by CARMELO AMALFI
HERITAGE crusader John Dowson wants a statue to Captain Fremantle rebuilt on Esplanade Park, despite unsettled child rape allegations still attached to the port city’s founder.
Mr Dowson says WA premier Colin Barnett will consider contributing $100,000 to a new statue to replace one unveiled in 1981 and removed in 1989 due to vandalism and wear and tear.
He says the council had refused for years to pay to restore the 2.3m statue built by Scarborough sculptor Roderick Browton near where Captain Fremantle landed in 1829.
The two-tonne memorial was dumped at the works depot, a leg missing and split down the middle. Its final resting place remains a mystery, former works manager Brian Jones stating in 1996, “it doesn’t exist anymore”.
“Thus, we have no commemoration for Captain Fremantle in ‘his’ town,” Mr Dowson says.
“Colin Barnett indicated to me a few days ago that the state government would be interested in putting in around $100,000 towards a proper commemorative work and I will be seeing members of the Fremantle family soon to hold further discussions.”
He says a two-metre statue of Fremantle erected by the council in 2003 to watch over the port city from Stirling Highway opposite McCabe Street in North Fremantle doesn’t count as a commissioned work because it was a gift.
“I appreciate that there is a limit to how many large bronzes one has sitting around the place but Captain Fremantle does deserve a prime place,” Mr Dowson says.
Does he? According to historians, Fremantle was 26 years old when charged with raping a 15-year-old girl in front of a woman, two children and the owner of his lodgings in Portsmouth in April 1826.
To avoid a scandal, his family paid off witnesses and leant on the judiciary before his promotion to captain. In 1828, he set off to claim the west coast in HMS Challenger.
An August 25, 2007 article by the Herald’s Jenny D’Anger described Fremantle as “Captain Cad: Fremantle a ‘sadistic’ rapist”.
To which Mr Dowson replied: “It’s unfair to dismiss Captain Fremantle because of an allegation about a possible rape case! We have already had the nonsense of Peter Tagliaferri when a councillor trying to change Arthur Head to West Head because he didn’t like Governor Arthur of Tasmania, and Cr [Doug] Thompson trying to change Hampton Road’s name because he thought Governor Hampton was rather harsh on some of the convicts!”
Fremantle anchored in Cockburn Sound on May 2, 1829 and landed on Garden Island. The appointed lieutenant-governor James Stirling arrived June 2.
One week later, Fremantle hoisted the British flag on the south head of the mouth of the Swan River and took formal possession in the name of King George IV of, “all that part of New Holland which is not included within the territory of NSW”.
Fremantle was the son of Admiral Thomas Fremantle, a close associate of Lord Nelson. His middle name Howe marks the anniversary of Lord Howe’s victory over the French in 1794.
Fremantle didn’t spend long in the place that bears his name: He left the colony three months after his arrival for Ceylon (Sri Lanka) where he was based until 1832, returning to England via Fremantle, which he visited for a week, never to return.
He died in 1869, aged 69, and is buried in Brompton cemetery in London.