One of the people responsible for the creation of Centennial park was (the aptly named) Sir Henry Parkes. He was a politician and longest non-consecutive Premier of New South Wales when it was a colony. He is sometimes referred to as the “Father of Federation” due to his early promotion for the federation of Australia, combining the six colonies. Parkes was also responsible for choosing the first set of statues to grace the park.
What in the Dickens?
Here are some interesting facts about Charles Dickens and this statue:
There are only three statues of Charles Dickens. Apparently he wanted to be remembered for his writing not as some adored monument. Understandable eh? Well, one of them is here in Centennial Park.
It turns out that Sir Henry Parkes was a mate of Dickens’ youngest son Edward Dickens. Edward emigrated to Australia at the age of 16 with his older brother Alfred. and was even a prominent New South Wales politician between 1889 and 1895.
Charles Dickens encouraged Edward and his elder brother to migrate to Australia, which he saw as a land of opportunity. Interesting that while he was writing a lot about the misery of Victorian England he could see the land down-under for what it truly became. Not only was Dickens a great fiction writer and historical recorder of his times, he seems to have been able to foresee the future.
By the way; the other two Dickens statues are in Portsmouth, England and Phillidelphia, USA.
Odd History of the Dickens Statue
The statue has a slightly chequered history. It was one of the first 11 statues chosen for the park by Henry Parkes in 1891.
It stayed in the park until 1972 when it was removed and mysteriously went missing. Even more odd, is that nobody seemed interested until the early 2000s when a volunteer at the NSW Library saw a photo of the statue in a book and started to look for it. It was found in storage in Rozelle to protect it as vandals had already destroyed its head. The statue was eventually restored and unveiled on Charles Dickens birthday, the 7th of February 2011.