I noticed a statue on a recent visit to the local Library – before it was closed due to this latest lockdown. It is the remains of what were known as the two Bondi Mermaids. Way back in 1960 (before my time that) the two statues were installed on a rock at the north headland of Bondi beach. The large rock came to be called Mermaid Rock.
The mermaids were the creation of a local artist called Lyall Randolph Williams. One was modelled on Jan Carmody who was Miss Australia Surf 1959. Now I have no idea whether “Miss Australia Surf” was a surfing contest or for looking good in a bikini (possibly holding a surfboard – but not essential?). I can find almost nothing about it so (in this day and age) it is safe to assume it is the latter. The second mermaid was modelled on Lynette Whillier who swam for Australia at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. Lynette also happened to be runner-up in that same 1959 Miss Australia Surf contest.
Lyall Randolph originally asked the local council to sponsor his project but when they refused he funded it himself. He claimed that by siting them on the rock offshore they were technically not under the council jurisdiction and installed them on April 3, 1960. Good on him I say. Remember when artists were as rebellious as they were creative? Real Rock ‘n’ Roll? It’s hard to imagine an artist doing something like that today.
A month later…
One month later University students removed Mermaid Jan form the rock as a prank. She was later found at the Engineering school and eventually repaired and restored. All paid for with public funds as by then the mermaids were well loved by the public.
Lynette Swept Out to Sea…
In 1974 Mermaid Lynette was swept off the rock and out to sea and was never seen again. Mermaid Jan lost an arm in the same storm. Two years later the well sea battered Jan was removed and stored at a council depot for years.
Eventually in 1999 the Friends of Waverley Library paid for the remains to be preserved and she now sits on display at the library.
Is it just me or does Mermaid Jan look like a young Margaret Thatcher? Is that what years of erosion by the sea does to a Miss Australia Surf?
There has been talk in recent years of installing new replicas of the mermaid statues at the same rock. Will they find a Miss Australia Surf to model for them? I somehow doubt it.