in action, the Garden of the Grieving Mother, will take place earlier in the morning, at 9.30am at the Arch of Victory in Sturt Street, Ballarat.
Parking will be limited near the site of both services.
People intending to visit both or either of the services should plan to park at Victoria Park and walk to the Services. It is a 12-minute walk from Victoria Park to the Arch of Victory Precinct where the Garden of the Grieving Mother is located.
It will take around 12 minutes to walk from the Garden of the Grieving Mother to the Australian Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial.
It is around 500 metres from the Australian Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial to Victoria Park; it should take around eight minutes to walk from the Fall of Singapore service back to Victoria Park.
Both sides of Learmonth Street will be closed from Cuthberts Road to Sturt Street from 8am to 11am. Sturt Street will be closed at Gillies Street to traffic travelling west; access to local traffic and shops will remain open. Sturt Street will be fully closed to traffic past Vale Street.
Vehicles travelling east on Sturt Street will be limited to 40km.
Speed restrictions will also be in place on the same day in Gillies Street, Wendouree Parade and Carlton Street during the ceremony at the Australian Ex-Prisoner of War Memorial.
The official opening of the Garden of the Grieving Mother marks the completion of the Arch of Victory/Avenue of Honour precinct.