Freo’s pilfered park

Freo’s pilfered park

A PARK has been “stolen” from the heart of Fremantle and the Fremantle Society is on the hunt to get it back. 

It’s hard to miss Freo’s 1890 Proclamation Tree, a 130 year-old Moreton Bay Fig stuck in a traffic island at the junction of Adelaide, Parry, Quarry, and Queen Victoria Streets; you can see it while enjoying a pint at Clancy’s Fish Pub.

But the tree, planted in 1890 to celebrate the establishment of “responsible self-government” in WA, was once surrounded by a tiny park complete with an ornate gate and fence. Somewhere in the past, it simply disappeared.

Mayor’s Park, as it was known, was completed around 1885; a letter of that year to the editor of the West Australian describes it as “only just finished, now awaiting opening day”.

But by 1930 when a commemorative plaque was added to the Proclamation Tree, the West covered the ceremony and noted “the tree is in what was known as Mayor’s Park, Fremantle”; suggesting the park was already history.

The traffic-island-cum-park also boasts a significant monument to 19th century Fremantle politician William Marmion, who served as the local MP for more than 20 years and oversaw the transformation of WA’s gold-mining industry as commissioner of crown lands and minister for mines.

When Mr Marmion died suddenly of liver disease in July 1896, thousands lined the streets of Perth to mourn him in what was said to be WA’s biggest funeral up until that time. In 1902 the large Celtic cross that still stands was erected in his honour, towering over the 12-year-old Proclamation Tree. Mr Marmion’s great-grandson is current Nedlands MP Bill Marmion, who was recently invited to tour Fremantle’s Round House by Fremantle Society president John Dowson. Mr Dowson said after lobbying the MP for state funds to help repair the heritage precinct, the pair chatted about his connection to Fremantle and the missing park cropped up.

“It’s a great entry statement into Freo,” Mr Dowson told the Herald.

He said it would be a great project for the council, which didn’t have much for heritage in last week’s budget except for saddling ratepayers with a $500,000 debt to fix up Arthur Head.

“I have had two meetings with the current William Marmion to see if his family could seed fund a project of reinstatement of what is now missing in the tiny Mayor’s Park,” Mr Dowson said.

by LOTTIE ELTON

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