Public Art: Weir Worker 1902 statue
Sculptor: © Ben Jones
Date Unveiled: 2013
Description: A life-size bronze of a weir worker turning a valve
Location: The Weir Worker 1902 statue is located near the top car park (opposite rose garden) at the Mundaring Weir, Mundaring, Western Australia
Weir Worker 1902
Artist: Ben Jones
Tony Jones Art Projects: Tony Jones, Angela McHarrie, Ben Jones
Background to the Mundaring Weir:
The year was 1891 and Western Australia had just become an independent self-governing State and John Forrest had been elected the W.A.’s first Premier. Forrest’s vision for the State was enormous. He wanted to turn the colony into a strong, prosperous and independent one (quickly). To achieve this goal a great deal of money was needed for the infrastructure, beginning with Public Works sector. Western Australia needed better roads, railways, harbours, and bridges if it was ever to expand. To build such an infrastructure, Forrest knew he had to employ the best engineer he could find.
Forrest had his eye was on H.S. Mais, the former Engineer-in-Chief of South Australia, to fill the role. H.S.Mais kindly declined the offer, when he was informed of the salary. Meanwhile, in New Zealand, an unhappy engineer by the name of C.Y. O’Connor was told of the position. Following correspondences with Forrest and debate over the salary situation, O’Connor finally accepted the position. Forrest had raised a million-pound loan (the highest ever undertaken in Australia at the time) from London to begin building up the State.
In 1892 two gold prospectors Arthur Bayley and his mate, William Ford, discovered gold near Coolgardie. They returned to Southern Cross to record their claim of 554 ounces (16.8kg). The discovery of gold created a mass movement of people from around Australia to the Western Australian goldfields. This desolate and dry part of Western Australia was not ready to cope with people, let alone a large influx of people. Infrastructures had to be put in place, with the most important being freshwater. Not only was water necessary for drinking and washing but the trains and mines required water. The Government was quick to realize the rush was placing pressure on the already limited supply of water. In fact, water was soon to become just as precious as the gold they were finding.
The solution to the water crisis rested solely on the shoulders of C.Y.O’Connor. His response to the problem was to build a reservoir in the hills of Perth (Mundaring Weir) and then pump water (using special pipes) over 500km inland to Coolgardie & Kalgoorlie. The goldfields pipeline was intended to pump five million gallons of water per day to the eastern goldfields using eight pumping stations located along the route, to a tank on Mt Charlotte in Kalgoorlie. Once in Kalgoorlie the water would then be reticulated to various locations in the goldfields. Construction of the Mundaring Weir began in 1898 and was completed in 1903.
On the 10th of March,1902 a year before the pipeline was completed C.Y.O’Connor committed suicide. The criticism by the media and the ongoing pressure placed on him during the construction became too overwhelming. O’Connor rode his horse into the waves at Robbs Jetty, Fremantle. A beautiful Horse and Rider monument by Tony Jones stands amongst the waves at the location.